Guinness, Hugo: Whimsical One-Of-A-Kinds at Kate Spade

There is an established tradition of buying art from high end retailers such as Neiman’s or Barney’s. Now Kate Spade San Francisco jumps into the mix. Hugo Guinness’s iconic subjects are just as quirky as the material he uses to make them. G rated prints titled “banana,” “greyhound bus,” and “tractor” sit side by side with PG “panties,” “panties again,” and “rubber.” He no longer uses linoleum blocks for his work; he’s discovered Speedy Cut’s eraser-like material, much easier to work with. The designs in black ink on handmade Indian paper are simple and universal. He’s cagey when asked if the pieces on display are part of a print series or if they really are one of a kind, and let’s me know in a friendly way that I am missing the point. He's right. $550 for a work that is framed (floating mount on wood panel) and godparented by the Spades is a bargain.

The May 3 launch party at the store happened to be First Thursday, the night when the A list galleries of Union Square stay open a little later so students and 9-to-5 folk can get in to see what’s featured. John and Gretchen Berggruen saw the party from the second floor windows of their gallery across the street and made their way over to introduce themselves to Hugo. The guest-list party was multi-purpose: introduce Hugo's work (only for sale in the San Francisco store) to the SF set, raise money for the Fine Arts Museums’ Junior Committee, and show off the Hugo-Kate clear plastic op-art tote that New York Magazine helpfully points out is a legal airplane carry-on:

Hugo Guinness (along with fellow alum Vivienne Westwood) is a graduate of Harrow College of Art in London. Like most artists, his school emphasis (ceramics) is not what he currently practices. In addition to the charming prints at Kate Spade and John Derian's Bowery boutique, he contributes “spots” to the New Yorker magazine (those little drawings in between the paragraphs) and is an AIGA award winning book-jacket illustrator.

Note to the speculator: 29 of 65 pieces sold that night at the party and prices have gone up 60% since Kate Spade recommended Hugo's work to Time Magazine's Style & Design "The Best of 2004" list.

This show $550

Kate Spade, 227 Grant avenue, San Francisco, 94108, tel: 415.216.0880 fax: 415.216.0878 Hours M-Sat: 10-6, Sun: 12-5, Stefanie Strickland, Manager