Museum Shops Exemplify the Art of Giving
Support your favorite museums by shopping in their stores for gifts that are artful, unique—and affordable.
Museum stores are an adventurous way to shop for an array of well-curated gifts often inspired by a museums’ unique collection or made by the artists and artisans they showcase. It’s also a wonderful way to support these institutions we cherish.
This charming Beehive Candle (above left) at the giftshop of the New York Botanical Gardens is all natural, rolled beeswax imprinted with a honeycomb pattern and adorned with a honeybee; $9.00 (members $8.10). The Brooklyn Museum Shop carries a wonderful selection of objets by Brooklyn artists inspired by the hip borough. “Houses All in a Row” (center) are all cotton Brooklyn brownstone tea towels by illustrator Claudia Pearson; $18 each. Matching mugs available. The 10-year-old Museum of Sex carries a variety of sweetly sexy gifts such as Sweetbliss Poppin’ Lips (right); Belgian chocolate filled with Pop Rocks! 6-pack, $20.
The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) gift shop reflects the whimsy and high design of modern and contemporary artists. The Felt Kitten Brooch (above left) by Mika Nakamura and Komako Oki, 2009, is a MOMA exclusive; $10 (members $8). The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, housed in the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright building, has inspired artists and architects since it opened in 1959. It is replicated in this clever Guggenheim Museum Pop-Up by artist Marc Tetro. Cardboard, assembled, 4 1/2"h x 6 3/4"w x 4 3/4"d , $16 (members $14). The New York Historical Society's collection of 132 Tiffany lamps, designed by Tiffany’s lead studio designer Clara Driscoll (1861-1944), is the inspiration for many gifts including this Tiffany Dragonfly iphone case (right); $24 (members $21.60).
The New York Historical Society celebrates the history of New York through art, educational programs, and an extensive gift collection. This timely image of the Brooklyn Bridge (above left) is printed on a durable vinyl shower curtain; $29.95 (members $26.96). NYHS also holds the largest collection of John James Audubon’s work in the world; it is the basis for many gift creations, including handbags, prints, and the Reddish Egret Pillbox (right) comprised of resin appliqué on stainless steel with mirror, 2" x 2"; $32 (members $28.80). The Morgan Library has a selection of pieces inspired by its exhibitions and permanent collection. Garden tools (center), $37.50, is decorated with a design inspired by William Morris, a leader in the 19th Century Arts & Crafts Movement.
The Jewish Museum celebrates its heritage with the handiwork of contemporary artists. Chai and Hamsa with turquoise bracelet (above left) was designed by Jill Fagin and made by artisans in her Greenwich Village Studio. Metal and leather; $42 (members $37.80). The Asia Society, founded in 1956 to forge closer ties between Asia and the West, offers an exquisite collection of art wear by Asian artists in its gift shop. A rainbow rich assortment of crinkled silk scarves (center) by Rose Ajmera were made in India by local craftswomen using natural fibers, 9" x 38"; $40 each. The Museum for African Art features many one-of-a kind decorative objects made exclusively for the museum by artisans and craftspeople in Africa. Your purchase supports these artisans and museum programs. Angel (right), is made from discarded cans by Ladji Badiagara's workshop in Bamako, Mali; $40.
The Whitney Museum of Art, founded in 1931 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, celebrates 20th- and 21st-century American art, which is reflected in their gift items. Louise Bourgeois Corkboard Placemats (above left) are adapted from her drawings when she was experimenting with geometries and elements of collage. Gift set of four individual designs, $55 (members $49.50). The Metropolitan Museum of Art created this silk crepe de chine scarf (center) to complement its Warhol exhibit. The design is licensed the design from The Warhol Foundation; 18" x 71", $70 (members $63). MOMA's gift shop is chock-full with joyful items by contemporary artists. Button Shibori Bag (right) by Mle Hama, 2011, is exclusive to MOMA and also available in black; $55 (members $49.50).
The Central Park Conservancy Collection is a series of photographs (above left) celebrating the park each season by photographer and historian Sara Cedar Miller. Priced according to size from $79.99 to $99.99 per photograph. The New Museum of Contemporary Art, founded in 1977 by Marcia Tucker, features art made since 2002 by up and coming living artists. Rose X-Ray porcelain tray (right), designed by Michael & Rigo in 2012, is made from handmade porcelain with decal; glazed. $95 (members $80).
The Museum of the City of New York, founded in 1923, celebrates the past, present and future of the city. Its gift shop carries exclusive fabrics and accessories from D.D. and Leslie Tillett, whose clients included Jackie Kennedy and Babe Paley. Their legacy continues in the studio of Tillett and Rauscher, who designed Silk Christmas Tree scarf (above left), 15" x 54"; $135 (members $121.50). The Museum of Art & Design (MAD) showcases contemporary crafts artists and designers. “Seconds” (center) is a set of four plates designed by Jason Miller, challenging our concepts of perfection; 8.25" diameter, $100 (members $80). The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum is a rich source of Noguchi's work and vision. The shop carries a complete line of his lamps and furniture.Table Lamp Model 3AD (right) designed in 1951 continues to be handmade by the original manufacter in Japan. The washi paper with bamboo ribbing is supported by a metal frame; 11" x 12,” sale price: $250.
The International Center of Photography has an imaginative gift collection. “New York City, 1974” (above left) is a Limited Edition Pillow by Elliot Erwitt, 12" x 18," $100 (members $90). The American Folk Art Museum celebrates folk art from the 18th century to the present. Pearl Peapod pin (center) by Michael Michaud is made of hand-patina bronze and freshwater pearls, 3 1/4," $103 (members $92.70). The New York Public Library's shop offers an inspired range of gifts. For the writer, Pen Nib cufflinks (right) are modeled on the authentic Esterbrook nibs and set on gold-plated sterling; $150 (members $120). The Neue Galerie, founded in 1996, showcases early 20th Century German and Austrian art and design. The gift store carries high quality jewelry, such as the Josef Hoffmann Leaf Brooch, (right) ca 1910 that captures the innovative spirit of that period, 3/8" x 7/8," $140.
Kim Johnson Gross is the author of What to Wear for the Rest of Your Life and co-creator of the Chic Simple book series. She was Fashion Editor at Town & Country, Style Director at Avenue, Fashion Director at Esquire, and columnist for InStyle and More magazines. Visit Kim’s inspirational new blog on Tumblr: Fabulous Firsts After Fifty.