London-based illustrator Georgia Salisbury pays tribute to museum and gallery gift shops in her latest series titled Enter Through the Gift Shop. Charming, colourful and detailed, they’re bound to make you see gift shops in a new light.
Who doesn’t love a little shop? Specially designed and stocked with a range of souvenirs, gift shops can be the perfect way to bring art to the masses; plus, they also provide a memento of a day out spent browsing masterpieces.
To give gallery gift shops the attention they deserve, illustrator Georgia Salisbury has created a series of beautiful images which sum up their appeal. Incredibly realised in black fine liner, brush pen and colour pencils, these artworks are a fitting tribute and deserve to be sold in museum stores themselves.
For Georgia, the series results from a “somewhat unhealthy” obsession with gift shops. “I just find it endlessly fascinating to see how the shop interprets the contents of the museum or gallery into consumable goods,” she tells Creative Boom.
“I almost feel as though the gift shops are an extension of the exhibitions themselves, but featuring pieces you can touch and take home with you. With this in mind, I thought making the actual gift shops into art would be interesting. I suppose the whole thing is a bit meta!”
So far, the series includes illustrations of the gift shops in the Royal Academy of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Sir John Soane Museum, and the Tate Modern, with Georgia hoping to do more and spread outside of London in the future.
In order to draw the illustrations, Georgia visits the gift shops and takes lots of photos to use as reference material. “I always worry that the staff will think I’m casing the joint; it probably looks quite suspicious!”
Not only does this approach improve the accuracy of the finished drawings, but it also helps calm the nerves that can arise from working in front of people. “Drawing on location is still quite daunting to me, especially with gift shops as they’re usually pretty busy, plus they’re not a typical place to sit down and draw!” she says. “I can’t help but feel really self-conscious, but I’m working on it.”
Studying the gift shops with such intensity did give Georgia a new appreciation for them, though. “I definitely picked up more on the artistry that goes into visual merchandising,” she explains. “To be visually appealing to customers, you need to arrange things in such a specific way, like choosing which colours to include in a display or thinking about the relationship between different products.”
The series also tapped into a more widespread conversation about the very idea of gift shops. “There’s a bit of a debate regarding whether gift shops are a great way to bring art down to a tangible/accessible level or whether they’re simply an exploitative cash grab,” says Georgia.
“I’m not sure I’ve got the answers, but this series definitely gave me a deeper appreciation for gift shops and their products. Although, I’m probably a bit biased because I’ve always found gift shops delightful!”
No series is without its challenges, though, and for Georgia, the biggest hurdle was translating some of the more difficult or peculiar spaces into drawings. “For example, the V&A gift shop is huge and has many different areas,” she reveals. “It was so hard to decide which part to draw!
“Ultimately, I learnt to look for things in the space that grabbed my attention. So that could include bright colours, a diverse selection of shapes and forms, etc. Anything that makes me think, ‘Yes, that would be really fun to draw!'”
However, Georgia’s attention to detail has paid off, as the illustrations are a hit with the people behind the shops. “Carmel Allen (the managing director of the Tate) liked my Instagram post of the Tate Modern Gift Shop drawing, which was so cool,” she adds. “She suggested I send a copy of the print to Amy Buckton, the head of Retail at the Tate. Amy then sent me a lovely email when she received the print.
“Additionally, I got to message Jo Prosser after she liked my Instagram! Jo is the director of audience and experience at the Royal Academy of Arts, and she gave me such lovely feedback about the RA drawing.”
With so many museums and galleries in London, Georgia has plenty of subject matter to work with as the series continues. Although limiting herself to shops in London has worked in her favour as it stops her from becoming overwhelmed. “I’d love to eventually have some sort of exhibition of all my drawings; I think it would be funny if I had a gift shop, too,” she concludes. “Maybe the gift shop would be the actual exhibition?
“I’d also love to collaborate with the museums themselves and maybe have the chance to sell my prints in the actual gift shops. And if all that works out, maybe I could take the series beyond London!”