The London museum is reworking a present store right into a grocery store promoting merchandise designed by artists


Touching works of art is strictly forbidden in most museums, let alone buying them and taking them home. But the Design Museum in London wants visitors to do just that.

It has redesigned its gift shop to create a “world’s first artist-designed supermarket” to bypass coronavirus lockdown rules.

According to the government’s plan to ease restrictions, museums in England must not close until May 17 at the earliest, even if gyms, hair salons and pubs have reopened.

But the West London Museum avoided weeks of further closings by converting its gift shop into a store selling essential items.

Products – from rice and coffee to the most modern face masks – are packaged in packaging designed by 10 emerging artists.

The proceeds from the exhibition, which runs until Sunday with financial support from the gin company Bombay Sapphire, will go to a fund for artists and designers.

Pictures of empty shelves and shortages of toilet paper and pasta in supermarkets marked the start of the pandemic in the UK last March.

But the Design Museum’s shop and its products are anything but banal: clear lines made of colorful glasses and cans are neatly arranged on the shelves without anything being out of place.

What is important?

Museum director Tim Marlow said the exhibit challenged the nature of what is considered essential in everyday life.

The so-called non-essential retail trade reopened in England on April 12th.

“Isn’t creativity important? We’re in a store that is actually a work of art. You can see this flattened pattern or canvas from the street, but once inside the experience is completely different,” he said.

“You can buy essential groceries at competitive prices. It’s about who benefits, who finances, and so much culture exchanges.

“There is a fun element, a questioning and critical element, and a culturally serious element.

“We’re amused that non-essential stores, gyms and hairdressers can open and museums have to wait until May 17th, but it is what it is.”

The Design Museum lost 92% of its income due to forced closings, but received a government grant of nearly £ 3 million (RM 17 million) last year to help it stay afloat.

And Marlow believes the cultural sector has an important role to play in adapting to the realities of the post-pandemic world.

“We did it in two months – it’s pretty quick and requires a lot of agility,” he said.

“I want to reaffirm the relevance of museums. We’re not just about spectacles. It’s about presenting and researching solutions to the problems following the pandemic.”

Joyful exhibition

Main artist Camille Walala embodied the brightness of the overhauled store with large blue earrings, brightly colored clothing, and thick yellow, red, and blue bangles.

She said of the project: “Budgets are being cut in the creative industry, but creativity is everywhere. Creativity is essential and provides (the exhibition) with creative people a platform to showcase their work.

“It’s a nice platform that brings artwork into everyday products. People will buy it and keep it as an affordable work of art. It’s a really nice way of displaying art.

“People should come because it’s exciting to get out of the house, see art and get inspiration – it’s a joyful exhibition.”

Your message seems to have been captured by Peter Williamson (64), who peered through the window for an early glimpse of the exhibition.

“I walk by every day and was intrigued when they went to the wrong store. I think it’s great that the elements of the old supermarket are installed in a very modern display,” he said.

“I love the installation of the cart stand. When I look through the windows, I find it looks brilliant and exciting.” – AFP