Las Vegas Sun

July 28, 2014

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MUSEUM:

Museum gift shop will be missed, but it’s gone for good reasons

The Las Vegas Art Museum closed its gift shop over the summer. Almost $10,000 worth of merchandise was marked down. What didn’t sell was placed on eBay or sold through other outlets. It’s enough to make anti-consumerists raise fists of joy this holiday season.

Beyond the Sun

Then there are the rest of us, who love fondling and contemplating cleverly designed products.

It’s tough to care about the closing of a gift shop the same week that the museum’s influential executive director steps down, but here are four things to know:

1. Need for room

The closed gift shop is a reminder that the community’s main art museum is still operating in a library and desperately in need of its own space. Museum executives hoped to replace the gift shop with office space for staff members who are stuffed in the back of the museum.

But space was also needed for eduction programs, which serve about 8,000 students, most in the Clark County School District. Staff had been setting up tables and chairs in the lobby daily for the school groups that came in. Students attend the exhibits and do hands-on projects that help them digest ideas in contemporary art and design. They also learn museum etiquette. Now the students are using the gift shop.

2. More lectures

Museum lectures and forums have featured Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles chief curator Paul Schimmel, installation artist Robert Irwin and art critics Dave Hickey and Leah Ollman. But the lectures take place in the multipurpose room, space shared by the library and various groups and clubs. That means limited availability. The gift shop space clears the way for last-minute scheduling of speakers of interest who happen to be passing through town.

3. Bringing in no money

Gift shops can be cash cows for museums and they can help with branding. The Las Vegas Art Museum gift shop was neither. The merchandise was unique and affordable, but not everybody is driving to 9600 W. Sahara Ave. for worthwhile art exhibits, so people most certainly were not going to drive there to shop. “As much as we enjoyed having interesting things for people visiting the museum, it just wasn’t profitable,” Libby Lumpkin, former executive director of the Las Vegas Art Museum, said Monday.

4. No more cool stuff

The Las Vegas Art Museum replaced most of its consignment art with Josh Jakus’ pressed felt bags, Steven Shein jewelry and designer knickknacks last summer, providing alternatives to chain store schlock. Anyone trying to track down affordable miniature replicas of furniture by high-end designers has to go online — or to any other city in the United States. Exhibit catalogs, however, are available for sale at the front desk.

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