Net-a-Porter has added fine art to its luxury mix, starting with exclusive editions by Guy Bourdin, the ‘god of fashion photography’.
Net-a-Porter is known for delivering a scarce selection of fashion, beauty and lifestyle products direct to the doors of its global “EIPs” – that would be extremely important people – with same-day service in a signature black box tied with a bow .
Now the luxury e-tailer is venturing into art. In partnership with AP8, a new art e-commerce platform, it curates a single-artist series of museum-quality prints that are published in limited editions on Net-a-Porter.
“Our goal is to deliver the same world-class level of curation and expertise that represents all of our buying,” said Lea Cranfield, the company’s chief buying and merchandising officer, in a statement. And yes: the art also comes with same-day service.
“There’s a lot of confidence when you discover new designers on Net-a-Porter – it has their seal of approval,” said AP8 curator Viola Raikhel. The aim of the partnership, she added, “is to make [buying] Art and photography are as accessible as luxury and fashion retail online.”
With her London art consultancy 1858 Ltd. Raikhel has advised clients from the Venice Biennale and Sotheby’s Institute to Louis Vuitton. She co-founded AP8 with her partner from 1858, Harvey Mendelson and Paul Rapaport, who had previously worked in-house for luxury brands such as Moncler.
The ease of adding to the cart and seamless transactions of online shopping “has historically not been available in the art world,” Raikhel said. “Essentially, we are creating collectors from a whole new audience of fashionistas who might not have had access to the auction houses and dealers or the knowledge necessary to do business in the art market.”
AP8 will organize IRL exhibitions – two to four a year, each spotlighting a single artist – to coincide with his drops in Net-a-Porter’s so-called “Art Room”. It launched this month with a collection of 10 prints by the late great Guy Bourdin, each offered in a limited edition of 999.
“Guy Bourdin, the god of fashion photography, seemed like a natural fit,” Raikhel said. “He elevated it to an art form.”
Bourdin (1928–1991) shot campaigns for brands such as Chanel and Charles Jourdan while being a regular for French Fashion from 1955 to the 1980s, creating colorful photographs characterized by their eerie, narrative tableaux. Influenced by Alfred Hitchcock and Man Ray – who wrote the catalog for Bourdin’s first solo show – his surrealistically tinged works are in the collections of institutions such as MoMA, Getty and Tate Modern.
Having never previously sold the artist’s work through e-commerce, the Guy Bourdin Estate agreed to license a selection of photographs to Net-a-Porter via AP8, which follows strict printing protocols used by leading auction houses, museums and the like galleries are used.
The Estate oversaw the verification of each print, each verified by a form of stenographic cryptography only discernible by scanning. Meanwhile, a buyer-registered certification code links to a unique digital watermark hidden in the print to show provenance and value.
In order not to affect the value of artworks sold in galleries and at auction, once sold these prints are never released – in handcrafted Italian chestnut frames.
“[We] have tried to find ways to accommodate the desires of Bourdin lovers who couldn’t afford it [his] works and don’t want them to find unauthorized, inferior quality posters or dubious prints,” said Frederic Arnal, the director of the estate. “In this way, the winery expands its audience and participates in the formation of a new generation of collectors.”
Below are photos Bourdin shot for Fashion Paris available as prints through Net-a-Porter ($1,865) in the 1970s and 1980s; They are also available in larger frames via AP8 (starting at $3,200), along with 20 additional Bourdin prints (all in editions of 999).
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