Quote and Credit

Quote and Credit


Virginia Roehl Photograph and the Art of Window Display The Display News Service

Do these circus banners look at all odd to you? Could it be that they are painted on a bathroom wall, or at least seem to be? At any rate, the display is a miniature of some kind, look close and you can see a shower head.

Virginia Roehl was a window display news service. Located on West 57th Street in the 1950s, upscale (and I mean way upscale) clients like Tiffany's , Bonwit Teller, Bergman's and such hired them to document their window installations. The photographers who worked at Roehl took photographs of some of the most beautiful (and artistic) retail displays in New York. They could well have included installations by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist, all of whom worked as window decorators. (Not too shabby, eh?) So did Salvador Dali. Warhol, in the last interview he gave, said "Everybody also was doing window decoration. That led into more galleries. I had some paintings in a window, then in a gallery."

Manhattan is literally full of art...and even the tiny spaces in storefront windows utilize it. When you consider up to a million people may pass your display in a week, a retailer best produce something interesting for display. It is also quite a showcase for an artist. How else might a young struggling visual artist reach an audience as large as a good day at the Met?

I can not find too much information on the Virginia Roehl Display News Service, but It would be a wonderful archive (and exhibit) should anyone find them. Obviously, they were connected. If I were still in NYC, I would be all over them.

As window work is temporal, the Roehl photographs may be the only pictures of some extraordinary work. The print here has their stamp on verso, as does one I locate in the Library of Congress of some work by Covarrubias.

The Ohio State University Exhibit Historic Costume and Textiles collection exhibit in 1999 used some Roel images, the catalog "The Art of Selling: A History of Visual Merchandising" is readily available on the web and is recommended.

Untitled Virginia Roehl Display News Service Photograph, circa 1950 Collection Jim Linderman

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