Businesses are collaborating with museums to create pieces inspired by fine art that you can add to your décor.
When you visit a museum exhibit, you might be so taken by an item — a striking textile, say, or a cool artwork — that you’d love to actually own it.
Museums are feeling you. Many have robust licensing programs with design firms and manufacturers to reproduce patterns or use artifacts as inspiration for new designs.
Cultural institutions see these partnerships as a way to broaden their exposure and fund ongoing work. Home decorators appreciate the opportunity to incorporate items that are often imbued with historical or cultural provenance.
Gilbert Baker’s 1978 “Rainbow Flag,” which has become a symbol of the gay pride movement, recently became not only part of New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection, but part of its gift shop collection.
Imagery from Roy Lichtenstein’s 1983 “Green Street Mural” and 1967’s “Modern Painting with Bolt” appear on scarves. A watch features detail from one of Jackson Pollock’s last paintings, 1954’s “White Light.”
MoMA has the U.S. rights to distribute a set of home accessories featuring artwork by Rene Magritte; a collection of melamine plates using the images is at Fab.com.
In 2014, MoMA teamed with Uniqlo to showcase the work of artists such as Warhol, Basquiat, Mondrian and Haring, and that program continues.
“It’s one of the first times we’ve licensed artwork from our collection to be used on apparel and accessories,” says MoMA spokesperson Ruth Shapiro. Museum curators work closely with Uniqlo, she says, selecting themes and approving products and packaging.
The Museum of New Mexico, which is composed of four institutions, including the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture and Museum of International Folk Art, has license arrangements with several home furnishings companies.
“Because so much of our material is culturally based, we ask our licensees not to ‘reproduce’ any given material, but instead to find inspiration in it and adapt it in such a way that the elements of the original piece are evident, but a new work of art or form is created,” says
Pamela Kelly, spokesperson for the Museum Foundation.
Last spring, Atlanta rug maker Jaipur Living was inspired by the Museum of New Mexico’s extensive Kuba cloth collection.
“These fantastic, graphically rich patterns were interpreted by our designers and then made into rugs using sustainable fibers,” says Jaipur’s president, Asha Chaudhary.
Hickory Chair Furniture has licensing deals with the Museum of New Mexico and with Winterthur, the former Delaware home of Henry Francis DuPont that’s now a museum of decorative arts. Hickory’s collection includes the elegant Alexander sofa, adapted from a design found in a
Thomas Sheraton book in the home’s library, and a dining table with chinoiserie motifs drawn from a wall covering.
“The true essence of the designs would be lacking without the insight gleaned from working directly with the Museum,” says company spokesman Skip Rumley.