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Bringing art into Banana Republic’s largest store

CompanyTanya Hart, Gap Inc. bloggerComment

New York City’s Rockefeller Center is known as a bastion of public art, with its Statue of Atlas on Fifth Avenue and bronze gilded statue of Prometheus in front of 30 Rock – pieces known almost as well as the Statue of Liberty.

When the Banana Republic Global Store Design team renovated our flagship Banana Republic store at Rockefeller Center (our biggest store worldwide), we wanted to pay homage to that history and love of art, while also giving people inside the store a sense of place.

The centerpiece of the remodel is an art installation, created by New York photographer Susan Wides and the Jayne Baum Gallery, in collaboration with the Banana Republic team.

It’s a 360-degree vista of Manhattan at twilight, encircling the rotunda of the store — a frieze of photography, shot in four directions from the Top of the Rock, illuminated on a daylight LED display, and mounted on light boxes that are 23 feet long and six feet high.

We’ve never featured an installation of this scale before.

Michael Switalski, Director, Banana Republic Store Design, Global Standards, said his team talked about adding video screens or sculptural panels, but in the end, realized they wanted something that would simply resonate with the customer — something that says, ‘You are in Manhattan.’

It’s also from a vantage point you would not normally experience, and we love that.

Here’s what Susan Wides said about the piece: “I wish to convey the experience not merely of being in a place, but of connecting to that place on many levels of consciousness.”

Michael said installing the lightboxes and art work wasn’t that difficult – they went up over the course of a couple of nights. The biggest challenge was having to phase the remodel so we didn’t have to shut down the store.

This isn’t the first time we’ve commissioned a local artist to create specific pieces (we’ve done this at our 3rd Street Promenade and other New York locations).

And it’s not the first time one of our brands has gotten creative with a remodel — the Gap flagship store in Rome used to be a bank, then a bookstore, and now houses an historic book corner and an original 1940’s mural by Giulio Russo. We love that example.

We love refreshing the look of our stores, and we like it even more when we get to showcase beautiful art at the same time.