The Japanese retailer, Uniqlo, is spearheading a unique trend. Their three-story megastore on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue is adorned with an overpowering rainbow color scheme that appears suspiciously similar to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) down the street.
That happened by design. Uniqlo’s second floor is also devoted to its “SPRZ NY” project, a collaboration with MoMA that uses iconic contemporary art to enhance the retail experience.
This trend of art in retail and stores partnering with museums is predictable given how online shopping has caused the closure of stores across the country. Retailers are scrambling to revamp the in-person shopping experience. Retail’s marriage with art attempts to conjure serenity and creativity through the shopping experience, rather than a barrage of attention-catching images. It’s a welcome phenomenon that is far from new.
The rise of Pop Art in the 1960’s married famed artists with fashion lines. In 1974, Andy Warhol used Yves Saint Laurent as the subject of some of his classic Pop Art paintings. Even earlier, the Paris department store Bon Marché became the fashionable place to be in 1875 when it opened an art gallery, showing works by artists rejected from the Salons.
Back then, art-associated retail carried astronomical price tags and was exclusive to a “high” fashion culture. They were not for the common shopper. Today, fast fashion brands like Uniqlo and others have moved to buck that trend by creating a niche of modernist-inspired clothes accessible to the masses.
Uniqlo has since doubled-down on their college-age demographic by including full-service Starbucks, a lounge area and iPad stations. The Gap similarly established a “Gap Lounge” at New York’s Frieze Art Fair, which combines a pop-up store with an artistically awe-inspiring relaxation area. We at IPaintMyMind even worked with Adidas to install a rotating art wall in their Chicago flagship store on Milwaukee Ave. The result is an engaging space that presents its merchandise within the context of a larger cultural identity.
This is great news for shoppers who still enjoy going to a store, perusing the items, and taking in the atmosphere. If the retail as art trend holds there will be more amenities and enticements to enhance the shopping experience, not least of which is a gallery-like presentation of products from which to gain inspiration.