Previously places to pick up your token souvenir on the way out of the building, museum shops could perhaps now be more closely compared to a contemporary art gallery – carefully curated and visually styled by museum retail teams who work in collaboration with designers and artists to bring unique products that are inspired by collections. This blog post from Buyers Assistant at the Wallace Collection, Charlotte Higgs gives us a little insight into the work that goes on behind the scenes…
The museum shopping experience has changed dramatically in recent years with more institutions recognising that their retail outlets have huge potential to bring in excess revenue to contribute to growth and development. Like many art galleries and museums we rely on the generosity of our visitors to support the museum with donations, memberships and of course purchases in the gift shop. It’s these sources of income that allow the Collection to stay open 7 days a week completely free of charge, hooray!
Although there is still and will always be a demand for the traditional selection of souvenir postcards and stationery, many of us (including myself) are now stopping by museums and galleries purely to browse the shops for gift ideas, or an excuse to treat ourselves with something a little extra special. The rising demand and expectation of the museum retail experience means it’s becomingly increasingly important for the shop to offer well-made, beautifully designed products that also reflect the works on display. Some links are clearly visible with others a little more subtle.
Melody Rose’s first collaboration with the Wallace Collection consisted of reworking Papety’s, The Temptation of Saint Hilarion (one of my personal favourites) whilst Limehouse Ceramics produced contemporary pots and vases with a colour palette inspired by iconic paintings from the collection, such as Fragonard’s ‘Swing Green’ and Canaletto’s ‘Venetian Blue’.
Working with independent designers is a win-win for both stockists and consumers. As a stockist we’re able to talk directly to the artist and build a closer working relationship that allows us to discuss bespoke project ideas, and for the ever growing conscious consumer they have reassurance that the proceeds are supporting both the artist and the museum. The ‘Makers Movement’ is a strong reflection of this mind set, and as an art intuition it seems logical to want to support emerging talent and provide them with a platform to showcase their work.
Many of our collaborative projects are not only inspired by the collection but often available exclusively to our shop, meaning you won’t find it anywhere on the high street. One of our most recent collaborations was Magnus Gjoen’s, ‘Wonders of the Natural World’ collection, a series of limited edition prints inspired by French Sevres Porcelain. These prints were launched in conjunction with unveiling the new online shop, a project that has been months in the making with the aim to provide a more user friendly service that operates alongside our social media platforms.
Much like the fashion world, retail is always thinking one or two steps ahead. Whilst everyone is still enjoying the festive season our team is already working away on new ranges for Spring/Summer next year and ideas for upcoming exhibitions in 2018, 2019… and beyond! Each of these ranges requires various stages of planning and meetings to brainstorm ideas and edit them down to the finalised collection of products. As well as teaming up with designers for these projects we also work alongside curators and conservators to make decisions on core museum ranges and educational publications relating to their ongoing research about the collection.
Although we won’t of course be giving away too much too soon about our plans in retail, if you’d like to find out more about the latest happenings you can find us Facebook and Instagram for sneak previews and exclusive offers – and don’t forget to check out our new website: www.wallacecollectionshop.org
– Charlotte Higgs, Buyers Assistant, The Wallace Collection