As I walk over to Selfridges with two others I have brought along, a friend enquires “are you sure art is going to be in here?” I nod but can see why the question is necessary. Selfridges is not a museum, even the thought of art being in there seems unnecessary, especially for a student who would probably marvel over the outrageous prices for designer handbags more than a Rembrandt or Picasso. Regardless of the costs, art is there, right in the entrance of the Selfridges in Exchange Square.
The series of minimalistic concrete sculptures was created by Rebecca Halliwell-Suttton, a graduate and emerging talent from the Manchester School of Art. Although I usually find modern art a challenge to appreciate, these sculptures certainly portray the feeling of brokenness, but I do not grasp the full story they are trying to tell.
The sculptures placed around the multileveled store are all created by recent graduates from the Manchester School of Art as a part of Selfridges latest ‘State of the Arts’ campaign, the stores are attempting to incorporate more art in unique places for the public to see and enjoy. Whilst the majority of people in the store may pass the installation by without a second thought, the message of the overall concept is inspiring.
I examine another sculpture within the store, a large metal sculpture which ressembles a paper boat. The piece is placed in front of a screen showing the boat being dragged around Manchester by the artist, Mid Asadi. Overall it is an inventive piece despite being made of simple materials. It evokes a strong sense of nostalgia, as I played with similar paper boats and planes as a kid.
The placement of the sculpture is questionable however, as it is almost hidden from the shoppers between two high-end brands with a door behind it that looks like it is only used by the building’s maintenance team. Even with the pieces in the entry of the store, as I looked at the sculptures a handful of people passed without even glancing at the art, one of which is even in the center of the walkway, obstructing the path of shoppers. The attempt to incorporate the art within the store feels like an afterthought.
Other than art created by art graduates, the store displays a variety of mannequins dressed in designer clothes. Each figure is accompanied by a plaque stating the brand, designer, and a short explanation of their contribution to fashion. Fashion is an art in so many ways, but the connection between traditional sculptures and fashion seems a disconnect and one not fully explained here.
Furthermore, the store also includes designer shoes from Gucci and Balenciga on pedestals with plaques, and this represents the core of this artistic attempt for me. The store, although attempting a creative and excellent idea, is not executed to the level it could have been. Selfridges is trying to illustrate that the store values more than the money made from designer shoes and wants to give the public accessible art, but at the end of the day the store is placing shoes on a literal and metaphorical pedestal.