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5 (more) ridiculously overpriced items in museum shops

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Toys, trinkets, and gifts oh my! Museum shops are the most enchanting (and ridiculous) places on earth -- for all the reasons you might think. The art world has had its fair share of criticism from the public about its extravagance, subliminality and exorbitance, for good reason. By the time you pay your way into the Whitney, wander around the Biennial in a stupefied haze and enjoyed an impressive, but uncalled for, $20 bowl of rigatoni, you will have spent half your week’s salary and been thrust into an existential crisis that just won’t let up -- all for the sake of art. But, this isn’t an attempt to chastise these establishments. To one end, the uncultured visitor may think paying $30 for a ballpoint pen that’s airbrushed with a museum’s logo as a little crazy, but, what one has to remember is the fact that museums thrive and survive on funding. Most of the cost of items found in the gift shops benefit the establishments directly -- and that’s something I’m sure a lot of people can understand. As an artist, I’ve grown to embrace all facets of the art world’s peculiarities and even indulge in the (occasional) purchase of overpriced museum shop items. Here’s (another) list of some of the most pricey items found in museum gift stores.

Check out the slideshow.

Bow Bin
Bow Bin The Brooklyn Museum

Bow Bin

The Brooklyn Museum
Bow Bin
German artist Cordula Kehrer is known for her environmentally conscious, engaging and conceptual works that combine fine art with a designer’s mentality and juxtaposes it with just a touch of minimalism. Commissioned by a fair trade, NGO called Preda, Kehrer’s wastebaskets combine ethically sourced rattan with brightly colored plastics. Although The Brooklyn Museum tries to validate this interesting take on a trash can by asking us “ consider larger questions about the nature of design, the role of the hand-made, and the place of craft-based cultures in a globalized economy...” it still is, at the end of a day, a trash can; an albeit interesting looking one if I might add...

William Morris Potpourri Scarf
William Morris Potpourri Scarf The Metropolitan Museum of Art

William Morris Potpourri Scarf

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
William Morris Potpourri Scarf

William Morris was a respected and insanely talented writer, designer and administrator. Founded in the 1800s, Morris & Co. continues to be one of London’s premiere interior design firms. Known for his dense textile patterns that incorporated flowers, greenery and natural colors, Morris’ potpourri scarf is a combination of two prints from the museum’s collection. For some reason, all museum shops seem to be obsessed with producing scarves, shawls and other wearable items inspired by pieces from their collections, and, this $145 scarf is no exception. Made of a blend of silk and wool, the scarf has received an unimpressive 1 star rating and a disappointing customer review which makes the price tag seem exorbitant and unnecessary.

Pen Type-A With Ruler Sleeve
Pen Type-A With Ruler Sleeve The Whitney Museum

Pen Type-A With Ruler Sleeve

The Whitney Museum
Pen Type-A With Ruler Sleeve

Two years ago, at the Museum of Modern Art, I was struck by a strange inclination towards a particular writing instrument in the museum’s shop. It was a $20 ‘spectrum pen’ -- just like a regular pen but rainbow colored and so silky smooth I stood in line nearly twenty minutes just to buy it. Two weeks later and a sad four sketchbook pages drawn on, the pen stopped working, as pens do, and now it remains tucked away in a side drawer and will forever be a questionable relic amongst other unnecessary museum shop purchases. But, The Whitney Museum definitely has MOMA beat with its steel, minimalist-looking pen with matching ruler. According to the shop’s description, this pen will ‘last for generations’ and can be ‘handed down to your loved ones.’ I don’t know about you, but there’s no way I’m accepting a pen as an heirloom.

Damien Hirst: Spot Wall Clock
Damien Hirst: Spot Wall Clock The Museum of Modern Art

Damien Hirst: Spot Wall Clock

The Museum of Modern Art
Damien Hirst: Spot Wall Clock

Speaking of MOMA, one of their best sellers is a Damien Hirst spot painting inspired wall clock.  For a mere $410, the equivalent of rent for one bedroom apartment in Ohio, you could check the time without all those cumbersome numbers getting in the way. Instead, each hour is represented by a uniquely colored dot. For an artist that “...confronts the fundamental dilemmas of human existence...”, you’d think that he would at least be straightforward (a rarity in Hirst's practice) about the time of day.

Red Rose
Red Rose The Guggenheim

Red Rose

The Guggenheim
Red Rose

Have you always dreamed of owning a rose trapped in a translucent cube? Then head on over to The Guggenheim where you can purchase artist Ray Geary’s Red Rose: a silk flower (read: fake) encased in clear resin. Described as “...the clearest expression of a life lived in the most expedited way...” I’m not sure how much ‘life’ can be found in a Michael’s craft store flower helplessly confined in a cube posing as a glorified paperweight (too harsh?), but you have to admit the small paragraph description accompanying the piece is the quite impressive.


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