Go out this year through the museum shop

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A few months ago, I entered the grand marble foyer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Being inside the museum was like riding a bicycle, as my body instinctively remembered where it wanted to go. And where he wanted to go, among other things, was directly to the gift shop. Standing between a row of Costume Institute postcards and a table groaning under the weight of lacquered trays and reasoned catalogs and Art Deco chandelier earrings and embossed notepads and desk calendars and enamel pins and from leather journals and costume amulets, I found myself having a consumerist tension of Stendhal syndrome. (Spend it all syndrome?) It had something to do with the fact that almost all of the items were attractive and none were even nearly necessary. After almost two years of very little IRL shopping, the superfluous scenography of the Met store plunged me back into a state of pure shopping pleasure.

The truth is, it’s not just the Met store or the MOMA Itchy design store, as impeccably organized as these stores. In fact, the more obscure or hyper-centered a museum, the more fun its gift shop tends to be. Take me to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe with its gaucho hats and hammered silver alphabet jewelry. Take me to the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh with her pierogi earrings and Yinzer stickers. Take me to the Tenement Museum, with its bagel-shaped salt and pepper shakers (probably the largest of any museum store in New York). While each boutique shares its sensibility and benefits with the larger institution to which it is attached, many smaller, funky museum boutiques fill their shelves with quirky knick-knacks that echo the museum’s aesthetic more in the world. mind that in the background. (See, for example: this set of disembodied-legged ‘herb markers’ from the macabre Mütter Museum, Philadelphia, or a hand-sewn leather tumbler, from Hampton Court Palace, London.) museum looks like a cross between a local flea market, a midnight ride on Etsy, a mall novelties kiosk, a local bookstore, and a lucid dream. This gift guide may be a little too close to the holidays to be most useful, but you can think of it as a springboard for shopping for yourself and others in the years to come. Note: Most major museum shops are now fully online, but hunting in person is half the fun.

Prices shown below are correct at time of posting but may fluctuate over time.


Think about surprises, not memories

Let’s eliminate the obvious: no one wants a commemorative shot glass, or a rubber fridge magnet, or a sweatshirt that says the name of an old nonprofit institution as a sports memento. . When shopping in a museum store, you must resist the siren call of logo trinkets. These objects either convey “I was there” (which as a donor you are already implicitly telegraphing) or “I support this place” (which, fine, but you want your gifts to signal the joy, not virtue). When it comes to museum gifts, the more random the better. A bird’s toothpick holder ($ 10) MOMA that disturbed the mid-century hostess flair. A real pair of aviator sunglasses with SkyTec lenses ($ 248), from the Smithsonian. Moon chalk ($ 34). A Chris Ofili tea towel ($ 36). A campfire harmonica ($ 13.30), from the Galt Museum. Danish Coasters ($ 69.95) that depict the “Cocaine Decor”. Coffee and donut socks ($ 22.50). A secret capsule necklace ($ 128), from the International Spy Museum. Egg-shaped maracas ($ 18), from the Nouveau Musée. A huge Judy Chicago “Goddess Figure” candle ($ 100), from Young’s brand, that’s so pretty you won’t want to light it. A limited edition Met x Harlem Candle Co. candle ($ 65), inspired by Seneca Village, that you will absolutely have to light, in order to fill a room with the scent of thyme and cedar. A quilt-inspired vinyl kitchen rug ($ 42), from the American Folk Art Museum. Mint Scented Soap ($ 6.50), from the Kentucky Derby Museum. Do-it-yourself beaded animal ($ 18). And, finally, a yodeling pickle toy ($ 13.95), from the National Mustard Museum in Wisconsin, which comes with a warning: “Yodeling lasts a full 11 seconds. For those with no sense of humor, it will seem like an eternity. For those who have a background in classical music, it will seem even longer.

Long live the novelty T-shirt

T-shirts are fair game – in fact, they can make great gifts – but they have to either look good or be insanely silly. A few winners: Minimalist cow skull scribbles ($ 24), from the O’Keeffe Museum. A T. rex takes the B train ($ 24.99), from the American Museum of Natural History. A trippy limited edition Ambar Del Moral t-shirt ($ 35), from the National Museum of Women in the Arts, in the washed-out shade of Gray Poupon. Speaking of this condiment, the shirts aren’t much more fun than the Mustard Museum’s “Squeeze the Day, Carpe Dijon” ($ 20). A “Rock Em Rats” shirt ($ 28), from Meow Wolf, that’s just stoner-y enough. One reminiscent of a visual gag by Virgil Abloh ($ 34.95), from PAMM in Miami, which deconstructs the shirt itself into an object of desire. This NYC schmatte ($ 24.95), from the Museum of the City of New York, might be the only Big Apple tee that retains a slight puff of freshness. A Tammy Wynette muscle tank ($ 60), from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. A cheeky, candy-pink reminder from comic book designer Nicole Hollander that “Lust Makes You Stupid” ($ 32). A whimsical Charlie Hustle x Nelson-Atkins collaboration ($ 32). A New Bedford Whaling Museum shirt ($ 15), with a squeaky nautical pun. A banana yellow Velvet Underground group t-shirt ($ 25), from the Andy Warhol Museum. A cherry red “Design Critic” kids’ tee ($ 20), for the little Ada Louise Huxtable in your life. A Celebration of the Stinkiest Flower ($ 18.95), from the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, and Pink Orchids ($ 18), from NYBG And, for Nederlandophiles, a neon blue shirt emblazoned with the quote “Life is Like a Croquette” ($ 33.93), from Paul Verhoeven’s 1980 film “Spetters”, from the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam; as the museum itself admits, “you can’t get more dutch than that.”

Blanket bingo

Is a library a museum? As you ponder this question, feast your eyes on this cult blanket that resembles a giant library card ($ 115). The blanket is sold out for the year, but it will return in February, just in time for cuddle season. If you have to snuggle up now, I fell in love with this limited edition Micaela Cianci throw ($ 135) the artist made for the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Oh me? I wear the Louvre

You don’t have to be Prue Leith from “The Great British Bake Off” to enjoy a chunky necklace (although hers is iconic), and you don’t need an excuse to start either. to dress like you’ve spent your entire last salary at the Frick. For many of the most stylish people I know, museums are a jeweler of choice and a secret treasure trove of square jackets and linens. If I could fill my closet with clothes from any museum store, I would choose the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, a model of thoughtful conservation. The online store has great pieces like this orange shibori dress ($ 259.70), from designer Yadvi Agarwal, and this one-shoulder cotton top ($ 179.79). This cropped, quilted millefleur jacket ($ 219.75) looks fresh like a daisy, while this hand-smocked blouse ($ 466.13) by British designer Hannah Cawley gives a peregrine seam. The museum’s acrylic floral pins ($ 11.32 each) might make you believe in brooches again, and this oversized tea necklace ($ 93.23) is deliciously crazy. This Rosalba Galati Spiked Bracelet ($ 79.91) is not only striking, but can also serve as a self-defense tool. These egg earrings ($ 33.29) are as embellished and twee as a Fabergé. There’s a Bowie Tribute Pin ($ 46.61), a silk evening bag with tassels ($ 99.88) that smells of the Golden Age, and a canvas book bag (133 , $ 18) which seems to come out of “Brideshead Revisited”. You might blow your budget at the V&A, but there are wearable finds everywhere: this glittering lariat ($ 328.61), from the Louvre, inspired by a rose in a painting by Rubens. A rhinestone microphone ($ 12.99), from the Grand Ole Opry. A routemaster carpet plaid pajama set ($ 79.94), from the London Transport Museum. A Herman Melville inspired brass cuff bracelet ($ 75). The most charming terrazzo arch earrings ($ 143.95). This raspberry floral dress ($ 70), from the Historic New Orleans collection, comes from an ancient motif from the French Quarter. A Dusen Dusen dress ($ 132), from MOMA, that channels the sparkling joy of Pop art. A piano wire statement necklace ($ 75), from the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History. Edward Hopper “Railroad Sunset” pajamas ($ 190), from the Whitney. A traditional cherry blossom yukata ($ 60), from Kyoto, via the Smithsonian. A retro MA-1 jacket ($ 49.95), from the Museum of Flight. Chandelier earrings ($ 250) that look like creamsicle jellyfish, by Cooper Hewitt, and blue chalcedony drops ($ 79) with an Undine Spragg aesthetic, from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. An esoteric bob ($ 25), from the Guggenheim. A casual beret ($ 20), from the Milwaukee Art Museum. A Regency-era white lace nightgown ($ 53.29), from the Jane Austen Center. Avoid the glut of Frida Kahlo-branded stuff and opt for these ruffle-shaped tassel earrings instead ($ 60), from LACMA, which are based on a pair she actually wore. This brooch from a Flemish painting ($ 125) may or may not contain the soul of a haunted heiress, while this pearl amulet ($ 40), inspired by an ancient Getty’s mummy portrait, is equally pretty and scary.


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