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When Fine Art Meets Retail

Posted by Camille Shortridge on


Using contemporary art to enhance the retail experience is a concept that is far from new. Stores have been partnering with artists, galleries and even museums to add a layer of creativity and engagement to the shopping experience ever since the phenomena of online shopping slowly started closing brick and mortar stores. (Seen here: artwork by Smithe, as part of Made in a City's 'Made in Mexico City' inside Zeppelin Station.) Paris’s infamous Collette, a high-end fashion and street wear boutique named “the trendiest store in the world”, contained an exhibition space, a bookshop, and a “water bar” serving more than 100 brands of bottled water. Collette’s competitive edge lied not only in being able to provide Parisians with the trendiest brands such as Jeromy Scott, Rodarte and Raf Simons before they reached unreachable stardom, but also in their Highsnobiety coverage worthy collaborations with up-and-coming internationally recognized artists such as KAWS and Anthony Burrill. Some shops will partner with art museums, like Uniqlo’s New York collaboration with the MoMA. Uniqlo launched "SPRZ NY”, a collection to make modern art more accessible to the public by featuring artwork from the Museum’s collection on their merchandise.

Fine art has the capacity to become easily digestible once taken out of the museum or white cube gallery context and instead placed into public spaces. Once you take art out of these settings, which are more than often structured with long-held stereotypes of relating to only those who hold the highest social status, you allow for art the space and opportunity to be engaged with and viewed without pre-determined rules. Art takes on its purest form, that of aesthetic pleasure. Viewers can engage with artwork and ask themselves questions like, ‘how does it make me feel?’, ‘what does it look like?’, and ‘do I like it or not?’, without feeling the pressure of whether their beliefs are “right or wrong” based on pre-determined institutional codes. Art then engages within the context it is placed into, and activates a space, while also being activated by that space. (Seen here: a mural by Miss Me, inside The Source Hotel and Market Hall). 

In 2018, internationally renowned artist Cleon Peterson was invited to complete a commission inside The Source Hotel and Market Hall, where Eyes Open Project calls home. Peterson saw the commission as “a good opportunity for me to do something that's a sister project to the Museum of Contemporary Art show," (Westword). “Endless War” presents itself as a permanent mural inside the hotel, whereas Petersons solo exhibition at the MCA Denver, “Cleon Peterson: Shadow of Men”, was a visiting exhibition in Denver. Eyes Open Project stands in the center of Cleon Peterson’s mural, among others.

When you shop with Eyes Open Project, you can experience murals by Miss Me, and Pogo, among others, and sculptural pieces by international artists Antonio O’connell and Laurence Vallières. Vallirères’s large scaled cardboard elephants have become an icon of The Source, as seen below. Her work has been exhibited in museums internationally as well as popular music festivals such as Burning Man.  In such, the Source Market Hall seems to be positioning itself as a sort of mini-museum, without, of course, the traditional rules of one.

In 2019, Eyes Open Project hosted a three-day pop-up with artist Miss Me filled with apparel, prints and the artist’s newest jewelry collaboration with Litzi, a fine jeweler based in Montreal and London. Here, we see the intersection between fine art and retail at its best. Artists create collections of merchandise, many times collaborating with other fine artists or fashion designers, and launch these lines in art-forward retail spaces. Reversely, retail has become an important part of the art world as we see in the popularity and, necessity, of engaging and trend setting museum gift shops. The Museum of Modern Art’s Design Store in New York is an example of the importance of retail stores in museums. Some visitors visit museums just for the pleasure of exiting through the gift shop at the end of their tour. In this way, retail helps elevate the museum experience by offering visitors a tactile experience at the end of their visit. A visit where you are not allowed to touch any of the art…that is, until you enter the gift shop!

The Source Hotel and Market Hall also has a permanent gallery space. Hosting pop-ups, and, currently, an international art gallery, Galeria Balneario, the gallery space offers artwork for sale from a variety of local, national, and international artists. Galeria Balneario has taken up the gallery space as a cultural platform dedicated to supporting contemporary art in Mexico and around the world. They are heavily involved in managing artist residencies, art festivals, and innovating traditional gallery commercial tendencies. Isauro Hernández Rionda, the gallery’s Founder and Executive Director, has been actively involved in the international contemporary art scene for years now, managing and hosting collaborations with renowned artists such as Smithe, Gleo and Demencia Beivide.  Eyes Open Project collaborates with many artists, such as partnering with Demencia Beivide in the past in carrying her artwork for sale in our retail space, and with PONY, an artist form Montreal. We carry carry a special collaboration line we created with PONY while organizing activations in our sister space, Zeppelin Station, where PONY painted a mural over the famous Kiss & Ride bar. 

PONY's mural at Kiss & Ride, inside Zeppelin Station.

At Eyes Open Project, we emphasize art as one of our founding pillars. Not only do we work with and carry fashion designers, makers, and craftsmen artists, we collaborate with fine artists in carrying their artwork, working with them to create permanent murals, and temporary pop ups to showcase their work. When fine art meets retail, there’s an endless amount of opportunity for both the artists and the organization. Artists are offered a venue and avenue to exhibit their work while entering the commercial realm of promoting merchandise. Retail organizations offer their customers an experiential shopping experience, where visuals enhance everything from the brand, to the products on sale. Eyes Open Project and The Source Hotel and Market Hall build relationships with artists that translate into collaborating on projects time and again.

Written by contemporary art world expert Camille Rose Shortridge @camill_ionaire.

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