bal harbour blog

The Art of Retail

Q&A
South dale Center mall, circa 1956, the first indoor mall in the world.

On Tuesday May 12 th at 7 pm at Books & Books Bal Harbour, Jake Yuzna, director of public programs at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), will present a talk “Mall or Museum? Indoor Malls, Museums, and the Future of Cultural Spaces”as part of the Fashion Project’s FP:Talks series. Here, we speak with the curator about crossing boundaries, culture and commerce and what he would do with his own mall.

Jake Yuzna.

When did you first start honing in on this idea of "mall as museum"?
I think its fair to say that ever since I can remember. My hometown is Minneapolis, home to the very first indoor mall, Edina Mall, as well as the Mall of America. So, all of my life I grew up around malls. I've always loved the architecture and the cultural and social aspects of malls. Later on in life when I began to work in museums, it became very apparent that these two kinds of intuitions had a lot in common. I kept finding myself questions the barriers between them. Then a few years ago I was awarded a grant to create a feature film about a group of teens who create an underground nightclub in an boarded up Planet Hollywood within the Mall of America. That really kicked my research into high gear.

Sears Roebuck Company sold originals artworks by Picasso and Modrian.

You've cited some early examples of art for sale in department stores—Sears selling Picasso! Please share one or two surprising examples that you've discovered through your research.
Well, my favorite example is the Sears project "The Vincent Price Collection." Very few people know that Vincent Price was a major art collector and connoisseur. He really threw himself into that project with Sears because he strongly believes art should be accessible to everyone. When they staged the first one, it was an instant hit and sold out. You could buy a Picasso for $800. The 1960s were a very exciting time when there was a movement to break down the barrier between so-called "high art" and "low art." The videos Price stared in for the Sear's employees to explain paintings by the likes of Picasso are simply amazing.

On view at MAD right now is an exhibition dedicated to Ralph Pucci, a man who crosses boundaries between fashion, art and design. Do you find these intersections to be especially compelling in our current climate?
Crossing boundaries is always compelling, no matter what the time. It’s maybe a bit more fun now in the 21st century. After the global-economic crash, it really seemed like a lot of the ways we did things in the 20th century broke down. It was a crisis all over the place. But a crisis isn't necessarily a bad thing. A crisis is just a turning point, and when things have to change the opportunity arises to create something new and better. The first indoor mall was made in the wake of WWII, and it was a truly option ideal. Something that could help communities and people from all walks of life.Crossing over those kinds of boundaries is required to make something new.

If you were the director of programming for a mall—or perhaps owned one—what would be your first acquisition?
A nightclub that is also a school. Make the kids really want to come to class!

What came first: the museum shop or art in the mall?
Art in malls. It really started with art in department stores, which were the precursor to the mall.

Summer is coming up. What can we look forward to at MAD?
There are always tons of things going on at the museum! Just off the top of my head we have a fully functioning screen printing shop being built, a series of talks with the top women fashion designers, amazing Russian sci-fi films from the 1960s, and artist staging his own wake, and more.

 

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