Noni co-owners Meghan Misaki, left, and Elaine Lewis. (Christina House / For The…)
When Louis Vuitton's 20,000-square-foot flagship opened on New Bond Street in London this spring, the coveted fashions and handbags weren't the only things on display. The mega store, designed by New York architect Peter Marino, also houses works by prolific artists Takashi Murakami and Richard Prince, who have collaborated with the luxury brand on fashion products in the past.
And Vuitton isn't the only one sprinkling art among the fashions. Chanel's Rodeo Drive boutique features commissioned works from top contemporary artists, who used the French atelier's iconography (think camellias, pearls and the No. 5 perfume bottle) to create new eye-catching exhibitions. Upstairs, the boutique showcases work from Alec Soth, Y.Z. Kami and Andy Warhol. Paul Smith's Melrose shop recently featured an exhibition of Lillian Bassman's renowned black and white photos. This fall, the new A|X Armani Exchange concept store on Robertson Boulevard will showcase exhibits from local photographers, mixed-media artists and street artists.
Is the fashion boutique the new art gallery?
"Retail space viewers are from all walks of life, all ages, and it's definitely a new audience every day, often seven days a week," said L.A.-based painter Eric Ernest Johnson, who recently had a show at the shop Matrushka Construction in Silver Lake. He says that the retail audience includes people who never visit galleries. "I show at galleries and the opening is a big splash, some works sell, yet after that, it might just be a big empty room for a month with an occasional visitor."
Sunset Plaza's Code C boutique attracts shoppers with its lineup of fashions from Dsquared2, Vivienne Westwood Red Label and Viktor & Rolf. But also on display are rotating artworks from artists such as Judy Ragagli, known for her Barbie oil paintings; Gal Harpaz, who works with vintage Polaroids on recycled wood; and conceptual local fashion photographer August Bradley. "I always wanted my store to be more than merchandise hanging on the racks," said Code C's Andrea Rossetto, who helped curate photographs from the Martini Factory that are designed to complement the store's new fall collections. "Art, fashion and home décor all blend into one now. It's about sharing a whole lifestyle with our customers."
Art and fashion have gone hand in hand for years, but recently the connection has grown even stronger — just ask Lady Gaga. Further evidence: Earlier this year, Rodarte teamed with photographer and video artist Todd Cole to create "Aanteni," a dreamy short clip featuring model Guinevere van Seenus running through the deserted grounds of Elon Musk's Space X jet lab in Hawthorne. British artist Gary Hume just created a capsule T-shirt collection for Marni. And 83-year-old experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger shot Missoni's beautifully strange fall 2010 campaign video.
"The idea of putting art in a fashion store has been around before, but now it's being taken to a new extreme," said artist Greg Lauren, who learned to sew paper into garments for his show "Alteration," which was on display this spring at a faux storefront on Beverly Boulevard. "There is so much creativity happening in both art and fashion, so it's an exciting time."
Though it's unlikely that even the most carefully curated retail boutiques could ever take the place of our favorite museums and galleries, at least shoppers can take in a little culture while popping into shops like Larchmont Village's Noni boutique. A favorite of shoppers looking to scoop up the latest from Alice & Olivia and Anna Sui, the store champions and sells evocative artwork that changes every three months. Noni hosts receptions with the featured artist so that shoppers have a chance to interact and get inspired.
"Art in boutiques is more mainstream now, and people really love it," says Noni co-owner Elaine Lewis, who is featuring the politically themed screen-print and mixed-media canvases of Venice-based artist Dominique DeRouen.
"A lot of artists don't have a chance to show in MOCA, so this gives them an opportunity," Lewis said. "And we don't take as big of a cut as a gallery would."