With an art exhibition, Galeries Lafayette adds cultural currency to shopping

Paris – As increased pressure from e-commerce forces retailers across all sectors to emphasize the experiential appeal of bricks-and-mortar stores, consumer expectations for in-store experiences rise as well. To meet these expectations, stores are forging a stronger link between culture and commerce by marrying commercial imperative with cultural relevance. In doing so, they devote their resources – and floor space – to exhibitions and events that function as foot-traffic drivers.

A prime example appeared at Galerie des Galeries, a cultural space on the first floor of Galeries Lafayette. For the holiday season, the Parisian department store asked Studio GGSV to come up with a contemporary fairy-tale-themed exhibition for the space. Responding to the call, the French duo fused the physical and the digital in a multisensory installation that appealed to both children and adults.

For Demain, le vaisseau chimère (Tomorrow, the chimerical vessel), Gaëlle Gabillet and Stéphane Villard produced a metamorphic sci-fi mound of garish rocks, psychedelic plants and inflatable objects printed with images of plastic waste that alluded to an ecological dystopia. Small doors connecting Demain’s rooms required adults to bend over as they passed through. A pink-and-black striped corridor led to the main space, which held, atop a white Romanesque vessel, a collision of the natural and the hyperrealistic.

We wanted to see how a virtual image projected onto something real could modify human perception

Asked why they wanted to use digital imagery as a hybridized component, Villard said that he and Gabillet are ‘interested in how motifs and textures allow materiality to be changed. We wanted to see how a virtual image projected onto something real could modify human perception.’ Unsurprisingly, the richly textured objects excited young visitors. ‘Children climbed onto the fountain and tried to catch the changing forms as if it were a game,’ he added.

Surrounding the vessel, a wallpapered surface featured rocks floating between classical columns, reflecting Studio GGSV’s research into ‘ecology and illusion,’ which will continue to be carried out at its Villa Medici residency in Rome until August. ‘By combining the mineral and the digital, we can talk to children through motifs that remind them of video games and to adults through motifs referencing the history of art,’ said Gabillet. ‘It’s all part of our aim to create a false reality.’

GGSV’s layering of the contemporary fairy tale was not merely visual. Fully embracing Galeries Lafayette’s commission, the studio asked writer Laetitia Paviani to compose a tale that would resonate with its proposal. Paviani’s story – about an old spirit who, faced with a vanishing world, fills his mind with a landscape of natural phenomena in order to preserve it in memory – was narrated in the exhibition, creating a multisensory experience.

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This article is part of St-W 127, our current print issue. You can order your copy .

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