Interview with Murray Moss


Freshly back from opening a version of his museum/store in L.A., we rang NYC-based proprietor Murray Moss to check in with him about his first-ever space outside of Manhattan. Mr. Moss filled us in on the renovation process, Donut shop architecture and "leaners." He also made the unavoidable reference to walking in L.A. and, thankfully, didn't bring up the whole burnt piano thing (not that we didn't love it).

Hi Murray, how are you?
I've been running around. It's so crazy. I've been in L.A. a solid three weeks opening the store and at the same time doing the first installation. Now I'm just going to breathe for a moment.

But you know L.A.'s perfect. That's what I've come away from this whole experience with. The first thing everyone wants to know is, how does it rank? It's a classic New York-L.A. thing. I was really happy to be there, but you can't make any comparisons. People kept saying to me, “Chill out.†First of all, I've never chilled out a day in my life. And I thought, “How can they say that. We have to get something done!â€

I'm glad you brought that up. I wanted to ask you about how your experience has been different in L.A.
I never really thought about it, but I knew. My instinct was that I wasn't going to copy it. Look, our business is showing things because we don't make anything. We don't design. Really it's about how you show things. In New York it's about being on Greene street in Soho in a 1890s cast iron building with people living above you. When we started it was a gallery district—we were between Pace and Metro—and now it's something else.

In L.A. we first picked the space because we liked that it was in the fashion district. We almost signed a lease in a sofa district, but we decided to do a place where you're not pegged. So we decided to go Melrose. I liked that Marc Jacobs was there, Theory and Helmut Lang's coming—it's more like people with their eyes open. Also what I like about it is it hasn't happened yet. It's nicer to do your thing rather than crashing.

In New York, not to be presumptuous, but we created something. It just seemed more energetic on Melrose. Now we'll be part of L.A. history.

And the space in L.A.?
It's very beautiful to me because it's sort of raised a step up. Unlike New York where we had to make stages, you're automatically at the perfect viewing height and you see a perfect shot of it from the street. What was amusing to me was, how do you attract attention and make a window display when in L.A. really nobody's walking? When I was walking there the other day, I ran in to one other person and they were from New York!

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So I had this idea, if you’re supposed to capture somebody whizzing by in a car, you have to do something different because it’s a millisecond.
When i was driving around in L.A., I loved all the neon. In New York you only see it for liquor, but it’s all over the place in L.A. My favorite was a wig shop that had neon. The
vernacular there is the highway. I thought let’s do Melrose as a highway, do neon billboards. What I like is in L.A. everything looks like a donut shop. I did things like I left these handrails so it looks like a 1950s post office.

And so since we rebuilt the building, we had to put this load-bearing beam in the ceiling. I thought why don’t we hang a grid. It means we can hang a car in there without ever having to touch the ceiling! I want it to be theatrical.
What we did is we blew out the back of the building and put in giant rolling doors. I
thought, “If no one’s coming in we can rent it out as parking lot!”
We can show Ducati motorcycles, show autos. I’ve always wanted that.

You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you see Moss as a very subjective project, that it’s a lot about you. How did that figure here?
Well, that’s the whole reason for doing things, that’s how I am. It’s a privilege and I don’t want to waste it. But, I thought, “what’s the purpose of me of flying six hours?” I want people to want to go to both places.

For me I’m 58 and it’s not often that you feel your out of your depth because I don’t know anybody. I don’t have a business in California. Why not enjoy the fact that it’s totally new? I just think things are alway available that are life-enhancing so why not take advantage? Work for me is the excuse to have all these experiences. One could do worse than that.

But you know, we did the PR thing and didn’t get it completely right.
Have you ever heard of leaners? They’re these guys who lean into cars and see if there are celebrities in them. And if there are then a “walker” comes down the steps—we have like three steps—and they walk them in and give them a drink! Then there’s a section for celebrity smoking, and area roped off with security. We did this stuff! What we didn’t do is a roped off area inside. Can you imagine?
These people are crazy when it comes to celebrity. It’s different in New York. We have movie star people, but when they come in we don’t make a big deal. They come in alone or with one other person. In L.A. they have an entourage. I think it’s the paparazzi. New York doesn’t have paparazzi in helicopters I suppose. We were even doing an interview for [a magazine] at the opening and I was giggling because everything was in one word. “Describe it in one word.” It’s all headlines. That’s sort of cool, it’s sort of funny.

Also the people there are very nice. In New York you do need guards there people will put out a cigarette on your sofa. In L.A. they’re so respectful. Also in New York people get drunk.

I’ll never eat another avocado though! Or one of these Arnold Palmers.
Now it’s back to a cup of coffee, maybe a lemonade.