Museums with a gift lifestyle
Visiting museums, exhibition centres and cultural institutions has become a safe haven of learning and understanding of history and the future, not only when we travel to new places, but also in our home cities.
At the end of the tour of the exhibitions and collections, we naturally wander into the strategically positioned museum gift shop. We want to take away a part of the experience we had and enjoyed; and to give gifts that will be remembered. Little gifts with meaning and significance.
Moving away from commercial greed, some museum gift shops have adopted a different approach, and they operate almost independently, offering a valuable alternative and introducing handcrafted items, books, fashion, signature jewellery and even select gastronomic products.
The wisdom of the gift with art
Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, Madrid
Ana Cela is the pioneer and instigator -we could even say designer- of a unique model of museum shops.
The globalisation and standardisation of museum gift and souvenir shops gives rise to a unique vision, represented by a series of collections created exclusively for the museum with the involvement of designers, artisans and local creators with themes that allude to the museum’s annual exhibition programme.
Ana Cela is a curator and design editor, and she is always looking for new talent with whom to work with closely.
Some of the pieces produced stand the test of time and are remade, becoming classics. For example, those created by Paloma Canivet for the Sonia Delaunay exhibition, Sonia de Gerónimo’s baskets inspired by Paul Klee, Yukiko Kitahara’s ceramic pieces or Nina Mür’s wooden glasses.
The window displays change regularly thanks to the creative involvement of the designer Paloma Canivet.
National Museum of Qatar, Doha
In this space, the Australian architecture and design studio Koichi Takada has reproduced the sinuous forms of Dahl Al Misfir, a remarkable cave forty metres below ground located in Rawdat Rasid, in central Qatar, where a crystal formation with surprising light effects can be seen.
The museum, built by Jean Nouvel, holds the country’s historic treasures, including contemporary artistic representations. The gift shop sells publications, objects and reproductions of the different collections exhibited at the museum. The interior composition of the shop is made up of 40,000 pieces of wood designed with 3D modelling software. The craftsman Claudio Devoto gave each piece the necessary finish by hand and created the natural cavern effect. The interior design also puts significance emphasis on the enveloping ambient lighting. This cave is full of treasures and souvenirs of Qatar that take us back to the roots of its ancestral culture.
The “transformer” store
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The British national museum of decorative and fine arts hosts a vast collection of decorative arts from Europe, India, China, Korea, Japan and the Islamic world, amounting to almost four million pieces. The galleries feature paintings, sculptures, glass pieces, jewellery, armour, weapons, clothing, musical instruments, pottery, architecture, furniture, marble and other historic works. The gift shop reproduces the museum’s most famous pieces in hundreds of different formats.
In recent years, the museum has been transforming by modernising the spaces with the involvement of architect Amanda Levete, opening up interior courtyards to the outside with new entrances and updating the temporary exhibition halls.
The Friend and Company architecture and interiors studio has also remodelled the main gift shop. The project is based on the installation of transparent interchangeable and mobile boxes that transform the space at different times of the year.
The independent store
MoMA, New York
What makes the gift shop of the New York Museum of Modern Art different? First of all, it needs to be said that it has been so successful over the years that it has become independent of the museum itself. In fact, two MoMA shops have been opened outside the museum.
A spin-off that sought different locations within Manhattan and outside the United States, in the centre of Kyoto, Tokyo and Hong Kong. It also has online stores, perfectly designed to generate an agile and useful shopping experience from anywhere in the world.
The second thing that makes this shop different is the team of curators, experts who select every piece, led by the museum’s design and architecture director, Paola Antonelli.
The handcrafted pieces created especially for the museum join classics by historically renowned designers that sell exclusively and young talents who have the opportunity to make themselves known in the world. Part of the profits are allocated to the museum’s education programme.
With the museum’s expansion in 2019, designed by the Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Gensler offices, the commercial spaces have been extended and taken on a new and thriving entity.