Sometime in the 1930s, the Spanish Catalan artist was commissioned to create a display window at Bonwit Teller, a fashionable New York department store, an exercise that Dali noted “did more for my glory than if I’d eaten up all Fifth Avenue.”
The focus of Dali’s window was a claw-foot bathtub, its interior lined with Persian lambskin and filled with narcissi floating in muddy water. Dozens of disembodied white mannequin arms reached from the bath.
Each held a hand mirror tilted to reflect a turn-of-the-century wax mannequin with a chaste China-doll face, about to step into the tub. Chicken leathers were glued to her otherwise nude body. Blood-red tears stained her face; her waist-length blonde hair crawled with large, artificial bugs.
Dali completed his task long before sunrise and returned to his hotel to rest.
The store opened at 9 A.M. to high hopes, but shoppers immediately raised such a hue and cry at the shocking display that by 1 P.M. workers were assigned to make adjustments to the window. When Dali saw the changes, he barged into the display to make repairs.
Somehow, he managed to push the tub through the plate-glass window and onto Fifth Avenue. Two policemen who happened to be passing by promptly arrested the imperious Dali for malicious mischief. Bonwit’s reimbursed Dali for the $800 fine he was assessed.
Dali was not the first, nor the last artist to see the store window as a canvas. Today’s artists also find store windows as outlets of their creativity, one of them being Michele Oka Doner whose work was featured at the Saks Fifth Avenue store windows during the month of Sep 2009.
Showing off several of her works, which were incorporated in the store window as part of the whole display (I won’t even be surprised if the artist had a hand in creating the store window itself), Michele Oka Doner entitled the series of windows “2 Working Boards from Life Form”
Artworks that were on display together with the golden mannequins wearing designer clothes are Petiotle II (cast bronze with white gold leaf), Small Bee (cast bronze and sterling silver), Large Bee (cast bronze and sterling silver), Breathe (sterling silver), Scrim I (cast bronze with yellow gold leaf), Scrim II (cast bronze with white gold leaf), Scrim III (cast bronze with black patina), Scrim IV (cast bronze with silver nitrate patina), Burning Bush (cast bronze) and Primal Self portrait (cast bronze).