Museum Stories

Calling All Consumers to Action! Support Museums – Buy a Gift!

Joanna Kaszubowska 20 May 2021 min Read

The past 14 months have probably been the hardest for museums since the beginning of their existence. Many museums are either closed or limiting their capacity. Also museums are not institutions that make money, and mostly rely on donations or income from ticket sales. With a vast portion of that vanishing, they are in a desperate situation. And this is where being a consumer becomes a good thing. You can help your favorite museums. Many of them, even if the physical building is closed, keep their online shops open. DailyArt Magazine is here to help you find beautiful and funny gifts from museums for yourself and your loved ones that will also support museums and make you feel even better.

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town, South Africa

Zeitz MOCAA, unsurprisingly, focuses on contemporary African art. The institution exhibits, collects, preserves, and researches the best examples of such art. If you are nearby, visit some of their current exhibitions. Shooting Down Babylon is a comprehensive retrospective of the works of Tracey Rose. Waiting for Gebane is a solo exhibition by the South African artist Senzeni Mthwakazi Marasela. It serves as an encore to the six-year long performance by her fictional alter ego, Theodorah Mthetyane. Meanwhile the Two Together show is built around major themes explored by artists from Africa and its diaspora represented in the collection. In this exibit, each gallery contains a pair: either two objects, or multiple works by two artists, or two major themes – either in dialogue, as counterpoints, or in sync.

Exploring the Zeitz MOCAA online shop is a joyful experience. Apart from many other items you can also get dressed from head to toe.

Woodstock Laundry, boxer shorts, Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, South Africa - Support Museums
Woodstock Laundry boxer shorts, Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, South Africa. Zeitz MOCAA.

Start with those super-cheerful boxer shorts, exclusively designed for Zeitz MOCAA by Woodstock Laundry. Woodstock Laundry is a relatively young clothing brand – one that happens to have over 40-years of heritage. Founded in in 1979 in a precinct of Cape Town that shares its name with a sleepy town in upstate New York, they are a second-generation family clothing business. Handmade with peace and love in Woodstock, South Africa, these might start out as a crisp pair of laundered cotton shorts, but will soon become as comfortable as time spent with an old friend.

Chitenge dress, Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, South Africa
Local designer Chitenge dress, Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, South Africa. Zeitz MOCAA.

If shorts are not your thing you can then move on to this simple and beautiful chitenge dress. A chitenge is an African garment similar to a sarong, traditionally wrapped around the chest or waist, over the head as a headscarf, or as a baby sling. Chitenges are mostly worn in Central and Southern African countries by men and women alike. These chitenge are produced in partnership with local craftspeople and rural workshops.

Cap, Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, South Africa
Local designer cap, Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, South Africa. Zeitz MOCAA.

And to top it all off, a cap that will banish all your sorrows. This is another local design from Johannesburg. From what began as a 5 hat and 5 cap experiment, the designers have moved into a space of creative optimism and freedom.

Museum of Old and New Art, Berriedale, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Here is how Mona describes itself – Mona: a museum, or something. In Tasmania, or somewhere. Catch the ferry. Drink beer. Eat cheese. Talk crap about art. You’ll love it.

It is one of those museums where you know you will have a good time.

A privately funded museum, it houses ancient, modern, and contemporary art from the David Walsh Collection. Its founder describes it as a “subversive adult Disneyland”. Their current exhibition: CRONE by Sally Rees certainly sounds interesting. With CRONE, Rees embraces the folklore character of the crone as an ideal incarnation of the older woman: unruly, wise, fearsome.

The Second Most Popular Tourist Attraction in Berriedale, jigsaw puzzle, Mona, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia - Support Museums
“The Second Most Popular Tourist Attraction in Berriedale” jigsaw puzzle, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. Mona Shop.

Mona clearly has a very tongue-in-cheek approach to itself. This jigsaw puzzle presents us with “The Second Most Popular Tourist Attraction in Berriedale,” which is… Mona. Here’s how they describe it: “We run a distant second to the Cadbury’s factory. Thanks TripAdvisor. Help us work through our feelings of inadequacy with 1000 pieces, and your money back if you spot David in there (not true).”

Chickens of Mona, tea towel, Mona, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
“Chickens of Mona” tea towel, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. Mona Shop.

Continuing in this self-centered vein, let’s take a look at the “Chickens of Mona” tea towel. “A few years back Mona invited people to bring their unwanted chickens for their chefs to barbecue at a giant community feast. Turns out that’s illegal. But people dropped their chooks off anyway. Their numbers used to be controlled by David’s cat Christ. But since Christ ascended, their numbers have exploded. And now, the chickens have demanded their own tea towel. This is that tea towel.”

Greg Taylor for Mona, cunt soap, Mona, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Greg Taylor, Cunt Soap, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. Mona Shop.

If you’re looking for something a bit more shocking, look no further, an ideal soap for your guest bathroom. Inspired by Greg Taylor’s work Cunts… and other conversations Mona asked the artist to create a bespoke line of soaps.

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Mona is an example of what happens when art meets money and a sense of humor. But here we are dealing with a completely different animal. What happens when the most revered museum in the world meets money? Can a country buy culture? And should it be for sale?

These are some of the questions raised when the idea of Louvre Abu Dhabi became public and then came to fruition. I think each of us has to be our own judge. The museum focuses on bridging the gap between East and West through their permanent collection, as well as exhibitions. The current exhibition is a good example of this, Abstraction and Calligraphy − Towards a Universal Language. It poses questions about Abstract Expression in a completely different cultural context. One that has a long tradition of abstract art, given the long-standing avoidance of representing sentient beings in some strains of Islamic art.

Cushion Cover, A Young Emir Studying, Louvre Abu Dhabi - Support Museums
Cushion Cover after Osman Hamdy Bey, A Young Emir Studying, 1878, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Louvre Boutique.

Now let’s move from those lofty topics back to our consumerism. What can we get our hands on? As may be expected all gifts from here are quite serious and pretty classy. Starting with this lovely cushion cover, decorated with Osman Hamdi Bey’s A Young Emir Studying from 1878. Even though he is studying the cushion gives me a profound sense of relaxation and laziness, like laying down with your favorite book.

Solitaire Game, Louvre Abu Dhabi
Solitaire Game, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Louvre Boutique.

If you feel slightly more active and want to exercise your brain cells, no problem. This beautiful solitaire set will make you happy. All marbles are crafted by hand from semi-precious stones, petrified wood, or Venetian glass. Add to it a lovely wooden board and you’re all set. I must admit I never played solitaire with a physical board, only on the computer.

PUSH bowl, Louvre Abu Dhabi
“PUSH” bowl, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Louvre Boutique.

If you’d like to get even more physical try the “PUSH”, it’s a pushable bowl. What you buy is a flat sheet of metal that you can shape any way you like with your fingers. This makes you not only a consumer but also a creator.

Inhotim, Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, Brazil

And now on to something completely different. Inhotim is a both dreamy open-air museum of contemporary art and a botanical garden at the same time. Unlike the two museums above, it relies on the donations of individuals and companies to survive. Combining a huge respect for nature with a love of art, this is a place like no other.

Nübag wine holder, Inhotim, Brumadinho, Brazil - Support Museums
Nübag wine holder, Inhotim Museum, Brumadinho, Brazil. Inhotim.

And so are the items in their gift shop. Look at this wine bag, so well thought through. It holds not one but two bottles, because sharing is caring. Made of sustainably sourced felt and stylish at the same time, carrying wine to a picnic will never be the same.

Flowery Shoes, Inhotim, Brumadinho, Brazil
Flowery Shoes, Inhotim Museum, Brumadinho, Brazil. Inhotim.

Inhotim also has you covered in terms of footwear. These beautiful shoes have soles made from recycled rubber, and the top is made of textiles produced from recycled PET bottles. No animal has even been looked at in the making of them. Good for your sense of aesthetics, conscience, and environment, these shoes have it all.

Ceramic Capybara, Inhotim, Brumadinho, Brazil
Ceramic Capybara, Inhotim Museum, Brumadinho, Brazil. Inhotim.

I’m sure you know the cute turquoise hippos that you can get in most museums having anything to do with antiquity. Well, here is a new animal in town, a lovely capybara. Look how cute this figurine is. I think the hippos should start feeling threatened. Capybara is the lion of rodents (don’t judge me I just came up with it).

Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK

Our last two museums are the big hitters in the online museum shopping scene. They are the ones others learn from. That said, it doesn’t mean they were not hit by the pandemic. V&A has been forced to lay off 20% of its staff to trim its budget. As the example of the Royal Academy showed last year, the choices faced by museums are truly tragic. Big, lavish, and established institutions such as these may remain fragile.

V&A opens again on the 19th of May, and they have some beautiful exhibitions lined up. Alice: Curouser and Curiouser is set to be a blockbuster, charting the evolution of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland from manuscript to a global phenomenon beloved by all ages. The other two exhibitions that caught my eye are Epic Iran and Bags: Inside Out. Not to mention the permanent collection of course.

Tatty Devine, Tea Party Necklace, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK - Support Museums
Tatty Devine, Tea Party necklace, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK. V&A Shop.

The gifts we present here are inspired by those exhibitions. Let’s start with a true statement “Tea Party” necklace by Tatty Devine. With this necklace, you will stand out from the crowd. What’s more, it will catch the eye so much that even if you forget to change out of your pandemic sweatpants people probably won’t notice.

We're All Mad Here badge, Victoria & Albert Museum, London
“We’re All Mad Here” badge, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK. V&A Shop.

If however, your budget has been depleted by the pandemic you can still express your (and at least half the population’s) mental state with this lovely button. A few years ago I bought a Moleskine calendar with the same quote, and it was with me when the pandemic started. Who would have thought that it would only become more and more relevant?

Patchwork Quilt, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK
Patchwork quilt, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK. V&A Shop.

Meanwhile if you’d prefer some comfort or need a nice blanket for a picnic with friends, you cannot go wrong with this lovely quilted number. It will soothe your nerves and provide an awesome backdrop for this long-awaited outdoorsy meeting. There are also larger versions available if you want to make it a party.

The Metropolitan Museum, New York, USA

The Met is already open again, and it comes back swinging. As always there is so much to see that one does not know where to look. Here are just some of the exhibitions on now: Alice NeelNew Look at the Old Masters, Japan: A History of Style, and Arte del Mar: Artistic Exchange in the Caribbean. The sheer variety of topics takes my breath away after a year of sitting at home.

Nathaniel Currier, The Favorite Cat tote bag, The Metropolitan Museum, New York, US - Support Museums
Nathaniel Currier, The Favorite Cat tote bag, The Metropolitan Museum, New York, NY, USA. The Met Store.

Now, I need to apologize because it is so cliche, but… who let the cat out of the bag? I just couldn’t help myself, it was too easy. Just look at this beautiful “The Favorite Cat” tote. Look at those eyes, and ears, and whiskers. I’m not sure if a cat can be body-shamed (if it can I do sincerely apologize), but he is also a little bit chubby. Or maybe it’s just fur.

Monopoly, The Met Edition, The Metropolitan Museum, New York, US
Monopoly: The Met Edition, The Metropolitan Museum, New York, NY, USA. The Met Store.

On to something more serious. Here we have a gift probably known to many of you, but it is a timeless one. Capitalism meets art in this Monopoly: The Met Edition. I mean, if we are being consumers then we can at least play at liberal capitalism in style. I’m not sure if this sentence from the game’s description is ironic or just completely out of touch, but here goes (bolding is mine): “As you amass properties, you’ll be able to develop mini-museums of your own, by adding new galleries, followed by wings—all paid for with money featuring portraits across cultures.”

Nonetheless, this game is a classic.

Now, Go, Amass Properties and Support Museums – All Paid for with Money

I know that some of the museums presented above have ample funding, sometimes it is only this funding that allows them to maintain an online shop. Having said that, the pandemic hit many museums, some a lot more than the ones above. So if you have an opportunity to visit your local museum safely do so, and buy a gift for someone while you’re there. It will spread happiness all around.


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