Theses Doctoral

From Vitrine to Screen: Art and the Architecture of Commodity Display

Werier, Leah

This dissertation is a study of the architecture of commodity capital: the display window. Taking as a starting point the work of Henri Lefebvre and Goerg Simmel, this dissertation understands the shop window to be a mode of display, what I define as “the logic of the vitrine,” that has shaped the way the world appears. Tracing a genealogy from the Parisian Arcades to the twentieth-century department store, this project explores the relationships between gender, sexuality, race, and architecture. Feminist critiques of commodity desire and display illuminate how the shop window is as important to our understandings of capitalism as is the commodity.

Through feminist, queer, postcolonial, and anti-racist readings of material and commodity culture, this dissertation considers the shop window to be a site of subject formation. This dissertation also examines how designers, artists, and architects have explored the display of the shop window through a series of case studies, including Marina Abramovic’s Role Exchange, Gene Moore’s “drag” in Bonwit Teller’s shop windows, the making of a black mannequin, and Lynn Hershman Leeson’s site-specific installation 25 Windows. This dissertation concludes with a consideration of the architectural role reversals of the shop window and the gallery; the work of Silvia Kolbowski and Elmgreen and Dragset’s Prada Marfa ground this analysis. Artists have disrupted the display of the shop window, transforming the architecture of commodity capital into a space for resistance and critique.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Thesis Advisors
Alberro, Alexander
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 2, 2021