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  • In the 1830s, Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai made dozens of prints showing different views of Mt. Fuji.

  • This one, the Great Wave off Kanagawa, shows the sea whipped up by a storm, three boats, and the mountain in the background.

  • It's one of the most recognizable examples of Ukiyo-e, traditional Japanese woodblock prints.

  • And it's one of the most reproduced artworks in the world.

  • Since the early 1900s, this print and others by Hokusai have lived at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

  • And if you end up at the MET art store, there are dozens of ways for you to take it home.

  • From a scarf to a wallet, socks, cuff links, a watch, journal, belt, onesie, dog collar, dog leash, a USB charger, and of course, a tote bag.

  • At a certain point, seeing this classic piece of art on so many random things starts to feel absurd.

  • But all this merch is meticulously planned out.

  • So that what you see in the gift shop, might change the way you think about art.

  • If you've been to an art museum, you've probably been to an art museum gift shop.

  • They're usually the last stop on any tour, the final exhibit before you head home.

  • We are here to support the museum financially and to support the mission of the museum in terms of education.

  • Leanne Graeff, is the head of design and product development for the MET store.

  • What we really try to do is to create a varied assortment based on, of course, recognizable artworks.

  • The decisions curators like Leanne make can be powerful.

  • Thanks to something called the mere-exposure effect.

  • A psychological phenomenon where repeated exposure to something makes you like it more.

  • It's also called the "familiarity principle."

  • The classic example is: when you hear a song on the radio for the first time, and hate it.

  • But after a couple more listens, start to like it.

  • In a museum gift shop, seeing the same piece of art on a scarf, or a postcard, or a watch, reinforces the idea that that particular piece of art is important.

  • So you can kind of extend your education about art in the gift shop.

  • It's just an opportunity to expand on people's knowledge base for art.

  • And when you buy that piece of art and take it home with you, the mere-exposure effect becomes even greater.

  • People appreciate art, and they like to be able to buy things that have art on it.

  • At its core, a museum gift shop is still a store.

  • Which means some decisions revolve around money.

  • According to the Museum Store Association, museums collect 5 to 25% of their annual revenue from their stores.

  • The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art netted $6.1 million in store sales for the 2018 fiscal year, roughly 7% of its total revenue.

  • When figuring out what will sell, artwork that's already popular helps.

  • The wallet, the tech accessories, patch, socks, these are all new product types that we hadn't tried before.

  • We wanted to try an artwork that we knew is very recognizable by the customer.

  • To see if the actual product itself would be interesting.

  • Traditionally, museums also make a lot of money by selling merch related to big exhibitions.

  • Like, if a museum had a temporary installation of Van Gogh paintings, you'd usually see the gift shop flooded with Van Gogh art in many shapes and forms.

  • But that model is changing.

  • We really don't want to be dependent on those big blockbuster shows.

  • It puts us in a very challenging position of being reliant on whether people come to see it or want to see it.

  • Or whether or not there's product that is appropriate to develop for that particular show.

  • Christine Doobinin is the director of retail at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

  • She says that a better tactic might be relying on museum-goers themselves to drive stocking decisions.

  • Getting out, you know in the museum while people are walking around, really trying to understand what they're thinking about when they finally do make it into the store is something that we always try to keep top of mind.

  • And because of the mere-exposure effect, seeing a piece of art again before you leave the museum can make you feel more connected to it.

  • You know you're walking around and then suddenly you connect with a painting for whatever reason.

  • Either the color draws you in or you know the artist or it's a famous work of art.

  • And suddenly here it is. It's like a celebrity sighting you know to kind of see that.

  • And you want to kind of you know take a piece of that home with you.

  • Ultimately, that's one of the main goals of a museum gift shop.

  • Bridging the gap between the art world and casual visitors, and letting them take a piece of that world home.

  • Of course, not everything in an art museum is specifically designed to reinforce a particular exhibit or change the way we think about art.

  • You'll also see some...weird stuff in there.

  • Like these miniature chairs at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts that go for more than $300 each.

In the 1830s, Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai made dozens of prints showing different views of Mt. Fuji.

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How museum gift shops decide what to sell

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/10/22
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