Aleksandra Mir

Fashion Hats

NEW YORK—The New Museum’s 'Window on Broadway', at 583 Broadway, had been used for the display of contemporary painting, video, sound work and performance for over a decade. In the spring of 1997 I transformed it into a shop window display modeled on one of the neighboring hat shops, Fashion Hats Inc. at 581 Broadway. The store’s owner, Mr. Harshad Mistry, agreed to lend me material from his inventory in exchange for an extension more than triple the size of his own display, on the busiest museum and retail block in SoHo

I copied the Fashion Hats sign and lighting, bought backdrop fabrics and learned how to arrange them in a ’50s style window display, installed a pegboard painted gold with hooks and hangers and brought over the sparkling colorful hats and hatboxes that Mr. Mistry had leant. It all looked very joyful

With the spotlight thrown on Fashion Hats Inc., Mr. Mistry quickly came to the conclusion that his own window display had been in a state of neglect for some time; the light bulbs were burned out, dead flies were lying around and last season’s hats had been left to collect dust. An upgrade was needed. A window decorator had to be hired, and I was naturally offered the job, in effect re-decorating the original window to match the copy (and for cash, which the museum did not offer)

The installation remained for two months with confused hat shoppers entering the museum and vice versa. When the museum installation finally came down, it happened that Fashion Hats Inc. simultaneously closed their business as well. Mr. Mistry said that he was “moving onto other things”, and so was everyone else. Fashion Hats was the last art installation in 'Window on Broadway' before the museum closed for renovation and eventually moved