One of the things I love to do when visiting a city is wander its shopping streets checking out the storefront window displays. Most people know this as “window shopping,” but in Paris they called it "faire du leche-vitines" which translates into “window licking!” Perhaps that is because Parisian retailers have mastered the art of window design. Paris retailers continue to value the tradition of using storefront windows as a way to stop pedestrians and lure them inside. The window are exotic, erotic, lush, sweet and sensory - maybe they don’t have me licking the windows but they do have me licking my lips. They are like “eye candy.”
For me the combination of colours, juxtaposition of objects and reflections make for very attractive multi-layered artworks. As a former curator of a contemporary public art gallery, I often think of the streets of the city as an outdoor art gallery. The windows are like pieces of art - mini-installations. They add wonderful colour, charm and character to pedestrian experience.Unfortunately for most North American retailers “window design” is a lost art form. Put up a few mannequins or pedestals with some product and call it a display. Wander any shopping mall and you will rarely see an engaging window installation. Can you remember that last time you were stopped in your tracks to look at a window?
There was a time when every major downtown department store in every major city had elaborate window displays that animated the Main Street- especially at Christmas. Today, I am sorry to say that happens only in places like Chicago, New York and Paris. A family outing to see the Christmas windows was once a family tradition!
I think the images below speak for themselves, what I love about them is the intense colour and old world charm. There is a playfulness that is fun, yet contemplative. I love the interplay of architecture and objects. They is a sense of chance, a glance and moment in time. The diversity of subject matter from high fashion to cool kitsch and pop culture makes each piece unique. In my mind, you would be hard pressed to find a contemporary art exhibition in a major gallery or museum that would be any more visually and mentally stimulating.
Next time you are wandering your city's streets look for a hidden artwork in your city and send it to me so I can add it to my collection of “window art.”
Enjoy being an everyday tourist!