Most museum gift shops offer items that fit one of the following categories: art-themed, art-stamped, or art replica. This state of affairs is unacceptable, given that we live in a time when stores like Design Within Reach and Moss treat the retail experience as a museum visit. What museum shops have to offer, beyond their adjacency to rare and/or specialized collections of objects, is their unique access to artists. To champion, and perhaps extend, this interesting trend, below is a selection of items that reflect the special place museums occupy in the world of retail.
THE GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM [1071 Fifth Avenue, 212-423-3500] has my favorite object: the Jeff Koons puppy vase, a brilliant tie-in to the big puppy in Bilbao. Limited edition of 3,000, only $1,850 each.
Whenever my iPod needs shaking up, I head for the DIA:CHELSEA [522 West 22nd Street, 212-229-2744, currently closed for renovation, so shop online at diacenter.org]. Think of their CDs (especially the one by On Kawara) as replayable works of art. Priced to move at $13 to $15.
THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART [945 Madison Avenue, 212-570-3676] leads the way with artist-commissioned objects—the best is Jenny Holzer’s “Use What Is Dominant” fruit-punch-anxiety bowl, available in a limited edition of 200 for $375 each. Is it an object or a conversation piece?
Rock your inner sculptor’s world with stone-carving tools and materials from THE NOGUCHI MUSEUM [9-01 33rd Road, Long Island City, Queens, 718-204-7088). Tool sets start at $80, and a five-pound block of virgin alabaster is $22.
Stone Carving Tools from the Isamu Noguchi Museum
photo: Courtesy of Sculpture House casting
THE SKYSCRAPER MUSEUM [39 Battery Place, 212-732-3039] sells a limited selection of images of famous skyscrapers under construction, from early-20th-century marvels to some of the World Trade Center. Each 8 x 10 print is $20.