When I was younger, I would bemoan the fact I couldn’t buy and wear high heels. Now that I’ve grown up and my closet is stocked with stilettos, it’s expensive art I crave. Barneys, always an expert at knowing what I want, have opened a pop-up art gallery at their New York Chelsea Passage (usually home to fashionable homewares and accessories), and it’s open until April 16th.
The department store has teamed up with Exhibition A, a members-only contemporary art website founded by gallery owner Bill Powers, his fashion designer wife Cynthia Rowley, and Laura Martin. The trio aims to give you access to new artists at an affordable price, so that if you’re anything like me, you can dip your toes in first. Art is a big commitment.
“I think that many people assume you need to be über-wealthy to collect art,” Martin told Barneys in a Q & A. “Exhibition A proves that’s not true. We’re offering our customers a curated entry point to contemporary art. We deal with artists who are represented by some of the top galleries in the world and are in the collections of top museums, but are still offering work priced under $1,000.”
So in other words, I could start building an art collection for the same price as the shoes I grew up coveting. Bingo. After a little retail hit, Barneys shoppers can now swing through to view and pick up prints by the likes of Spencer Sweeney, René Ricard, Max Snow and Lucien Smith, and signed books by Andreas Gursky, Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman.
And if you just spotted the word prints up there (Exhibition A sells limited edition, museum-worthy, prints), and you’re wondering why you should bother investing in an art print rather than a new pair of Louboutins, Powers explains: “I was reading in John Richardson‘s memoir about a Picasso print he almost bought as a young man that’s now worth a million dollars”.
Prints are a legitimate form of art in the fine art world; major museums like the MoMA and the Whitney have prints in their collections, and Sotheby’s and Christie’s both deal in prints. As Powers said to Barneys reflecting on the pop-up shop, “Your print collection can be your idealized private collection. It’s like fantasy football for art fans.” Or playing dress up for shoe fans wanting to be art fans.