The shop has become a key component to the museum experience, but also a robust revenue stream vital to galleries of all scales.
Museums and galleries today (used interchangeably here) are complex ecosystems, no longer the hallowed halls of silent reverence extended only by weighty tomes. What once started out as a specialist bookshop with a few collection postcards and the odd poster, has become big business for galleries, from global brands like The Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York) – which even has outlet stores in Australia – to pop-up vitrine stores in most regional galleries providing a vital income stream.
Simply, to exit through the gift shop – to adopt the title of street artist Banksy’s film from 2010 – has become standard modus operandi.
The gallery shop and the gallery café or restaurant have changed the dynamic of galleries, both from a social and economic standpoint. British writer Paul Arendt reminds us that it is almost 25 years since the Victoria & Albert Museum‘s Saatchi-devised marketing campaign was ‘lambasted for branding itself as “an ace caff with quite a nice museum attached.”’
And as the stand-in original artwork – that is your postcard and poster – has been adopted by places like IKEA and digital printing technologies, the gallery shop (like the café with its celebrity chefs) has turned to more innovative and temporary targeted merchandising to maintain that dollar. We only have to look at the spin-off merchandising of blockbusters.
However, the concept of the art souvenir is not entirely new. What has altered is the volume and ubiquitousness of it – and that spells money.
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