Christmas time, mistletoe and wine… We’re in October so as far as I’m concerned that is the signal to kick off my favourite time of year and, as a self-appointed member of Santa’s little helpers, I’m here to help those of you searching for gifts for the art lovers in your life. Or, maybe you’re an art lover yourself (high five!). if so, here’s a few suggestions to hand over to those who ask, ‘so what do you want for Christmas?’
And I’ve also done this list as profits from these sales – where the item is sold by a gallery – goes to support these museums that are often free to the public. So, a good gift and a great cause.
Gifts £20 and Under
Christmas is the perfect time for that ridiculously over-the-top themed gift so let’s kick off at the National Portrait Gallery who are selling this fantastic set of porcelain Salvador and Frida Egg Cups, £18, as well as this fun Salvador and Picasso Salt and Pepper Shakers, £20. These make for the perfect fun and original gifts where you’re on a budget – or you know someone buying for you has probably only got about twenty quid to spend on you. Instantly recognisable and iconic artists, I’m definitely going to be using one of these as a stocking gift – something to make a special person smile.
If you think this might not be practical enough, how about this Frida Kahlo Ceramic Travel Mug, £15, to get teas and coffees at a cheaper and more environmentally friendly way when your person is out and about? You can find these in a few places, but I got my one at the Tate shop. And if you want someone other than Frida, there is a Dali option…
The great thing about doing this list is how many art items come up the more detailed the search – and incorporated into items I didn’t even know I needed. Like this set of eight Andy Warhol Paintings Wine Charms, £13.42, for instance, from Etsy. Pop Art around the base of your wine glass, I guess, makes sure you know which glass at the Christmas party is yours!
For those of you looking for more stocking-type gifts, how about this Basquiat-themed Pocket Notebook Graffiti Artist, £3, from the Royal Academy? This little pocket notebook contains fifty sheets of cartridge paper and a removable pop-out JMB bookmark to boot.
And how about actually wrapping your gifts in art-inspired wrapping paper, like this Frida Kahlo Wrapping Paper, £1.70, from Rumble Cards on Etsy?
Gifts £50 and Under
Socks are always a perennial item on Christmas lists up and down the country but let’s jazz it up with Chatty Feet’s masterful selection of artist-inspired socks. Pick individual pairs from Frida Kahlo, Yayoi Kusama, Salvador Dali, Picasso, David Hockney, Warhol and so many more. Or why not just go the whole hog and get The Artists Socks Gift Set, £30, or the Modern Artists Gift Set, also £30?
Or perhaps your Christmas tradition is more about ties rather than socks? Why not go full-on abstract expressionist with this Summertime Jackson Pollock Silk Tie, £29.99, from the National Galleries of Scotland? It features Jackson’s famous – and bright – Summertime 9A. It’s one of his more vibrant works and, I think, works pretty well on a tie.
I always think an umbrella is a pretty safe bet at Christmas, especially a mini one that is easy to slip into a bag. The national Gallery always has the best selection of such umbrellas, £22, where you can choose from Van Gogh, Renoir, Turner, Canaletto, Monet, and more.
I always think, where we can, it’s nice to spend our money in a way that can help others. With this in mind, I did ask for this beautiful Frida Kahlo Filled Cushion, £36.50, from Amnesty International last year. I love the vibrancy of its colours and, as its handmade, it makes for a homelier feel than those cushions where copies of paintings are simply transferred on.
Friends of the Earth has the same cushion as part of its collection of four Frida Kahlo cushions in the same style so, if you were theming up a room, this could be a good bet, especially as the cushions are on a multi-buy offer of £67 for two.
But as well as cheeky gifts, Christmas is also the time to give much-wanted gifts to those who have pined for them for a while. The Feminist Avant Garde of the 1970s was one of the most influential London exhibitions of the past few years and the Sammlung Verbund Collection produced this stunning and luxurious hardback edition, The Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s: Works from the Sammlung Verbund Vienna, £49.95, to accompany the show. Museum Bookstore is always my go-to place to find books on art exhibitions from the present and the recent past. Make someone’s Christmas by splashing out of this comprehensive photography book that has become a Bible to me as I absorb each drop of feminist art I can find.
But if you think that might be a bit of a risk for your feminist art lover – perhaps you are not sure if they might have that book already – I say, you can’t go wrong with a limited edition tote bag so how about this Bella Freud x Gillian Wearing Suffragette City Canvas Tote Bag, £35, from Matches? These two have collaborated this year, inspired by and following on from Gillian’s stature of Millicent Fawcett’s statue in Parliament Square (who was a suffragist but let’s just go with this). This bag is an impressive size and pretty classic.
But if you fancy getting full on contemporary with your feminism, there is no looking past the Guerrilla Girls: The Advantages of Being a Women Artist tea towel, £25, that has been a runaway success since it first went on sale at the Tate. The item is practically iconic – it’s bright, it’s angry, and it’s practical! But, look, if you think getting a tea towel for someone for Christmas is a bit, well, ANTI-feminist, the famous GG artwork also comes in a clutch bag, £25.
So, what else is there on the Christmas classics – that’s right, jumpers! And, it’s not strictly art but it helps a museum and, frankly, can we all show some love for this mighty Oversized Triceratops Unisex Christmas Jumper, £50, from the Natural History Museum? For me, this si the gift that keeps on giving. It’s PERFECT!
Gifts £100 and Under
My mother has a weakness for scarves, and art from Grayson Perry, so I’ve already bought her a past merging of the too but if someone in your life feels the same, can I point you to this Grayson Perry Scarf: British Museum Map, £80, at the British Museum shop? It’s bright, got a great blend of colours in, yet also has the man’s hallmark dry sense of humour evident on it. The piece is taken from his award-winning exhibition at the BM, Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman (Winner of the South Bank Sky Arts Awards 2012 for Visual Art) so some of you may well recognise the artwork.
What is Christmas without perfume? And don’t think galleries have avoided that part of the market either as Serpentine Galleries is selling this very fresh, clean and attractive unisex fragrance, Tracey Emin-Serpentine-Comme des Garcons, £56. I genuinely like this scent very much. Given the gallery is in Hyde Park, the scent is a blend of grass, leaves, pollen (galbanum, iris leaf), oxygene (aldehyde, ozone), asphalt (black musks, nutmeg), labdanum and smoked cedar with a little bit of pollution. No, seriously. That last bit isn’t a joke – there’s a drop of benzoin in here too. Tracey Emin’s contribution? She designed the bottle.
Often, the bigger galleries will stock work from new artists in their shops, whether they be Academicians at the RA or those working in fashion, jewellery and homeware whose work is inspired by, or in a similar vein, to particular exhibitions on display. This is particularly true of the V&A who always have an interesting collection of work from jewellery designers on display.
Given their big Frida show, Mexican artisans are prominent. The pieces from Iris de La Torre are fun and colourful pieces, particularly the brooches, but I particularly liked these Mexican Chaquira Earrings by Carla Fernandez, £60, who – like Frida – evidently draws inspiration from Mexican culture and history and she works with indigenous communities to create pieces that champion Mexico’s design techniques.
But why own art-inspired gifts when you can own art itself? The Tate Modern is currently hosting a Jenny Holzer ARTISTS ROOMS display, much of which showcases her Truisms works – a series comprised of over 250 single-sentence declarations, which Jenny wrote to resemble existing maxims or clichés. Privileging no single viewpoint, the Truisms examine the social construction of beliefs and mores
Now you can buy One-Liner (2012), US$117, a 25-minute digital artwork created exclusively for Sedition. A selection of 20 phrases from Holzer’s series Truisms (1977-1979) play across the screen in a loop, approximating the appearance of the LED displays that have long been associated with Holzer’s work.
Gifts for Those Who Have VERY Generous Friends!!
Klimt has a show on at the RA over the Christmas period but it’s in the National Galleries of Scotland online shop that I found this elegant and richly coloured, Gustav Klimt Red Stole, £130. The pattern is immediately recognisable as Klimt’s, and the blend of satin and silk, with the feel of cashmere – as well as its impressive size – makes this a genuinely impressive art-related gift rather than one of the more naff scarves you can often find.
Vivienne Westwood may have lost her marbles over Assange, but she still remains the most enduring fashion inspiration in my life. I scour vintage shops for pieces from her heyday and still horde a little stash of original corsets that I will, sadly, never fit into again. But you don’t need to worry about weight fluctuations with a handbag!
This season’s Europa Large Handbag, £505, sees the classic handbag design mixed with one of Viv’s favourite paintings, The Rape of Europa by Francis Boucher. Far classier and more stylish than Vuitton’s recent use of Impressionist and da Vinci paintings on its accessories, which – frankly – were tacky as hell. And if you could throw one of these handbags, or even the smaller Europa Shoulder Bag, £405, my way, that would be a dream.
Thanks ever so!
And, finally, if all this art isn’t enough, Serpentine Galleries is selling Ai Weiwei: Golden Age Wallpaper at £435 a roll. If you visited the Weiwei show at the RA, the pattern will look most familiar as this very design smothered the walls of one of the galleries. Now you can replicate that same pleasure at home!