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Museums Discover Art of the Retail Deal

March 01, 2001|CANDACE A. WEDLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The art of retailing is now a fine art.

To wit, the business venture between the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and the fabric manufacturing firm of Brunschwig & Fils, both in New York.

The museum possesses a textile collection of more than 30,000 pieces of fabric spanning 2,200 years. Brunschwig & Fils, which designs fabric for furniture covering and wallpaper, received permission to poke around the museum's fabric collection for copying purposes. The company found eight patterns suitable for reproduction.

Those patterns, tagged with the prestigious Cooper-Hewitt name, have been reproduced as part of the Brunschwig & Fils spring 2001 fabric collection. The museum benefits with its name trademarked on the fabric, plus royalties.

Wander into B&F's showroom at 8687 Melrose Ave. in West Hollywood for a firsthand look at another collection. Here is another joint venture between a museum and private industry, this time a collaboration between the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Seattle-based Viatru, a digital media-services company that produced the museum's documentary for the Internet.

Let's backtrack. First, the museum found in its own collection a poppy-flower pattern on an antique carpet from India. Then the museum located printers in Indian villages who still do traditional wood-block printing by hand. Those artisans were commissioned to manufacture items adorned with the poppy motif, such as linens, an Indian dress, a cotton cardigan, a cotton tote bag and a jewelry box.

Finally, Viatru produced and filmed "Flower of India" on location, offering potential museum customers a virtual visit with the textile craftspeople and origins of the museum products. Viatru's role in promoting far-flung artisans goes further because they are helping the museum discover additional craftspeople for the museum's retail division. The museum's site at http://www.mfa.org/poppy has a direct link to the documentary site. The poppy-inspired items are available from the museum's catalog at (800) 225-5592, and Web site, at http://www.mfa.org/shop.

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Michael Eisner and the Walt Disney Co. will be honored for "visionary architectural patronage" by the National Building Museum. Eisner, chairman and chief executive of Disney, will accept the award April 5 at a gala in the Great Hall of the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

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On Sunday, the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, will exhibit blueprints, models and renderings of the city's proposed new main library, designed by architect Rob Wellington Quigley, plus four upcoming branch projects. After five stop-and-start years, San Diego's mayor, Dick Murphy, is determined to get the project going, and a location is being sought for the main library. "Books, Bytes and Mortar" runs through June 19.

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Candace A. Wedlan can be reached at candace.wedlan@latimes.com

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