Museum Quality

Shops associated with local art museums are an undiscovered resource for home decor.

The Denver Art Museum’s Hamilton Building houses one of the organization’s gift shops, featuring jewelry and a selection of hand-blown glass.

Frequent museum-goers have a secret. In addition to memories of a cultural experience, they often come home with distinctive and interesting items— from wall decor to tabletop and kitchen accessories—that extend the artistic experience and help furnish their homes with pieces that can’t be found elsewhere.

“Museum stores are a wonderful resource for unique accent pieces,” says Charlotte Otto, visitor services manager at Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, “particularly because we pay special attention to the quality, artistic integrity and visual story of the products we select.”

Bob Smith, the Colorado artist who made this raku-glazed jar, is represented in Kirkland Museum’s permanent collection and the museum store.

Greg McKay, associate director of retail operations for the Denver Art Museum, adds, “We also look for things that are unique, that you are not going to find in big box stores, and we look for local artists. Museum stores, in general, search out those items that are not in the broader marketplace.”

Another source for small-batch and handmade products is the Museum of Contemporary Art. “A majority of our merchandise is made by

Amelie Mancini’s screen-printed tea towels are a highlight of the MCA store’s collection.

artisans and small business owners,” says Giustina Renzoni, senior manager of visitor services and the shop at MCA Denver. “We have curated a collection of goods that is well-edited with a focus on minimalist design and natural materials. As part of the MCA, we take our aesthetic cues from the building and the contemporary works shown in our exhibitions.”

Otto adds, “In many ways, museum stores are a visual, tactile extension of the institution’s permanent collection or special exhibitions, and therefore, customers will often discover exclusive products that they won’t find anywhere else.”

Even the store at the Clyfford Still Museum, essentially a grouping of kiosks primarily devoted to book sales, offers custom coffee mugs. “Museum stores are a great place to look for unique items, because the mission is often to support programming and exhibitions in the institution,” says Lydia Milá Garmaier, the museum’s director of visitor services and events. “This allows store managers to reach out to vendors to create unique items that are not mass-produced and not found elsewhere.”

McKay says that visitors don’t always consider the mission behind these retail operations, but they should. “Purchases they make go back to the museum to help support the programs,” he says, “which puts it on a different plane that regular retail. There is a higher purpose, and we certainly appreciate that support.”

Denver Art Museum

100 W. 14th Ave Pkwy. / 720.865.5000 / denverartmuseum.org

Museum of Contemporary Art Denver

1485 Delgany St. / 303.298.7554 / mcadenver.org

Clyfford Still Museum

1250 Bannock St. / 720.354.4880 / clyffordstillmuseum.org

Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art

Museum will be closed while the new building at 12th & Bannock is under construction.