Why is it that, without fail, museum shops never have the thing I want to buy?
I’ll go through an exhibit and there will be some painting or sculpture or artifact or whatever that just charms me or blows me away, and when I get to the museum shop, I begin an eager race around the room, wanting to take some memento of that piece home with me . . . but there’s nothing. No print of the painting. No postcard showing the artifact. Nada.
The worst offender in my memory was probably the touring exhibit of The Lord of the Rings films. I walked out of that thing prepared to buy anything, man — replica costumes, replica weapons, replica jewelry, you name it, I would have bought it, because seeing the craftsmanship of the props up close had impressed me so much I was ready to pay for a cheap knockoff of my own. Instead they had some hoodies, some jewelry not from the films, a bunch of books, and that was about it. The incident sparking this post was my visit to the Asian Art Museum’s Shanghai exhibit yesterday: among the works showing how Shanghainese artists experimented with combining western and traditional Chinese techniques, there was a giant wall scroll depicting plum blossoms in moonlight, and it was stunning. The brushwork of Chinese ink painting, and the play of light and shadow of Western art; it wouldn’t have looked as cool on a postcard, probably, losing the vibrancy of the real thing, but I would have bought it as a way of sparking my brain to recall the original.
Nope. No dice.
The Impressionist exhibit at the Legion of Honor had a neat thing set up on a computer screen in their shop: you could pick a work of art, pick a size, pick a frame, and have a custom print shipped to your house. Awesome — except the selection of works you could do this with was tiny. (And, naturally, didn’t include any of the ones I really liked.) I do understand there are practical limitations on producing memorabilia of everything in an exhibit, but my batting average on this is abysmal. The things I like are never the ones chosen for reproduction. Oh museum shops, why do you hate me so?