The next time you walk down Madison Avenue, don’t get nervous if you feel like someone’s watching you—it’s just Yves Saint Laurent. The designer—or at least, a blown-up photo of his face—greets visitors there to see the latest window installation at Barneys.
Although they’re ostensibly about fashion, the windows, which were unveiled last night, are hardly retail-friendly. The store teamed up with the Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art on a series of site-specific pieces, each the culmination of a longterm project with five different artists (including Helmut Lang, Juergen Teller, and M/M Paris’ Mathias Augustyniak and Michael Amzalag). Each year since 2007, the selected artists have been tasked with picking out five pieces of clothing they felt best represented that year (think the Balenciaga Lego sandal or an Azzedine Alaia belt worn by Michelle Obama), but for their windows, they were free to use that just as a jumping point. “It was all up to the artists, we gave them no requirements. None,” explains Dennis Freedman, creative director of Barneys, who had been working with Deste founder Dakis Joannou on the project since it began. “Each one of them had chosen five articles of clothing, but over the last six years, so no matter what they showed it certainly wasn’t going to be anything that we sold!”
The result—from a short film featuring Clemence Poesy to a row of empty chairs meant to look like the front row at a fashion show (above) to the aforementioned YSL photo (which Joannou noted was already the site of many candid photos, including one with the Proenza duo… could we have a new internet meme on our hands?)—certainly got last night’s revelers to stop in their tracks. Once they were done gawking, the celebration continued inside, where German artist John Bock and a team of expert seamstresses made clothing on the spot. As soon as each Frankenstein piece was finished, a lucky audience member got to pull it on.
While Bock won’t be doing a repeat performance, the windows will be up through July 4. Want prime viewing? Freeman suggests coming on a weekday around 10 pm, when it will be just you… and Yves.