New York's MoMA store shows way in innovation

Updated: 2015-03-23 08:01

By Agence France Presse In New York(China Daily)

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 New York's MoMA store shows way in innovation

Jewelry is displayed at one of the MoMA stores in New York. MoMA leads the way in retail innovation, its design boutiques almost as popular as the gallery itself. Agence France Presse

While some museums are still somewhat skittish about selling souvenirs, New York's celebrated MoMA leads the way in retail innovation, its design boutiques almost as popular as the artwork on display.

The museum opened its first shop in 1939 - a simple sales counter on the MoMA premises on 53rd Street in Manhattan.

More than 70 years later, it has five retail spaces in New York, two of them devoted to design, a store in Tokyo and online shopping sites, two of which cater to the Japanese and Korean markets.

The most well-known of the shops is the store on 53rd Street just opposite the museum. With its serene, artful displays and documented collection, it is almost an extension of the gallery.

Products are presented with a short description, the name of their designer or artist, and the year they were created.

"It's really important to our customers to have the experience they have basically in the museum," says Chay Costello, assistant director of merchandising.

"We try to reflect that in the stores, and we have signs that tell people who designs this, what the inspiration is, and we carry a number of things that are in our collection."

Some are copies of actual pieces from the MoMA collection, such as the lounge chair and ottoman created by Charles Eames in 1956, which costs more than $4,000.

Others are products exclusive to MoMA that have been sourced by buyers who travel all over the world to replenish the store's twice-yearly collections.

Still more are MoMA innovations, which have only seen the light of day thanks to online crowd-funding sites - like the "3Doodler", the first 3-D printing pen and one of the current best-sellers.

The gadget was born out of a collaboration between MoMA and online fundraising site Kickstarter, and was brought to life by more than 26,500 backers.

All products undergo a rigorous selection process.

Those discovered at trade fairs or made by local artisans halfway around the world are brought back to New York and submitted to quality checks and control, she says.

If they pass, they then have to be approved by museum curators.

"That is a really important step along the way to make sure that we maintain the standards of the museum," Costello says.

Innovation, creativity and quality are the watchwords.

"We seek out the most innovative, exciting new products," she explains.

"We also are looking at bringing products that are representing the future of what good design is going to be."

(China Daily USA 03/23/2015 page10)