By GINNY VAN ALYEA
Millennials don’t want things, they seek experiences. Who shops in a store? The things people used to swear they’d buy only in person have since gone online.
When you bring a horse to water, the conventional wisdom is, you cannot make him drink. To address a challenging retail landscape, Fashion Outlets of Chicago, a shopping destination near O’Hare Airport in Rosemont, linked fashion and art in order to consistently bring shoppers to the 530,000 square-foot indoor campus to not only discover designer discounts but to find unexpected experiences and serious art – in person.
In this era of lazy, but free, 2–day shipping, shoppers must make the effort to get to Fashion Outlets. If it sounds more shoe-leather than scrolling (this is where the Millennials come in) it’s worth it.
At the onset of its opening in 2013, Fashion Outlets of Chicago unveiled a collection of curated site-specific contemporary artwork installed throughout the center’s common areas. Artists created pieces for unconventional locations – Daniel Arsham’s relief Falling Time is installed near a parking garage vestibule, while Jen Stark’s psychedelic mural, Drippy, transforms a central escalator. Altogether there are currently 16 large-scale commissions, and the program continues to expand.
In November 2016 THE COLLECTION: Where Art Meets Fashion launched with the unveiling of a permenant installation A Grand Love Story (analog love in a digital age) by Carlos Rolón/Dzine, and a rotating exhibition program has featured work by more than a dozen artists so far, including Aimée Beaubien, Sarah and Joseph Belknap, Nnenna Okore, and others.
New additions for this fall feature Derrick Adams’ largest work to date, installed at the shopping center’s grand entrance near Saks OFF Fifth. Click here to see a time lapse video of the installation in progress.
Edra Soto’s Open 24 Hours, a still-life format in three display cases, is composed of free standing shelves and glass bottles found by Soto in her East Garfield Park neighborhood. Soto's installation will open during a special event at the Fashion Outlets on Friday, October 5 (note: this is an update from the CGN print version of this article).
Artist and designer Chad Kouri is creating an interactive installation on the grand staircase, an extension of his Art For All series. Kouri will cover the staircase with colorful shapes, inviting visitors to text a number and receive a one-of-a-kind digital artwork composed of those very shapes, which will be texted to their phone. Each unique work will then be featured with the visitor’s initials on a monitor at the top of the staircase, across from J.Crew Factory and DKNY.
While the premier shopping and high-end amenities have been a draw to Fashion Outlets from the start – today there are 130+ designer stores – the art program has elevated the experience to a more intellectual and visual level as Fashion Outlets seeks to distinguish itself from other retail properties by being a cultural destination that actively supports public art. On your way to Gucci, you’ll encounter work by Cody Hudson and Jim Drain. Head to Barney’s and Tory Burch and you’ll see Matthew Hoffman’s colorful You Are Beautiful construction, an artistic encounter that appeals to a new generation of selfie shoppers encouraged to pose for photographs in front of the singular work.
Visitors leave Fashion Outlets with more than a deal, they’ve had an artistic enounter.
REDEFINING “MALL ART”
The installations at Fashion Outlets of Chicago are decidely not “mall art” but rather public art in an unconventional setting, which offers hope for encountering art in our every day lives and shows the benefit of increasing opportunities and exposure for living artists. The works shown below are part of the permanent collection. fashionoutletsofchicago.com
Top image: Open 24 Hours, Edra Soto