Net-a-Porter Has Added Fine Art to Its Luxe Mix, Starting With Exclusive Editions by Guy Bourdin, ‘the God of Fashion Photography’
The prints are produced with the artist's estate in a limited run.
Net-a-Porter is known for delivering a tight edit of all things fashion, beauty, and lifestyle directly to the doors of its global “EIPs”—that would be Extremely Important People—with same-day service, in a signature black box tied up with a bow.
Now, the luxury e-tailer is venturing into fine art. In partnership with AP8, a new art e-commerce platform, it is curating single-artist series of museum-quality prints to drop in limited editions on Net-a-Porter.
“Our aim is to deliver the same world-class level of curation and expertise that’s synonymous with our entire buy,” said Lea Cranfield, the company’s chief buying and merchandising officer, in a statement. And yes: the art comes with same-day service, too.
“You have a great deal of confidence when you discover new designers on Net-a-Porter—it has their seal of approval,” said AP8 curator Viola Raikhel. The goal of the partnership, she added, “is to make [buying] fine art and photography as accessible as luxury and fashion retail is online.”
With her London art advisory 1858 Ltd., Raikhel has consulted for clients from the Venice Biennale and Sotheby’s Institute to Louis Vuitton. She cofounded AP8 with her 1858 partner Harvey Mendelson and Paul Rapaport, who previously worked in-house for luxury brands including Moncler.
The add-to-cart ease and seamless transactions of online shopping “haven’t historically been available in the art world,” Raikhel said. “So essentially, we’re creating collectors from a whole new audience of fashionistas, who perhaps wouldn’t have had access to the auction houses and the dealers or the knowledge needed to be able to transact in the art marketplace.”
AP8 will organize IRL exhibitions—two to four per year, each spotlighting a single artist—to coincide with its drops in Net-a-Porter’s so-called “art room.” It launched this month with a collection of 10 prints by the late, great Guy Bourdin, each offered in an edition of 999.
“Guy Bourdin, being the god of fashion photography, seemed like a natural fit,” Raikhel said. “He elevated it to an art form.”
Bourdin (1928–1991) shot campaigns for brands including Chanel and Charles Jourdan while contributing regularly to French Vogue from 1955 through the 1980s, creating colorful photos notable for their uncanny, narrative-driven tableaux. Influenced by Alfred Hitchcock and Man Ray—who wrote the catalogue forward for Bourdin’s first solo exhibition—his Surrealist-tinged works are in the collections of such institutions as MoMA, the Getty, and Tate Modern.
Having never before sold the artist’s works through e-commerce, the Guy Bourdin Estate agreed to license a selection of photographs to Net-a-Porter via AP8, which follows strict printing protocols used by top auction houses, museums, and galleries.
The estate supervised the proofing of every print, with each one verified by a type of stenographic cryptography only detectable through scanning. Meanwhile, a certification code registered to the purchaser links to a unique digital watermark hidden within the print to provide a record of provenance and value.
To avoid affecting the values of artworks sold in galleries and at auction, once these prints are sold—in frames handcrafted from Italian chestnut wood—they will never be released again.
“[We] have been trying to find ways to meet the requests of Bourdin lovers that have been unable to afford [his] works, not wanting them to find unauthorized, low-quality posters or dubious prints,” said Frederic Arnal, the estate’s director. “This way the estate broadens its audience and is involved in cultivating a new generation of collectors.”
Below, see photographs that Bourdin shot for Vogue Paris in the 1970s and 1980s, available to purchase as prints via Net-a-Porter ($1,865); they are also available in larger frames via AP8 (from $3,200), along with 20 additional Bourdin prints (all in editions of 999).
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