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VM inspiration: Galleries Lafayette All Over exhibition

Like many premium department stores the Paris branch of Galeries Lafayette has a dedicated space, the Galerie des Galeries, on its first floor for temporary exhibitions.

The free exhibitions are usually related to art, fashion, and design. A recent one, All Over, curated by art critic Samuel Gross, is of particular interest to VM professionals. The work by 19 European artists is unified by use of vertical stripes.

Vertical stripes are much employed in VM as they effectively command attention. They provide a visual ‘wake-up,’ reminding us of the bars of a gate or door, or a zebra crossing.

The exhibition is curated to deliberately contrast many forms of stripe with, for example, vibrant multi-coloured textural lines, fresh from the tube, placed adjacent to smooth, formal Regency stripes, as above. The wall on which they are hung forms a giant alternating grey and white stripe, to add depth and contrast to the exhibits.

This exhibit is almost a textbook example of balance and harmony, the twin aims of any professional VM. The small, roughly-painted, orange canvas is showcased on a large, neatly painted, blue-grey square on the wall.

The gentle, degraded version of opposite and complimentary colours (using a 3 colour primary wheel) - rather than a harsh orange and bright blue - is appealingly sophisticated, making it appropriate for the promotion of premium brands. The smaller, brighter orange panel contrasts pleasingly with the larger softer, blue grey just as classically, in windows and in-store displays, smaller brighter merchandise is balanced against larger more muted stock.

Ringing the changes, two paired canvases, again in opposite colours, showcase the effects of over-bent vertical bars. The soft terracotta example with pale green bars and a single white stripe has a completely different mood to the royal blue version to the right on a grey ground. While the one on the left seems more gentle, feminine, and warmer due to the use of terracotta and the pleasing contrast with the verdigris green, the one on the right is relatively unsophisticated, with an almost harshly scientific feel to the ‘Nokia blue’ stripes on the grey ground.

Bent lines create a vacuum, in this case drawing attention to the terracotta or grey void space in the centre of each canvas. This classic VM display strategy cries out for a single handbag on a plinth positioned directly in front of each canvas.

This exhibit is redolent of the beach and high summer without resorting to the clichés of blue sky and yellow sand. The deckchair stripe, fading to nothing and then faintly reversed as though reflected in still water, suggests the bright white light of a calm sea on a sunny day. Using something similar, perhaps picking out a stripe in printed merchandise in the foreground and focusing spotlights on the white band across the centre, would create a simple and effective window for almost any summer merchandise.

This example, created from a series of wooden planks secured by their long narrow edge to the wall and painted in ‘Refreshers’ (a UK candy brand) colours combines the ‘wake up’ nature of vertical stripes with the illusion of movement. As the customer walks from one side of the installation to the other, the stripes appear to broaden and then narrow, creating the illusion of movement. This illusion is particularly effective in store windows as customers expect the displays to be static, and movement attracts attention. Illusionary movement is usually less expensive to implement in windows, and unlikely to require remedial intervention as unfortunately, mechanical windows so often do.

Lastly, this is almost a textbook example of the effect of light on surfaces.

The silver-painted panel is faceted, rather like a bevel-edged mirror, with a flat central panel and an angled one at each side. As the close-up below demonstrates, the paint appears to be three different shades of silver depending on the angle from which the panel is viewed.

Again, this creates the illusion of movement as the panels appear wider and narrower as the customer moves past them. For store windows and in-store wall space this could inexpensively create an illusion of movement and detail on an otherwise plain wall, without taking up a great deal of space.