MoMa hits SoHo with retail store

Carole Sloan, September 7, 2001

New York — With the opening of its second retail store last week, the Museum of Modern Art has expanded its product offering to consumers.

The store, a 10,000-square-foot, two-level landmarked cast-iron building in SoHo, opens the MoMA products to a different audience and gives the MoMA retail division an expanded reach.

"Our strategy is to present the products in a tactile, welcoming, democratic way — we're not about curating," explained Jim Gundell, president of MoMA Retail.

Merchandise is presented as a combination of gallery and vignette — a complete departure from the way similar merchandise is shown in other retail stores, Gundell related.

Rugs, newly available in the retail environment, are shown as part of furniture vignettes, said Bonnie Mackay, creative director for MoMA Retail. Table linens and throws created for MoMa by internationally celebrated designers, including Bernadette Ehmanns and Osamu Mita, are shown as part of tabletop and accessories presentations as well as throws tucked in among the textile apparel accessories draped on a wall lighted with colored neon tubes.

A key element in the presentation, Mackay pointed out, is the use of Barrisol, a translucent plastic material stretched across multiple panels and backlighted. In front of the Barrisol wall are custom modular floor display cases and shelving that can be moved and reconfigured.

Both this store and the 53rd Street store offer about 80 percent of the same non-furniture, books and lighting products, Gundell reported. "In SoHo, we will experiment with additional products," he said. MoMa's catalog, which is targeted to the fall/holiday season, carries about 400 items, and the online store "rivals the real store for selection," Gundell said.

Part of the experimentation, he explained, comes from the market research done well before the store was planned. "We saw we had a clear direction. Our core customer is a sophisticated Manhattan shopper looking for unique and different products. But we also will cater to the tourist market."

The SoHo store also launches a new graphic logo for the retail division including the catalog and on-line store as well, Gundell related.

MoMA Retail is promoting the two stores via magazines targeted to the core customer base, Gundell said.

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