Saturday, July 15, 2006

Show and Tell


NEW YORK - The Fifth Avenue windows of Bergdorf Goodman and Saks are a new kind of art gallery, with constantly changing installations. A form of theater from the early 1900's, store windows have had their ups and downs. They slumped in the Depression, revived in the late 30's, and fell again in the late 70's, when department stores closed and street crime curtailed nighttime strolls. And then many promising display artists were lost to AIDS.

Linda Fargo came to Bergdorf's in 1995 and started a revolution with her extravagant fantasies, including upside-down windows (1), and 1996's mannequins sprawled on holiday tables including broken china. Her amazing detail (7) influenced costume shows at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (8). David Hoey (3) now designs Bergdorf's windows. His counterpart at Saks, Tim Wisgerhof (17), has his own art signature, with Warhol-like multiple cupcakes framing mannequins (11); huge surrealist eyes (12); a snow-shovel Christmas tree (18); the repetition of manila envelopes (19); and a series of smashed panels, doors and broken light bulbs scattered on the floor (20, 21 and 22). Many times what seems to be a finished Wisgerhof window is a work in progress. The first week the backgrounds are flattened shipping boxes held together with tape (13 and 14). A week later trash can lids are added (15). Week three, the boxes are painted magenta and packing paper forms clouds (16). Visiting the windows is like watching an artist create a work.

At Bergdorf's, Mr. Hoey isn't waiting until the holidays to stop passers-by in their tracks. His present installation salutes the Dada show at the Museum of Modern Art, including a topsy-turvy room (4). Mr. Hoey's spring windows celebrated transportation (6) with seated mannequins protruding from the wall; the Dorothy Draper show at the Museum of the City of New York (9); and surrealism (5). Up now are mannequins and their silhouettes, cut from wrapping-paper backgrounds (2).

The Council of Fashion Designers of America has missed a great opportunity in not recognizing these exceptional talents at its annual awards.

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