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The Mind, a planned retail space at OCMA, will link modern art to the past

Rendering of French artist Sébastien Léon's functional work designed for the Mind, the planned retail space of the OCMA.
Rendering of French artist Sébastien Léon’s functional work designed for the Mind, the planned retail space of the Orange County Museum of Art.
(Image rendering courtesy of Please Do Not Enter)

The Orange County Museum of Art, opening in October, is all about connections.

Heidi Zuckerman, the museum’s chief executive officer and director, has made connecting the past to the present a running theme. The announcement last week of plans for the museum’s retail space, the Mind, will foster a different kind of connection — between OCMA and South Coast Plaza.

“One of the super interesting things about the Orange County Museum of Art’s location is its proximity to South Coast Plaza,” said Zuckerman. “We are connected by this footbridge, and it is an incredible opportunity for us to have a world-class shopping experience as part of the Orange County Museum of Art experience.”

The Mind will be divided into five sections, each designed to cultivate a distinctive experience. Zuckerman said the retail space will be immersive, experiential and unique, and she hopes the space and its content stimulate visitors’ thoughts and imaginations about the future by connecting to the past.

The Post Office, for example, will feature limited-edition postcards of artworks, starting with images from OCMA’s collection along with complimentary postal service.

“Part of what we are interested in is things that are sort of countercultural, and one of those things is handwritten communication,” said Zuckerman. “Being able to take the time to reflect and put something in writing, it has a different sense of longevity and intention. It is a bit of a lost art.”

The Library section at the Mind won’t be a lending space but a resource to buy artist books, magazines and prints.

“There will be museum publications, but also rare, hard-to-find books and also books on topics that connect to our exhibition programs,” said Zuckerman.

At the OCMA Exclusive section, museum merchandise, developed exclusively in accord with its contemporary exhibition will be available. Zuckerman said visitors will find OCMA-branded hats, shirts and keychains in high-design styles that match the museum’s aesthetic.

Rendering of French artist Sébastien Léon's functional work designed for the Mind at OCMA.
(Image rendering courtesy of Please Do Not Enter)

At the Collection, a themed, rotating assemblage of mostly limited-edition jewelry, art, fashion and design pieces will be available.

“In the way that the museum has its own collection and people are getting to come and see it, the connection with the Mind is that these are objects that are related to or of the quality of some of the things that the museum owns,” said Zuckerman. “It allows people to build their own collections.”

Emmanuel Renoird and Nicolas Libert, creators of the concept store Please Do Not Enter in downtown Los Angeles, have been tapped for the Mind as well. Their presence will particularly be felt at the Collection and the Vintage Gallery, which will be stocked with treasures from the past — a bold move according to Libert.

“This is unusual because normally you have contemporary art museums going with a contemporary design or art store,” said Libert, “and not really making any reference to what has been done in the past.”

The Vintage Gallery will feature carefully sourced vintage jewelry, fashion and design.

“It will be a rotating collection,” said Zuckerman. “There is that treasure-hunting aspect, and we want people to come often because you never know what you are going to find other than knowing it will be fabulous.”

Among the “fabulous” items Libert has pulled is jewelry from French fashion designer Pierre Cardin, who passed away in 2020 and was known for his avant-garde style and Space Age designs.

“We will bring a collection of [Cardin] vintage jewelry pieces, which are mostly runway pieces from the ’60s and ’70s,” said Libert.

A limited edition line of handbags made with human hair by French surrealist hairstylist Charlie le Mindu is also planned along with another collection Libert considers a special link between the past and present.

“We will have surfboards and skateboards using some vintage, iconic paintings from the 17th century and the 19th century,” said Libert. “That is how you cross iconic paintings that are in the most celebrated museums with very young culture. These worlds usually never meet. We love the idea of mixing these things.”

Rendering of French artist Sébastien Léon's functional work designed for the Mind.
(Image rendering courtesy of Please Do Not Enter)

The entire space will be centered around a functional art piece from French artist Sébastien Léon. Known for his sculptures and sound installations, Léon has created in his Los Angeles studio a functional work for the store’s opening.

“It is made of stainless-steel mirrors, it will reflect the existing architecture, and from a far you will see it is a monumental art piece,” said Libert. “But then if you get closer to the piece you will realize there is actually a sound installation, and you will start hearing some music coming from the inside of the piece.”

The soundtrack, which Léon composed in collaboration with musician and producer Joshua Carter of Phantogram, will play from inside the sculpture.

“Then if you really get close to that monumental piece in the middle of the retail, you will realize in the piece, built in, there is display cases. And these cases will feature the vintage jewelry pieces,” said Libert. “From a far it is a sculpture, but then when you get closer, you start the experience.”

Overall, Zuckerman said she intends the Mind to be a place where the different connections inspire visitors to connect with the world around them and with each other.

“We want to bring those elements of the past into the present and use them to hopefully help define and structure our future,” she said.

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