This is part of the L.A. Times 2021 gift guide. See the full guide here.
If you’re looking for gifts that feel curated, what better place to begin than a museum? The shops run by local cultural institutions have the added benefit of a good cause: Your holiday purchases help to fund programming and operations all year long. With one noted exception, these goods aren’t available through Amazon, making them that much more special.
People’s Pottery Project fingerprints bowl and plate
The hand of the artist is visible in each of these ceramics from a Glassell Park nonprofit that aims to empower formerly incarcerated women, trans and nonbinary people through craft, community and collective healing. The pieces — bowls, plates and mugs that are safe for the oven, microwave and dishwasher — come in subtle glazes that run from breezy beach house to earthy mountain cabin. This 6.5-inch-diameter bowl was among the People’s Pottery offerings in the shop of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
$40-$80 | 👉 Purchase here
Yoshitomo Nara storage jar
There are the friends for whom you devote hours in the kitchen making exotic pickled figs or gourmet rhubarb and kumquat jam. And then there are the friends for whom you buy the cool jar. For the latter, may we recommend the small Yoshitomo Nara jars in the LACMA store. Do the recipient a favor and leave a note inside that says the Nara exhibition is on view at the museum through Jan. 2, and L.A. County residents can get in free weekdays after 3 p.m.
$28 | 👉 Purchase here
Vintage Hollywood Bowl street banners
They are a different kind of street art: colorful banners that once hung from light poles across the city. The L.A. Phil store sells a few versions, including 2014 banners with a cool abstraction of the Hollywood Bowl shell in a fun palette of ’90s hues. Each banner is 8 feet tall, 3 feet wide and double-sided. Buy two and you can have the complete design on the wall.
$45 per banner, $90 for the set | 👉 Purchase here
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‘Charles Ives: Complete Symphonies’
Joyous, spiritual, powerful, adventurous, wrenchingly emotional and inspirational. These were the words Times music critic Mark Swed used to describe rare performances of composer Charles Ives’ four symphonies by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2020. The Ives cycle was yet another sign of music and artistic director Gustavo Dudamel’s evolution into the world’s most important conductor, and now those concerts are available as a Deutsche Grammaphon recording. For the audiophile who hates the compressed quality of streaming music, the Ives is sold as a two-CD set through the L.A. Phil store.
$19.98 | 👉 Purchase here
La Brea Tar Pits mug
With the popular Academy Museum of Motion Pictures now open and the big dig underway next door at LACMA, there’s some newfound love for the old kid on the block: the La Brea Tar Pits. A plan to redesign the park and museum at the site will preserve the beloved tableau of a fiberglass mama mammoth slipping into the tar lake as its baby cries out. The old-school cool of the destination is captured in this saber-toothed cat mug that riffs off the California bear flag design. For someone on a paleo diet, perhaps?
$23 | 👉 Purchase here
Hello Kitty science pins
Breaking news! It’s a Hello Kitty exclusive: The California Science Center has the perfect pins for the STEM youngster with a soft side for cute. The kitty-that-isn’t-a-cat is depicted as a chemist holding an Erlenmeyer flask and test tube; as an astronaut in her space-walking white EVA suit or as an Endeavour pilot wearing her Advanced Crew Escape Suit for liftoff (with matching orange hair bow, of course), among other scenarios.
$9.99-$12.99 | 👉 Purchase here
Custom prints of the Huntington collection
Know someone who loves “The Blue Boy”? Then buy it. Maybe not Thomas Gainsborough’s original 18th century masterwork, which is owned by the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, but a copy. The museum’s store sells prints of artworks in the Huntington collection. For the botanical lover in your life, perhaps a lovely print of Emma Homan Thayer’s “Yellow Poppy,” painted circa 1887. Or a print of that famous boy in shimmering blue satin, which comes in four sizes.
$25-$125 | 👉 Purchase here
1930s Rockwell Kent ceramics
You could scour Etsy and EBay or you can head to the store of Craft Contemporary, formerly the Craft and Folk Art Museum of L.A. There you will find vintage Our America Ceramics by Rockwell Kent, one of the premier graphic artists of his era. Working for Vernon Kilns south of DTLA, Kent designed plates, bowls, cups and saucers that captured a sense of adventure in new frontiers as well as the emerging spirit of an industrializing nation — and the workers behind it. Our fave is a 1930s cup and saucer that brims with retro flavor.
$90 | 👉 Purchase here
The pitch is compelling: More than 60 tons of crayons are manufactured every day using petroleum-based wax, according to Crazy Crayons, which works with the National Crayon Recycling Program to turn unwanted crayons into new designs. Think dinosaurs, zoo animals and flowers in swirling hues, all available through Craft Contemporary. For budding artists, the rainbow of colors comes wrapped in a lesson that’s pure green.
$6 and up | 👉 Purchase here
Yayoi Kusama Infinity scarf
Why just step inside one of the artist’s Infinity Mirror Rooms when you can wear one? The Broad’s store has collaborated with the Yayoi Kusama Studio for some exclusive gifts, including this silk scarf that evokes many things — Christmas lights in soft focus, freeway traffic in glorious abstraction, not to mention Kusama’s immersive “The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away.”
$40 | 👉 Purchase here
Barbara Kruger ‘Untitled (Better Safe Than Sorry)’ mask
As we hurtle into the next phase of pandemic life, perhaps it’s time for a little Barbara Kruger? With a simple, familiar message emblazoned in bold red, Kruger delivers her signature blunt language and bold graphic design on a different kind of canvas: the face. It’s part of MOCA’s line of artist-designed masks that also includes pieces by Yoko Ono, Catherine Opie, Pipilotti Rist, Hank Willis Thomas and Alex Israel.
$28 | 👉 Purchase here
The Broad Dad cap
Give your pop some instant hip with a cap from the museum so cool, it doesn’t bother to spell out its full name on the hat. The Dad cap comes in white-on-black or black-on-black, both with adjustable snaps in the back. We love the heathered gray with a bold red B, available as a fitted cap in three sizes.
$28 | 👉 Purchase here
‘Los Angeles at Evening’ poster
Can a city come with a color palette? Julia Luke’s posters answer with a resounding yes. “Los Angeles at Evening” has no palm trees in silhouette, but its sherbet shades are unmistakably the sunset of our fair city. You’ll feel the same way about Luke’s “Los Angeles in the Morning,” “Los Angeles at Noon” and “Los Angeles at Night.” The posters — 14 inches by 22 inches — are limited-edition screen-printed pieces produced by the Hammer Museum Store.
$28 | 👉 Purchase here
Autry Hawaiian tote by Sig Zane
Hawaiian designer Sig Zane made this sturdy cotton tote specifically for an upcoming exhibition titled “Dress Codes” at the Autry Museum of the American West. The show is about the allure, history and significance of western wear, and Zane’s blue floral pattern carries some aloha wherever it goes. The back of the tote is emblazoned with the Autry logo, so you can remind passersby which gift shop sells it.
$29 | 👉 Purchase here
Medieval bird and blossom brooch
Art is not only in the lovely design of this delicate bird perched on a slender branch, it’s also in the process by which the 24-karat gold and enamel brooch was made. Lost-wax casting — the technique with which a single metal object is cast from a wax mold — dates back nearly 6,000 years. This refined piece of jewelry calls out for an equally refined scarf and was made exclusively for the Getty.
$55 | 👉 Purchase here
Athenian owl porcelain tray
This small black porcelain tray features a wide-eyed owl framed by olive branches, making it the perfect vessel for a mixed-olive appetizer served alongside a holiday cheese plate. The owl design — the symbol of Athens and a common motif on ancient coins, vases and jars — was inspired by a similar one on a jug in the Getty Villa collection.
$24.95 | 👉 Purchase here
Star Trek Command baby bib
You can’t resist the gravitational pull of this ridiculously cute baby bib, which features the bright golden design worn by Capt. Kirk in “Star Trek.” Trekkie parents will be amused by the gift even as a baby smothers it with Martian-red pasta sauce or alien-green avocado. It’s one of the offerings in the pop-up shop for the exhibition “Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds,” running through Feb. 20 at the Skirball Cultural Center.
$12 | 👉 Purchase here