Corrections or additions?
(This article by Pat Summers was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
December 2, 1998. All rights reserved.)
Loving Gifts for Arts Lovers
Chanel No. 5? Fuggetaboutit. Same with negligees,
fur boas, and such fripperies, and even Neiman Marcus’s conversation
piece — whatever it may be for 1998. High-tech toys, from flat
TVs to "flashbake" ovens, and even remote-control window
Too cold and crass; not nourishing for the soul. It’s time to
the dominant paradigm" and focus on made-to-measure holiday gifts
for your visual arts-loving friends and relatives.
This year’s round-up of art-friendly gifts for all ages features
near at hand, but includes a few that involve a day trip. One or two
require some personal inconvenience, or even discomfort. Some are
serious, and others are frivolous, but all are art-related, with
ranging from $1.49 and $3.50 to — well, it depends on what you’d
like for lunch. Best of all, these gifts won’t demand new batteries
at irregular intervals, upgrading, or even dry-cleaning.
Start small, about four inches by six inches, to be exact. Give an
artsy friend a fistful of postcards featuring art reproductions you
know are already favorites or that you want to introduce them to.
Depending on where you buy art cards, and their quality, they usually
run from 30 cents to twice that. To be really thoughtful, include
as many postcard stamps (20 cents each) as you have cards. Then sit
back and wait for your own thank-you card to arrive.
Moving up the reproduction ladder, you can’t go wrong with an art
calendar. The possibilities are limited only by the number of rooms
and offices your giftee might have. Ranging from $10 to $20, pretty,
shocking, or surprising art calendars — take your pick — are
available just about everywhere; no need to order from a museum
In bigger-repro land, consider art posters. There’s nothing like a
David Hockney western canyon or swimming pool scene to brighten a
dull winter’s day. Most art museums have a collection of posters
their own exhibitions, and frame shops often have catalogs of posters
from all over. Regardless of source, the typical poster will cost
under $20, and the easiest way to display it is dry-mounted (add $8
or $10), without either frame or glass.
Entering the heftier gift department, in weight as well as content,
the art exhibition catalog is a sure thing, likely to please the
who could not afford one on leaving an exhibition, or that may impress
your giftee with your up-to-date arts perspective. A few worthwhile
biggies of the season:
current photography exhibition, "Photography at Princeton,"
— beautiful show (free), beautiful catalog, silver-colored, with
fold-out reproductions ($30 at the Art Museum shop).
"Art by African Americans in the Collection," is available
in that shop for $30, and with its informed, comprehensive survey
of the subject this catalog is a collector’s item, worth every penny.
of Modern Art’s hardcover exhibition catalog ($75) or the
version ($35). The books share the same striking cover and accolades
from this critic, who found the catalog to be surprisingly readable.
A tuneful sidebar to the Pollock exhibition, which will be at MOMA
through February 2, is "Jackson Pollock Jazz CD," also
in the MOMA shop. Selected from Pollock’s extensive collection of
78-rpm records, which he reportedly played while making his paintings,
the CD features 17 jazz classics from the ’30s and ’40s, as well as
ragtime, blues, and swing. Pollock’s wife, Lee Krasner, said her
believed jazz was the only other creative thing, besides his work,
that was happening at the time. So how about some creativity by
Browse the periodical shelves at your friendly neighborhood book store
and select a clutch of current art magazines for someone in your
Unlikely to take the time for herself, she’ll appreciate your astute
choices, which might introduce hot art issues or provide practical
how-to’s from professional artists. Graphic, glossy, and fast reads,
zines are also easy to grab for a long train or airplane ride, and
one or two of them might spur a subscription in the future.
How about gifts for the artist to wear? Museum stores
stand ready to help you with silk scarves and jewelry, all derived
from art in the collection — or so goes the claim, though the
connection is sometimes tenuous. (Now, there’s an art history thesis
or dissertation topic for you: Relate the objects in the museum store
catalog to the original, considering its mediums and faithfulness
of reproduction — if you dare!)
Other possibilities, typically found in museum shops, include artists’
biographies and autobiographies, books on art history, theory, and
artists’ mediums, and prints of popular works. The Art Museum,
University, offers a 500-piece puzzle showing a detail of Monet’s
"Waterlilies and Japanese Bridge," and the ubiquitous
totes, note cards, T-shirts, and magnets. Eugene Delacroix’s
Tiger" (magnet or coaster format) goes for $4.95 or $14.95. Need
we point out how apropos that is for a recipient with a Princeton
habitat? And, for a while, these items will do double allusive duty
by nodding to the big Delacroix exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum
of Art that continues through January 3.
Advance tickets are long gone for the one-time, one-stop Van Gogh
exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C. What
to do for a wishful Van Gogh fan or art history student? Do a good
deed, a very good deed. (Yes, this is where the discomfort we
earlier comes in.) On a mutually convenient day before January 4,
drive your friend to Washington — or spring for a hotel room the
night before. Between 5 and 7 a.m., drop him or her off at a cozy
breakfast spot while you wait on line until the day’s free tickets
are distributed. With admissions in hand, you have only to thaw and/or
dry out, join your friend, and enjoy Van Gogh together at the
If all that represents too much discomfort, the gift of a day trip
to New York might be the ticket. Since Pollock’s hot, go to MOMA to
see the show that includes a full-size replica of his studio and a
video of his drip-painting on glass. With stamina, you can walk
the exhibition of Pollock’s prints, on the same floor. Finally, allow
yourselves time to limp to the in-house cafe or the restaurant
the sculpture garden for lunch or supper.
An alternative to the inside of MOMA is the street outside. Pollock
isn’t visible from here, but the banks of scarlet amaryllis in the
lobby are. And so are the enterprising vendors selling art and gifts
of all sorts: custom calligraphy (of your name or the blessing or
proverb you choose), art books, small paintings and prints, wire
jewelry. You could buy on impulse, then feast on fresh-air fare: hot
dogs, pretzels, knishes — with mustard, thanks.
Enough, already, of this togetherness? Enroll your art-loving friend
or relative as a member of the museum of your — or the giftee’s
— choice. Then you can simply drive your friend to the train
and wave her off. More important, in making her a member, you may
do for her what she’ll love, but would not do for herself. Since we
started there, let’s stick with MOMA, where, typical of most museums,
membership offers unlimited free admission, members-only previews
and viewing hours, subscription to a members’ magazine and museum
store discount. (It is very gratifying to bypass the line for a
exhibition, flash a membership card to the guard, and go directly
to the art. And doing so regularly quickly pays for the membership.)
Further, being a member of a museum is a feel-good experience. Doesn’t
your friend deserve that?
A nice thing about giving art-related gifts to someone special is
that the gift often suggests or necessitates two people, and offers
kindred spirits an occasion for joint enjoyment. Another example,
once again in Manhattan: The New York Public Library, at Fifth Avenue
and 42nd Street, offers splendid — and free — tours of the
building twice a day, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Like a Colossus, your
art-gift recipient could straddle the past — enjoying the
examples of Beaux-Arts architecture," that encompasses
columns and arches, grand marble staircases and high, elaborately
decorated ceilings" — and the present — the newly reopened
Rose Main Reading Room, restored and modernized to accommodate,
the latest in late 20th-century technology.
"Send this friend to school!" could be your cry if you accept
the offer of Mercer Community College. Buy the college education gift
certificate in any amount to encourage your art-loving friend into
a studio course, a survey of art history, or an art appreciation
You could "wrap" the certificate in a brand new marbled paper
notebook and enclose a map of the campus, starting with the student
Back home again, and still looking for the perfect gift for an artsy
person? Why not shop locally, cultivate spontaneity, buy on impulse
— and savor the work of area artists and crafters, and the wares
of art-related businesses? Here are some possibilities: Lawrence Art
and Frame Gallery, off Route 1 in Lawrence Shopping Center, has long
been a place to find area artists and quality framing. Lately owner
Peter Van Ellis has added art objects to his shop’s inventory of
by Marge Chavooshian and Elizabeth Ruggles, and Michelle M. Post’s
wood engravings. Now, both whimsical (soft-sculpture seats,
and metal "yardbirds") and functional (pottery and painted
furniture) items are also available.
Van Ellis also believes in smelling the roses — or the algae.
Time permitting, he pursues his hobby in the gallery’s workroom: he
makes canoe paddles in cedar and ash woods, sometimes using up to
70 individual pieces for one of six designs. For your artsy-athlete
or your athletic art-lover, you might see a Van Ellis paddle as the
best of both worlds.
Practically around the corner there’s Triangle Repro, off Route 1
on Darrah Lane. Be forewarned: this Triangle site, with both the usual
professional supplies for working in acrylics, pastels, oils, and
pencils, has also mastered the point-of-purchase concept. Go there
for simple photocopies, and emerge, helplessly, with nifty pens,
colored-plastic totes, a Crayola umbrella. Yes, Crayola, for one
corner of the crafts-kit area is devoted to the products of that
Pennsylvania-based behemoth. Did you know there are Crayola washable
paints, watercolors, markers, wipe-off slates, scissors, and, oh,
yes, crayons? And not just crayons — but varied numbers of them
in different anniversary boxes, with new colors and old colors, with
or without built-in sharpeners.
If you manage to move beyond Crayola’s nostalgia trap, you’ll
such temptations as a gargoyle kit ("carve your own and turn them
to stone") and a memory plate (paint on a white plate, bake it
in the oven, then display) — each for $16. With such alluring
gifts, it may happen that you see what you want to buy, then try to
come up with a lovely child to give it to. Other temptations include
"The Complete Soapmaker Book and Kit" ($29.95), "Art
Packs" for Van Gogh, Rousseau, et al. ($9.95), and "The Little
Christmas Stained Glass Coloring Book," which, for $1, invites
a child to color in between the (lead-like) lines, then display the
finished picture in a window.
Starting at $3.50, the "elephant ear sponge"
pieces, for pottery and texturing surfaces, might also serve as
"tools" — look out, Max Factor. Unusual pencil sharpeners
and highlighters abound at this richly-stocked Triangle site, which
also offers a panoply of crafts materials — origami to felt,
to glitter to rubber stamps — and an array of papers.
Hurry, you’re already late: the 23rd annual "Transformations"
fine crafts show and sale opened the day before Thanksgiving at the
Princeton University Store. Featuring the works of 22 area crafters,
the shop will be open through December 28. The three-day fine arts
and crafts bazaar at Artworks, the visual arts school of Princeton
and Trenton, awaits you from Friday to Sunday, December 4 to 6. Also
Friday to Sunday, December 4 to 6, is "Sauce for the Goose
the annual holiday arts sale at the Arts Council of Princeton.
Now that you have found suitable gifts for all your art-loving
only one important task remains: What to do with that Chanel No. 5
flacon you brought home prematurely? Nothing easier — and don’t
say I never did anything for you.
Corrections or additions?
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