Spatial Humanities Public Lecture: “Hypespace: the visual culture of retail architecture” by Courtney Coffman

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Considered sites of public display and consumption, the department store emerged in tandem with a deluge of art museums in Europe and America during the mid-19th century. No longer reserved for the elite class, these two typologies flattened social hierarchies and democratized aesthetics for a wider public. A strong parallel can be made between this historical moment and the current phenomenon of participatory installations and pop-up retail experiences mediated through social media platforms. While the exhibitionary system of museums informed methods of retail display for many years, the consumption of limited-edition collaborative releases and life-style driven brands has manifested a hyper-selective public with discriminative taste and consequently perpetuated an institutional shift. This research considers how technology and visual culture have (re)shaped sites of public consumption through the creation of an evolved consumer—the collector of exclusive goods and experiences—and how architects, curators, designers and retailers translate this ephemeral infatuation with “newness” in the real time space of museums and stores.