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Gene Moore

In Memoriam 1910-1998

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Gene Moore's reign over the world of visual display reached far beyond the five small Tiffany's windows he made so famous during his 40 years with the New York City jeweler.

Moore, 88, who retired as Tiffany & Co.'s vice president of window display in 1994, died November 23 at his home in New York City. He had suffered from bone cancer.

“He was responsible for making window display a design field,” says Tom Beebe, creative director for Paul Stuart, New York City/Chicago. Moore, Beebe's mentor and friend for many years, “was always full of ideas,” Beebe adds. “At the end his body failed him, but his mind remained sharp and quick.”

During his 50-year career, Moore designed more than 5000 windows. He seemed to find inspiration everywhere–from Euclidean geometry to spaghetti noodles–and he developed a cerebral, humorous style that brought world reknown to Tiffany's. “People ask me if I ever run out of ideas,” he once said. “I don't run out of them; I run after them.”

Moore was born in 1910 in Birmingham, Ala. After studying painting at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, he moved to New York City in 1935. He spent several years doing odd jobs before landing his first display job as assistant to the display director for I. Miller. A career was launched.

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Three years later, Moore joined Bergdorf Goodman and Delman's, then in 1945, he moved to Bonwit Teller as display director. In 1955, he joined Tiffany as display director. For the next 40 years he created history in Tiffany's five small windows along Fifth Avenue.

During an era when windows were often crammed with mannequins and as much merchandise as possible, Moore's utterly simple, graphic compositions were a breath of fresh air. He often used only one or two mannequins or display items in startling, thought-provoking vignettes. He is also known for incorporating the work of fine artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns into his window displays. Moore is credited with many visual display “firsts,” including using tiny white lights on Christmas trees, making mannequins interact and using surrealism in his work.

“Everything you are goes into a window,” Moore told VM SD upon his retirement from Tiffany in 1994. “I am my window and my window is me.”

Tiffany chair William Chaney called Moore “a magician. Gene Moore's boundless humor and creativity gave anyone who passed by his windows a smile, a surprise or a moment's pause. His talents gave people a wonderful window on Tiffany.”

The company honored Moore the day after his death by darkening the windows he made so famous. An ad placed in the November 25, 1998 edition of The New York Times, paid this tribute:

“Farewell to you, the grand master of window design.

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For 39 years your lilliputian stage enchanted New York and the world.

And how blessed was Tiffany & Co. to be your chosen gallery.

We will never forget the magic of your wit, your whimsy and your charm.”

The Friday before Moore's death, Tom Beebe and his display crew at Paul Stuart finished their 1998 Christmas windows, which, as always, incorporated a tribute to Beebe's mentor: a small white mouse (one of Moore's signature display elements). “For years we've moved the mouse from window to window as a dedication to his spirit and as a way to thank him for taking display to the dimension of an art form,” says Beebe.

Beebe has also been active in securing a very real legacy in Moore's name. Moore's archives will be housed at the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City, and the museum is planning a permanent exhibit focused on the art of window display.

Moore leaves no immediate survivors. A memorial service was held in his honor January 7, 1999, at the New York Historical Society, New York City.

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