Category: Art Merch

The C-Mon Giveaway Extravaganza: SF MOMA Edition.

SF MOMA: Now you see it.

Now you don’t(Photos by C-M. Click on images to supersize.)

It’s the new year, which means it’s time for a new giveaway, this one from the delightful City by the Bay. roving correspondent (and younger sibling) E-Monster, picked up this spectacular piece of museo merch during an afternoon of ogling Martin Puryears at the SF MOMA. Tilt the pen to one side, and you see the museum’s underarm-deodorant form proudly displayed against the city skyline. Tilt it to the other, and the building is enveloped in fog. (If they’d managed to work in a half-naked bear in leather chaps then I seriously woulda kept this little beauty for myself.) 

Leave a comment (with valid e-mail) below to enter the drawing, and before you know it, you could be signing the back of your unemployment checks with this inspired piece of artsy plastic. As is the rule on these regional giveaways: no San Franciscans (or Oaklanders, for that matter), need apply. Estimated retail value: $4.95.

The winner will be announced Monday.

The Andy Warhol Banana Split Bowl. Or why I love art merch.

I’ll have mine with warm butterscotch and extra maraschino cherries, please. (Photo by C-M.)

I love art merch. Seriously, I can’t get enough of it. At any museum, in addition to exploring the art, I always allot enough time to make a  thorough inspection of the gift store. It’s all part of the bigger picture, really. If art in our culture is often reduced to the vacuous acquisition of shining objects, then the gift shops embody this sentiment on a grand, populist scale. And like Black Friday at Macy’s, it’s often a free-for-all.

So, just in time for the holiday shopping season, I’ve outlined the three reasons why art merch deserves our utmost veneration:

  1. Gift store inventory reveals more about a museum than any art hung in the galleries. A museum shop full of nothing but incomprehensible exhibit catalogues tells me, “We’re a serious, academic place, where all water cooler conversation takes place in German.” (Case in point: the Mies Van der Rohe pavilion in Barcelona.) But, if I see erasers, scarves, jewelry, coffee mugs and key chains, I know that this is an institution with an ample marketing department that is determined to appeal to a very wide audience — and vacuum their wallets in the process. (Hello, Metropolitan Museum of Art.) 
  2. Art merch can be sublimely absurd. Not just the physical objects — such as this Andy Warhol banana split bowl ($14.95 at the Whitney) — but the process that went into creating them. At some point, a bunch of people got together, in a conference room, and had a meeting about this. They asked themselves, “What can we do with this priceless screen print of a banana?” And they decided that it wouldn’t work as cuff links or a stationery set, but it’d be just perfect as a receptacle for ice cream and nuts. Then, someone said, “We can include a matching spoon.” And everyone around the table replied, “Ooooh, of course, the matching spoon!” All so a tourist on winter break in New York could go, “Check it out, Marge… It’s a Warhol banana split holder with a matching spoon…” It’s like a giant conceptual art piece. Created by some licensing company in Beijing.
  3. The merch is often more fascinating than the art itself. I’m not talking about Impressionist notepads and Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired key chains. Those are done. I’m talking about stuff that is tasteless with a high degree of planning and premeditation: shorts with David‘s dong, Guernica coffee mugs and Frida Kahlo socks. It takes imagination to say, “Hey, let’s get Schnabel to put one of his doodles on a beach towel!” Or, “What if Barry McGee did sunglasses?” Or, better yet, “Let’s put Boticelli’s Venus on a couch.” Not to mention that this stuff is all highly utilitarian. I can sit on it, wear it, and use it to dry my damp derriere on the beach. And that, my friends, is an art. Even if it never takes place in a gallery.

C-Mon Holiday Giveaway! Whitney Museum edition.

Nothing says “Christmas” like a little brutalism. (Photo by C-M.)

You’ve got the candy canes, the tinsel and the popcorn balls. But do you have a glass replica ornament of the Whitney Museum’s Marcel Breuer-designed building covered in glitter? We think not. Thankfully, the marketing department here at has arranged to give away this fine piece of holiday merchandise to a very lucky reader. Leave a comment below (with a valid e-mail) to enter the drawing. And before you know it, you could be trimming the tree, imbibing wassail and talking trash about the Biennial — all while admiring Breuer’s glistening bunker.

No New Yorkers are allowed to enter this contest. (If you want a Whitney ornament so damn bad, go to the museum. They’re only three bucks.)

Art Merch: Graffiti chocolate + Toofly bags.

From the Department of What-Will-They-Think-of-Next? Chocolate bars with wrappers by the likes of Crash, Blade, Pink and Dondi. (All mages courtesy of the Bronx Museum.)

What do you get for the graff head who has everything? Graffiti chocolates. Courtesy of the gift shop at the Bronx Museum, which is selling a set of 10 — in flavors like Dark Rum, Caramel and S’mores — for $35. (Ten percent off if you go on Saturday, Dec. 13.) There’s also a Toofly cosmetic bag for $25 (pictured below), in the event that you want to make that special someone feel a little pretty. Now, if only someone would design a graffiti bathrobe, my life would be complete.

Art Merch: The Walker’s political art buttons.

More like “Democracy is scary.” (Photo by C-M.)

I am going to be so tricked out for Indecision ’08 now that I’ve got the Walker Art Center’s political art buttons (complete with obtuse slogans by Donald Judd and Joseph Beuys) in my hot little hands. Many thank to John Hoffoss in Minneapolis for taking the time and expense to send me the set. I will wear them pride. And a mild sense of hipster irony.

Also: I’m buried under deadlines. No Digest today.

xox, C.

Art Merch: David’s Pee Pee Edition.

David's Pee Pee
But what does the backside look like? (Photo by San Suzie.)

Just off the Piazza Venezia, where the biggest, blingiest monument in all of Italy — the memorial to Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of unified Italy — looms over a traffic circle that puts any L.A. freeway to shame, I was halted in my tracks by this admirable piece of local art merch: men’s boxer shorts featuring the salsiccia belonging to none other than Michelangelo’s David. There is a raging debate among local art historians as to whether this fine dong truly belongs to David or is simply a knockoff from some other statue. (I’ll be investigating as soon as I get to Florence.) In the meantime, we report, you decide.

Art Merch: Museu Picasso, Barcelona.

Museu Picasso
When you need a little death and destruction to go with the morning latte. (Photos by C-M.)

The Museu Picasso in Barcelona is one of those places where if you so much as shift your camera strap on your shoulder, you instantly find yourself surrounded by 17 bruisers in blue shirts who bellow, “Nooo pictures!” The super strict no-photo policy is presumably intended to protect the integrity of Picasso’s sometimes overused imagery . . . so that the museum can overuse it on mouse pads and key chains. Lord knows that nothing respects the dignity of those who died in the Nazi bombing of Guernica quite like slapping an image of their suffering on a mug.

Click on images to supersize. More after the jump.

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See Frida. Buy Frida. Be Frida.: S.F. MoMA’s Kahlo gift store.

Frida Kahlo gift store
It gets even better once you go in. (Photos by C-M.)

Oh. My. God. Where do I start? I have seen some crazy museum stores, but this one is in a category of its own. S.F. MoMA has a temporary gift shop for their Frida Kahlo retrospective that has all the charm of an airport curio stand. Down to the ceramic tile coasters and Frida aprons. It was an orgy of folklore, set amid lots of brightly-painted everything. Seriously, the only thing this place needed to become a full-on Mexi-Disney was to have the cashiers wearing huipiles and braids. And why no mariachis? Or a taco bar? After standing in line to see the show, I sure coulda used a snack.

The show is up through September 28th.

Step inside, after the jump. Click on images to supersize.

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