On December 6, 2023, we launched our newest, most ambitious project to the world.
MUSES is the result of a collaboration between Future Commerce, the culture magazine for commerce, and Adobe Commerce, the leading commerce solution from the world’s most creative company.
Together, we created a multifaceted media property that celebrates our collective sources of inspiration. MUSES unites the mythical muses and their roots in the Arts, while also examining the role of technology, commerce, and innovation in creating new sources of inspiration.
The three-day event comprised a retail pop-up shop; a twelve-artist exhibition curated by renowned Miami-based curator, Tam Gryn; daytime thought leadership events, workshops, and panel discussions; and a launch party for our annual print Journal, eponymously entitled MUSES.
“Creative acts inspire us to create in response”
The brief for MUSES began as a simple phrase — what inspires you? When you’re inspired, what are you capable of creating? From there, it blossomed into a mantra: creative acts inspire us to create in response.
With this as the backdrop, we looked to ancient sources of inspiration, leading us to dive deep into the Muses. The Nine Muses of Greek mythology embody both artistic pursuits — like poetry, drama, music, and dance — but they also embody the past and future — history and the cosmos. The framework given to us by the Muses allows us to explore how Commerce of the past and the future can provide sources of motivation and inspiration for consumers, and this virtuous cycle of innovation and inspiration leads to world-altering outcomes for people everywhere.
When we poll our audience of C-level executives in the eCommerce industry, their primary business concern is the inability to futureproof their business and manage sustainable growth, and their secondary concern is the lack of imagination and innovation in the channels they have direct control over. Often, this is a website or a web marketplace like Amazon or Walmart.
New channels are launching all the time. MUSES allows commerce teams and innovation teams to join hands and navigate brave new worlds of Commerce — like Roblox, which is launching IRL commerce in 2024; or TikTok Shops, where brands must learn to empower creators to tell their stories. MUSES is a combined event and thought leadership series for brand leaders to see around the next corner while expanding their thinking beyond their own internal roadmap.
The Historic Venue for MUSES
Our venue for the duration of Miami Art Week was situated in the heart of culture and commerce on Miami Beach: at 1100 Lincoln Road, the site of the historic Chase Bank, a protected art deco-era building. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the storied financial institution had been converted into a Banana Republic.
Still present within the 10,000 sq foot historic building are perfectly preserved terrazzo floors, red and brown-hued Levante marble, and most exciting, the original vault, which was previously converted into a dressing room. Fixtures from the former retail store also stood in place.
Daytime and evening programming kicked off on Wednesday, December 6th, with our launch party for the MUSES Journal. A record-breaking 550+ attendees streamed through our venue, with hundreds more eagerly awaiting confirmation on the waitlist. Among the attendees at our evening programming included leaders at brands like Invicta, Delta, Marriott, Mercedes Benz, Kroger, Nordstrom, and Walmart; and leaders in innovative Web3 technology companies like Solana.
As the culture reporting magazine for Commerce professionals, Future Commerce sits firmly at the “intersection of culture and commerce.” Our venue for MUSES brought this mission statement to life by sitting at the corner of Lennox Avenue and Lincoln Road, situated along the nine-block stretch of outdoor mall and gallery space that bisects South Beach, across the street from the historic Colony Theater.
The MUSES Exhibition
Miami Art Week is known for the halo of events that comprise multiple activations around Miami and the surrounding vicinity. Outside the Art Basel fair proper, many retail shops, dark spaces, and galleries activate with local artists to present their work to the public who venture outside of the Convention Center.
The intention with MUSES was to reimagine the mythological Muses in a modern sense. Renowned curator Tam Gryn (RAW, SHOWFIELDS) set out with a curatorial statement celebrating technological innovation alongside more traditional art forms.
“Within this dynamic exhibition, the creative realm between the mundane and the extraordinary merge,” said Gryn in her curatorial statement. “Today's visionary artists and influential brands ascend to the status of cultural icons.”
The vision was clear even if you had yet to read the full statement. From the street, you could catch a glimpse of artist Natasha Tomchin's dichroic light monsteras installation catching the light through the grand windows.
Steps inside the front door stood an activation with Acrylic Robotics, a Vancouver, B.C.-based robotics startup that empowers digital artists to reach new markets with just-in-time painting reproductions of their digital works, in collaboration with artist Mr. Angarita.
CEO Chloe Ryan, appearing on a panel talk during MUSES, said, "The [Acrylic Robotics] web marketplace will give artists new access to new markets. This creates a potential for the arts and commerce that doesn’t exist yet.”
Stopping by the bar, artist Alissa Alfonso transformed the space in collaboration with Justworks to create a dreamscape paying homage to her deep connection to the natural world.
Heading upstairs from the ground floor, you’re met by an augmented reality installation by Felipe Aguilar, inspired by Polyhimnia, the classical Muse of Sacred Poetry. Artwork and sculpture come to life through the lens of your smartphone or tablet as digital Japanese cherry blossoms rain down on the spectator from above.
Heading deeper into the space, you’re greeted by the work of Marlon Portales, a Cuban-born painter, and his interpretation of Erato, the Muse of Love.
Portales uses AI prompts (which he writes on the reverse of every work) to generate fantasy scenes before modifying them heavily within digital tools like Procreate. Eventually, the work is translated to canvas with traditional tools, paints, and brushes. Portale's art explores love's complexity, encouraging self-reflection and emotional discovery.
Other artists included the work of Tara Long (Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy), in an installation that created the whalesong of her avatar F𝟦EDRA, a dolphin searching for their lost mother. Utilizing a theremin, attendees could join in the song by creating tones and pitches that reverberated throughout the space.
Also present was the work of Venezualen sculpturist Claudio Marcotulli (Urania, the Muse of the Cosmos) and his seminal piece, a biconical sculpture entitled Spectrum Collider (2001).
Lili(ana), presented two pieces of work, serving as a multidimensional exploration of human bodies as vehicles or vessels, and the pathways we transit, cleverly coined “Build Your Own Muse”.
Each evening event was capped by two special performances by Arantxa Araujo (Terpsichore, the Muse of Dance). A neuroscientist, Araujo studies the science of movement, culture, neuroscience, and technology.
For MUSES, her performance, ‘Mu-sa/za-zu’, draws upon the Aztec god of dance and flowers, infuses the performance with an array of colors, scents, and textures that honor the god's ancient legacy and the symbolism of vibrant, life-affirming marigold flowers.
Of course, AI is the ever-present conversation in any Commerce-industry-defining event. To celebrate the cultural fascination with ourselves, the nature of the selfie, and how the modern Muse is being redefined, artists Fabiola Larios and Moises Sanabria created an interactive art installation that turned our guests into Muses.
Using live-generated GenAI images through Stable Diffusion, a video feed turned attendees into Greek statues, transforming mere mortals into Muses of their own making.
Our exhibition concluded on Friday afternoon, December 8th, as textile artist Laura Marsh held an embroidery and needlepoint workshop celebrating freedom from college debt (through the lens of Calliope, the Muse of Epics), located in her three-day installation at MUSES.
The MUSES Shop
In addition to each art piece being available for purchase during the exhibition, Future Commerce sought the help of Rekon Retail to build a shoppable store that evoked the feeling of a museum gift shop.
Taking cues from our favorite museums such as The Norton (Palm Beach), The Whitney (NYC), The Wolfsonian (Miami), we enlisted the trusted expertise of the team responsible for the MoMA Store (NYC) itself.
Rekon partnered with Future Commerce to curate a collection of items to surround our annual MUSES Journal with goods that would bring inspiration to any setting.
Vases overflowed with live flowers curated by the Rekon Retail production team, which worked tirelessly to merchandise and curate the store. From procurement to visual merchandising, to store staffing, inventory management, shipping and receiving, pricing, and event production, the Rekon team handled logistics from top-to-bottom, driving additional revenue that made the event a smashing success.
“Our team partnered with Future Commerce as a seamless extension of their creative vision,” said Rekon Managing Partner Rebekah Kondrat. “Through our deep understanding of Future Commerce's work and the intent behind MUSES, we partnered with the creative team and the curator to help bring Art and Commerce together for a three-day pop-up that was out of this world.”
The MUSES Journal
Following our success in 2022 with the launch of the 2022 edition of the Future Commerce Journal, Archetypes, and the launch event for that book — a collection of essays, interviews, product reviews, insights, poetry, and photo essays — we set out to up the ante even more by creating a literal manifestation of art and commerce together in South Beach during Art Basel.
Jesse Tyler, co-founder of brand studio All True (Springfield, MO) and Creative Director for Future Commerce, led art and production for the project’s visuals.
“The MUSES Journal is our fifth print piece with Future Commerce and the second of this size and scope,” said Tyler. “Early on in the project, we created a brand system which helped make every future decision easier.
From the design of the physical spaces like the retail pop-up to the Journal itself, having a cohesive and thoughtful brand system for MUSES gave us a set of principles to make creative decisions.”
And creative it is. As a standalone print piece, the 174-page Journal begins with the thesis that culture and commerce are uniquely intertwined:
Commerce, then and now, acts as a conduit for cultural exchange, and the proliferation of Greek amphorae decorated with mythic scenes across the Mediterranean can be likened to the spread of branded merchandise and pop culture iconography today. These goods carry with them more than just economic value; they are vessels of cultural expression and dialogue, and they (and we) hand it down across generations.
The Journal features original essays about the nature of commerce and how human rituals — food, drink, and language — guide who we are and what we buy.
Also featured are essays and insights on a cultural fascination with Nature and the outdoors (Angelica Frey), the science and art of worldbuilding (by Rachel Joy Victor), and marketing myth-busting (Matt Klein, ZINE), among others.
“My particular joy in this project was partnering with all of our own Muses,” said Future Commerce CEO Phillip Jackson. “The grandson of late media theorist Marshall McLuhan, Andrew, penned a special essay for us in this year’s Journal. Getting to work with our own heroes makes this year’s entry so unique and authentic to the spirit of the idea of the Muse.”
In true Future Commerce fashion, we dabble with fiction, photography, cultural commentary, and poetry.
Also present are interviews with notable cultural brand leaders like Tara McRae (CMDO, C&J Clark’s), Daniel Hoffman (Creative Director, Five Below), and a profile of Joy Howard (CEO, Early Majority).
The project’s editorial vision was spearheaded by retail journalist and industry veteran Alicia Esposito, whose contributions helped bring the project to a resounding finale.
Available exclusively to the attendees of the three-day event on Lincoln Road, MUSES Journal will soon be available through eCommerce, with the first shipments arriving in early January 2024.
Commerce Conversations at MUSES, Presented by Absolute Web
Marking the halfway point in our 3-day activation, Absolute Web invited their network of eCommerce savants and enthusiasts for a night of art-inspired discussions and guided tours of the exhibit led by MUSES curator, Tam Gryn.
MUSES Live, Presented by Dotdigital
Our three-day extravaganza came to a crescendo with a multi-hour panel featuring leaders from around the brand leadership and commerce futurism industry. Beginning with a recap of Black Friday and Cyber Monday data, Ashley Baltz (Dotdigital) gave us an overview of what the modern marketer has to contend with in both the art and the science of delivering timely and relevant marketing content to a consumer audience.
“It doesn’t just have to be right or on time,” said Baltz of marketing communications. “It has to stand out.”
Other panels included Sachin Pawa, the co-founder of Resale.com, the owner and operator of branded marketplaces where large retailers diffuse off-price, excess inventory. In a panel titled “The State of Commerce,” David Hoffman (co-founder of Next Big Shop) and Pawa lamented that consumer dynamics are hard to predict and that modern tooling only proves to show how irrational a consumer can be: “The number one selling item for BFCM this year on Shopify was underwear. And socks. By far,” said Hoffman.
Also presenting on a live podcast panel were Alexa Lombardo, the founder of brand studio Atomic8, and Michael Miraflor, the Chief Brand Officer of Hannah Grey, a thesis-led early-stage venture capital firm. In their session entitled “The Future Consumer,” Miraflor lamented the death of the ‘third space,’ by contrasting the non-commercial brand activations like Capital One Café, which was a frequent destination for attendees of MUSES. “The loneliness epidemic is what’s on my mind the most this year,” said Miraflor. “We’re looking for technological solutions for this very modern problem, but you can see the effects of it all around, despite what the data on the economy and consumer data are telling us.” CMO Alexa Lombardo agreed while making a separate point about the decline of brand marketing roles and activations: “Somewhere, a CMO died on a hill to keep the [Capital One Cafe] open, despite what the numbers look like on paper. This is what we will lose if the CMO role goes away.”
Curator Tam Gryn joined performance artist and neuroscientist Arantxa Araujo on a panel with the cohost of the Archetypes Podcast, Kristen Vencel, to talk about the science behind art and the intention of the MUSES installations.
More than 2.5 hours of content and panel discussions were captured at MUSES Live and will be available via the Future Commerce podcast, available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, beginning in late December 2023.