Restoration Hardware Enters the Art Business

Earlier this month, Restoration Hardware—the home furnishings retail giant—announced the launch of RH Contemporary Art (RHCA), “a multi-channel platform designed to raise the visibility of international artists to collectors and viewers.”  This platform includes a five-story exhibition space and commercial art gallery at 437 West 16th Street in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, not far from the Whitney Museum of Art’s new location. In conjunction with the brick-and-mortar operation, RHCA will extend to an online platform with works for sale, and an art journal, all set to launch this fall.

The space will commission work from emerging artists for a new exhibition every eight weeks starting in September. Engaging in a non-traditional business model for the artworld, RHCA plans to buy commissions from artists in advance and in-full, as part of its mission to raise the visibility of international artists to collectors and viewers.  “By commissioning and acquiring the works up front, we are enabling the artists to create new bodies of work and to go in new directions with their practice,” RHCA’s vice-president, Holly Baxter told The Art Newspaper, adding that RHCA will not represent artists but will offer the commissioned work for sale.

Restoration Hardware has experimented with art in-stores before (see this post I wrote last fall), but RHCA is an entirely new concept. RHCA’s first acquisition, the first edition of Rain Room by rAndom International is currently on loan to The Museum of Modern Art for EXPO 1: New York, open now through July 2013. This mark’s the U.S. premiere of the large-scale installation, which uses motion sensors to enable visitors to walk through a downpour without getting wet. Apparently, last weekend the wait time to get in was 6 hours, which speaks to the keen eye of RHCA’s curatorial staff in selecting innovative artists and exposing them to a larger audience. I myself can’t wait to experience the installation, and look forward to visiting RHCA’s new gallery space when it opens this fall.

Random International. Rain Room. 2012. Photo courtesy of the artist

Random International. Rain Room. 2012. Photo courtesy of the artist.

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