Coming off a successful run at the Triennale di Milano, Rick Owens‘ retrospective, “Subhuman Inhuman Superhuman,” has arrived exclusively at Barneys New York. Barneys Creative Director Matthew Mazzucca and the visuals team collaborated closely with Owens to translate highlights from the retrospective into an in-store exhibition, with four Madison Avenue windows that are a fashion-less homage to the designer. The curation explores his evolution as an artist and designer over the last 24 years, highlighting the influence and obscurity that define his career. “Putting this together was amazing because we had access to over 100 archival pieces, furniture, film, audio, and more. We’ve never been able to tell such a robust story before,” says Mazzucca of the project’s scope.
During the month of May, the Barneys Madison Avenue windows usually align with Frieze and the Met Ball, so it’s a chance to make a more art-driven brand statement. “We’d been wanting to partner with Rick on something special for a while, and now seemed like the best time,” explains Mazzucca. After visiting Owens’ “Subhuman Inhuman Superhuman” at the Triennale di Milano, it was clear that there was no shortage of collaborative potential.
The team was especially struck by Owens’ Earthwork sculpture—a giant globular installation made from crushed lilies, his actual hair, concrete, and sand that was suspended over the entire exhibit. The piece was inspired by a 20-year-old Owens quote: “I would lay a black glittering turd on the white landscape of conformity.” And though there’s a sense of humor in that the sculpture is dubbed “turd-nado,” as with all things Owens, it is far more cerebral. “It really is supposed to represent something urgent, a kind of creative primal force that we all have,” he says. To Mazzucca, bringing that force to the Madison Avenue windows was a must. Owens agreed.
The two worked closely to best incorporate the sculpture into the windows while retaining its original qualities, like no connection points, totally invisible suspension, and environmentally friendly materials. The sculpture spans all four windows, which are otherwise void. “To tell your whole story, you have to get something beyond just pretty clothes—you have to express an ethos,” Owens says. “It’s about how you take the façade to tell a story and drive into the store to experience it further,” Mazzucca adds. “We’ve never been afraid to explore how the windows can create a dialogue with our customer in a different way—in this case, in the absence of fashion.”
And for those Owens enthusiasts wanting to delve into his actual collections, the third and fourth floors of the Madison Avenue store will have a comprehensive installation that includes select pieces from his archives, as well as furniture, film, and sketches. More elements of the exhibit will be on display at the Barneys Downtown flagship, where the windows will feature films from the retrospective that comment on standards of beauty, as well as a “mud room” window.
Freds at Barneys New York Downtown is also kicking off a designer burger series with a burger devised by Owens himself. It features locally sourced, grass-fed, non-GMO, Animal Welfare–approved beef and cheese, an edible ribbon on the burger and fries, and a branded bun with a Rick Owens logo.
For the full experience, visit the “Subhuman Inhuman Superhuman” exhibit at our Madison Avenue and Downtown flagships until June 3.