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Art, Commerce Battle at Barneys

Artist not “up to my ass in designer clothes,” okay?

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Barneys creative director Simon Doonan was accused last week by gallery Cheim & Read of making “formally weak plagiarized versions” of artist Jack Pierson’s work to decorate the store. According to the gallery, Doonan refused repeated requests to take down the displays, which use mismatched commercial sign lettering to spell out words like fabulous. So reminiscent are they of Pierson’s well-known “word sculptures” assembled from found sign lettering that at the recent Armory art fair “ten people came to the booth and were like, ‘Oh, we saw these Jack Piersons in Barneys,’ ” says Pierson. “The gallery is sick of people thinking I did them, and so am I.” While acknowledging that store displays often borrow ideas from the art world, gallerist John Cheim objects to Doonan’s designs, saying, “This is an obvious pastiche of a specific idea.” Says Pierson, whose new show opened last week, adding a whiff of PR urgency, “Everyone just assumes I’m up to my ass in designer clothes because I did this job. I didn’t. And it’s like, can’t you tell? I wouldn’t do it so badly.” Doonan would only say, “Barneys says no comment.”


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