Perhaps a diorama is in order

I love living in a city, and one reason is the window displays. Downtown has a huge retail district and the department stores and little shops put a lot of creativity into the windows that front their establishments.

Barneys is a lovely example. I never shop in this high-end retailer, but I adore their merchandising. They currently have huge signs made entirely out of Post-it notes. One section looks like a bursting sun. It’s extremely nifty, and I mean that with a complete and utter lack of sarcasm.

Nordstrom’s often has my favorite offerings, and right now one of their enormous corner windows is showcasing blue glass tubes and blown glass floats made by world-renowned local artist Dale Chihuly. The tubes are suspended upright like reeds and everything rests on a bed of river pebbles. It looks like a very pleasant alien landscape.

I also remember the display they had of traditionally posh brands like Burberry. Each tableau featured mannequins that seemed to be at old country clubs and estates. The rooms included ornate furniture and deer heads made of sculpted cardboard. It was an odd contrast between material and subject, which is probably why it worked so well.

There are many times when I see the displays and think that the artwork is too good for such a transitory setting. I try to stay in the moment and enjoy the temporary installation, but I hope that some of the people who assemble the windows also create more permanent pieces.

I realize, of course, that these displays are meant primarily to sell, to promote the company, and to lure bodies into the stores. I’m sure they do that, but the windows also feel like a gift to the community where they rest. I’m glad that commerce can inspire this art, that the pursuit of the dollar turns the downtown into a huge art museum, open to all.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

187. Spend some time checking out store windows and shop displays. Does anything stand out for you? Why? How might you do it, given the chance?

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