Museum gift shops are the joy and the bane of art lovers’ institutional visits. Full of objects of precious desire, branded merch, libraries of extravagant books, avant-garde versions of ordinary design wares and tote bags, tote bags, tote bags, we decry the capitalization on culture but rush to acquire its fruits.
But a newish trend merges the museum shop with the taste for pop-up collections, guest-star makers, hyper-local labels and sustainable, progressive artisanal goods chosen and in some cases commissioned in response to the venue’s programming. In a world in which all things are curated, this has actually resulted in a crop of shops doing it a bit differently. Not that there’s anything wrong with a Van Gogh mug, but we like these results a little better.
1. The Hammer Museum + High Desert Test Sites + A-Z West
To its usual trove of amazing books and catalogs of all size, scope, price points and topics along the art-architecture-design continuum, for populists, scholars and kids, the Hammer Museum’s gift shop also features a reasonable amount of merch and ephemera, mugs and jewelry, all of that. But for the past few months and through the end of September, this inventory is augmented by a pop-up residency from Joshua Tree–based artist Andrea Zittel. Zittel has a history of collaborating with the Hammer on outside-the-box projects, but this time her contributions come in the form of stocking the store with items made either at her creative compound, A-Z West, or offered by High Desert Test Sites. Both are art-centric venues for ecologically sound maker cultures, but HDTS also hosts the annual Gem and Mineral Expo, so in addition to ceramics, textiles, edibles, extracts and clothing, the stock offers the sparkling natural magic of rocks and geodes whose beauty rivals the art.
Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; (310) 443-7000, hammer.ucla.edu; Tue.-Fri., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; through Sept. 30; free.
2. MOCA + L.A. Original
MOCA has hosted on-site design studios and commissioned some great limited editions, but its current collaboration with the L.A. Original initiative is special. The Mayor’s Office for Economic Development and the Mayor’s Fund for L.A. support L.A. Original in a unique public-private partnership sustaining creative businesses and the work of local designers, makers and manufacturers via an eclectic catalog of branded clothes, accessories, foods, designware and functional art. Even the shop itself was temporarily redesigned by L.A. Original collaborators 72andSunny, expressively reconfigured for the occasion. The collab has been open this summer, but on Wednesday, Aug. 1, a second influx of new goodies arrives for a refresh that also features an “L.A. Original” flavored ice cream treat from Coolhaus. And in a further infusion of community karma, proceeds from this pilot pop-up will be donated to MADE by DWC, a retail store and skills project of the Downtown Women’s Center that focuses on creative upcycling and economic independence.
MoCA Grand Ave, 250 S. Grand Ave., downtown; (213) 621-1710, moca.org; Mon., Wed., Fri., 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 10:30 a.m.-5;30 p.m.; Thu., 10:30 a.m.-8;30 p.m.; free (museum admission not required).
3. LACMA + LFrank + THE GREAT
Every spring, LACMA’s Director’s Circle stages Wear LACMA, its own mini–Fashion Week, releasing a new capsule collection or two by local designers, made especially for the museum store and inspired by works in LACMA's permanent collection. The featured clothes and accessories regularly sell out, both because the stuff is pretty great and because a significant number of people follow it with fervor in a quest to own something from each season. Spring 2018 offers designs by LFrank (Lisanne Frankfurt), who was inspired by the Japanese Pavilion’s design and contents, and by THE GREAT (Emily Current and Meritt Elliott), who took inspiration and imagery from the museum’s considerable collection of 19th-century landscape paintings of the American West.
LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile; (323) 857-6146, lacma.org; Mon.-Tue., Thu., 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Fri., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; free (museum admission not required).
4. CAFAM + The Global Marketplace
The Craft and Folk Art Museum expresses the same dedication to the wonders of handmade craft-based goodies in its store as it does in its overall mission. In addition to its always-intriguing international and local products and editions, it frequently hosts pop-ups, markets and trunk shows featuring everything from textiles to ceramics by independent makers from around the city and around the world. A few years ago, it even hosted conceptual cobbler Chris Francis, who, in conjunction with his exhibition of unique sculptural footwear upstairs, moved his studio workshop into the lobby and worked there for several months, including a limited-edition show for the most intrepid museumgoers.
CAFAM, 5814 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile; (323) 937-4230, cafam.org; Tue.-Fri., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; free (museum admission not required).
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5. ICA LA + Christina Kim + Marfa Book Co.
Christina Kim’s museum shop for the Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles is a responsively curated space for cultural commerce that refreshes itself in direct response to the ICA’s exhibition cycles. Currently, this means selections of what to carry were made in dialogue with the exhibition examining the contributions of legendary sign painter and frequent art-world collaborator/fabricator Norman Laich. Guest makers include dosa mercantile and the Good Liver. In addition to consumer design products, ICA has hosted the Marfa Book Co. since February. A long-established independent bookstore, publisher and project space in the art-world mecca of Marfa, Texas, the experimental curated pop-up features publishers of poetry, art, photography and books of scholarship and criticism.
ICA LA, 1717 E. Seventh St., downtown; (213) 928-0833, theicala.org; Wed.-Fri., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; free.