THE EXCITEMENT OF THE holiday season was behind us, yet there was a palpable buzz of electricity in the air. A group of creatives gathered to commemorate a legacy, an evolution, and a movement toward an all-inclusive world of design. The event was to celebrate a milestone, the 25th anniversary of the coveted Markopoulos Award, and the presentation of the 25th award recipient.
The Ralph Pucci showroom, curated with exquisite luxury furniture, fine art and cutting-edge designs, was the venue for the event. The environment’s high-reaching vertical windows welcomed in the New York vibe, as they looked out onto the area once known as Ladies Mile. One of the remarkable things about retail is its innate ability to change. Ladies Mile, with its celebrated cast iron facades, was a catalyst of exponential change at the turn of the 20th century. It was somehow appropriate that the celebration at the Pucci showroom that night was in the shadows of the early department stores that dramatically altered the course of retail.
The Markopoulos Award is named in honor of the late Andrew Markopoulos, whose high standard of excellence continues to inspire all within the retail design industry. During his tenure as SVP of Visual Merchandising and Store Design for the department store division of Dayton-Hudson, he left an indelible impression on the very fabric of the retail design community. With a heightened sense of dignity, class and vision, Mr. Markopoulos elevated the profession from a mere trade to a highly respected art form. The most prestigious honor in the retail design industry, the Markopoulos Award is presented annually to recognize the exceptional individuals in the retail design industry who have consistently produced innovative and inspirational work while exemplifying Andrew’s high standard of professionalism.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Markopoulos Award. The coveted honor was launched in 1997 shortly before the turn of the 21st century. It was a time when the industry looked toward the future with hope and optimism. But even the most forward-looking could not have visualized the enormity of change that lay ahead. Markopoulos recognized that the one constant in retail is change. As the industry evolved and adapted to the nuances of the day, he was able to differentiate his work by daring to be different. While Markopoulos had his finger on the pulse of the times, he didn’t follow trends, he set them.
Hosted by Ralph Pucci (also the 2009 recipient of the Markopoulos Award), the invited guest list for the event included Andrew’s youngest daughter Nicole, along with previous Markopoulos recipients Linda Fargo, James Damian, James Mansour, Ken Smart, Judy Bell, Dan Evans, Tom Beebe, Chuck Luckenbill and, myself, Eric Feigenbaum. Also in attendance were fashion designer Dianne Brill, model Alva Chinn, and industry icons Carol Barnhart and George Dell.
Today, as the retail industry changes exponentially, visual merchandising is expanding beyond the boundaries of the norm to the broader world of experiential and spatial design. In keeping with Markopoulos’s core values, his vision, and the attributes he embodied, the Markopoulos Circle is looking beyond the boundaries of industry convention by presenting this year’s Markopoulos Award to Matthew Yokobosky, the Senior Curator of Fashion and Material Culture at the Brooklyn Museum.Advertisement
Yokobosky, much in the spirit of Markopoulos, has a long history of bringing presentations and exhibitions to life by creating spatial experiences in evocative and compelling environments. His work at the Brooklyn Museum has afforded him the opportunity to explore his interests in design and fashion on a world-renowned stage.
Yokobosky was appointed Senior Curator, Fashion and Material Culture in 2018, having most recently held the position of Director of Exhibition Design. Since 1999, Yokobosky has designed more than 95 temporary and permanent exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, including “Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life” (2006), “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” (2013), “Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe” (2014), “The Rise of Sneaker Culture” (2015), “Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern” (2017) and “David Bowie is” (2018; also coordinating curator). Recent projects include “Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion” (2019), “Studio 54: Night Magic” (2020), “The Queen and The Crown: A Virtual Exhibition of Costumes from ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ and ‘The Crown’ ” (2020), “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” (2021) and “Thierry Mugler: Couturissime” (2022).
A great storyteller with a highly developed sense of composition, Yokobosky clearly recognizes the many overlaps between store design and exhibition design. “Both are showing objects, and both employ the same or similar tools,” he says. “Much like retail, the experience of walking through a gallery informs visitors about information that you want them to learn. The narrative is expanded when working in a space or in a building as we consider rooms in a larger story as visitors move though the gallery or through the store.”
Support of the community has long been an integral component of the Brooklyn Museum mission. Yokobosky believes that as a curator, one of his most vital roles is to teach and inform: “Being a curator is being an educator. Months and even years of research go into the discovery of new information. Once gathered, our responsibility is to share the results of our research with the community at large.”
Yokobosky spoke eloquently in his acceptance speech, recalling some of the design principles that Mr. Markopoulos espoused and championed, most notably his belief that department stores were selling stages where magic could be woven. “The retail environment is similar to what can happen in cinema, theater, as well as in museums,” says Yokobosky. “They’re places where people can experience something that takes them out of their daily lives and into a world of fantasy.”
Andrew’s daughter, Nicole Markopoulos McCullar, summed up the festivities perfectly when she said, “What a magical evening among the best of the best in the industry paying tribute and remembering my father’s legacy as they continue to elevate and expand the Markopoulos Award to new heights that my father would have been so proud of. Congratulations to Matthew Yokobosky on joining the Markopoulos Circle as the newest recipient of this prestigious award.”Advertisement
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📷 James Salzano, New York
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