Ever wanted a cool T-shirt with pioneer Malaysian artist Anthony Lau’s classic Wild Bull (1962) stone sculpture printed on it? Try the National Art Gallery in KL, you will be surprised by its range of art-related apparel, exhibition catalogues, wall art, stationery, and more.
If you are lucky enough, there might still be stocks left of the limited edition set of stamps issued by Pos Malaysia to mark the 60th anniversary of the National Art Gallery this year.
And you keep hearing about Sabah printmaking collective Pangrok Sulap, but have no idea where to find its handmade woodcut prints. The well-curated Ilham Gallery gift shop is the place to sort you out.
Cartoonist Datuk Lat, we hear, is also quite a star at the Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery museum shop, with an exclusive range of Lat merchandise available (sketchbooks to tote bags).
In so many ways, there is no reason to limit your holiday season shopping to mainstream malls. If art, culture and finding unique gifts are your thing, then these four museum and art gallery gift shops in KL might just be your new favourite hang-outs.
National Art Gallery gift shop bus (artgallery.gov.my)
The National Art Gallery (NAG) isn’t too conventional when it comes to gift shops. That’s a good thing. If you look right across the main entrance of NAG, you will spot a bright red bus parked on the kerb. This refurbished bus has been converted into the NAG gift shop, which opened late-2017.
This “shop-in-a-bus” is the perfect place to seek out an exclusive NAG gift for that hard-to-please friend or to find something to brighten your own home.
There is a range of T-shirts, postcards, bags, posters and mugs that feature art from the gallery’s permanent collection, with a focus on Malaysian artists, including Anthony Lau, Khairul Azmir Soob (who goes by Meme), Romli Mahmud and Tan Wei Kheng, among others.
If you missed out on past art exhibits at the NAG, don’t worry. The shelves on the bus are filled with NAG exhibition catalogues and special publications.
A limited edition set of six stamps, issued by Pos Malaysia, to mark NAG’s 60th anniversary is another highlight. The stamp series features artists Yee I-Lann, Mustafa Haji Ibrahim, Sharul Anuar Shaari, Dzulkifli Buyong, Mohd Sallehuddin and colonial-era British artist William Samwell.
What’s new this month? The gift shop aims to be more craft-centric, so expect a brand-new selection of ceramic products and craft items from the Young Art Entrepreneurs programme which has run throughout the year at NAG.
Ilham Gallery gift shop (ilhamgallery.com)
The Ilham Gallery gift shop carries a thoughtful selection of artwork, ceramics, glass, jewellery, clothing, and more, made by diverse Malaysian artists, designers and artisans.
Its strong local flavour includes products that incorporate traditional craft such as weaving, and also other artistic techniques such as woodcut prints, sketching and jewellery-making.
This is one of the few places in KL where you can get baskets woven by the Lun Bawang women from the Ba’Kelalan highlands of Sarawak. Woven by hand, the baskets are fashioned out of plastic strips and trimmed with rattan harvested from the rainforests.
Colourful stools from The Malaysian Association of the Blind add some cheer to the collection. These stools are from the Malaysian Association of the Blind’s woodwork section, where the blind learn skills that can help them gain income.
Find gifts for any occasion, including puzzles, whimsical games and storybooks for children, and beautiful notecards.
Take your time to browse the collection of exhibition catalogues and books, including poetry, and titles on local history, and contemporary art. There is also an affordable, localised version of the Latiff Mohidin: Pago Pago (1960–1969) exhibition catalogue which is well worth the investigation.
Still, it is so much more than just gifts and souvenirs at the Ilham Gallery gift shop; it is also a place to have a cup of coffee and a slice of cake, or to attend workshops.
On Dec 8, there will be a rubber stamp carving workshop held in conjunction with Christmas. Aimed at beginners, you will learn about stamp-making design principles, image transfer, carving tips and techniques.
Bank Negara Malaysia Museum & Art Gallery museum shop (museumbnm.gov.my)
The Seni Cetakan: Seni Sepanjang Zaman (The Art Of Printmaking: Lasting Impressions) exhibition at Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery is definitely one of highlights of the year, and you can expect to pick up a series of collectibles from this exhibition.
Veteran artist Long Thien Shih’s Paris-era work Dead Souls Are Laughing At Us (etching, 1974) – on a tote bag or on a sketchbook – is most recommended.
From tote bags, mugs and sketchbooks produced exclusively for this museum shop. the Seni Cetakan exhibit did have loads of fun merchandise to reintroduce the masses to the cream of Malaysia’s printmakers.
Cartoonist Datuk Lat’s Bank Negara-related merchandise will also leave a smile on your face.
If you are looking for souvenirs that clearly have Bank Negara written all over it, you will be spoilt for choice with its keychains that take a page out of history books: the Five Charms keychains feature parts of banknotes, and come with an info card on how to identity real banknotes.
Elsewhere, the Balemark Series keychains are inspired by the copper coin currency issued in 1787 by the British after the empire set up a settlement in Penang. On one side is the Balemark of the British East India Company, and the other has an Arabic inscription which translates to “Prince of Wales Island”.
Last but not least, there is a pewter replica of a kijang coin, plated with 24-carat gold, available at the shop. Folklore has it that a 14th century queen of Kelantan was so fond of her pet kijang that she had coins minted with the kijang inscribed on one side.
This barking deer found in the jungles of Malaysia found its way into the state crest of Kelantan in 1916. Bank Negara adopted its official logo and seal of the kijang in 1964.
Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia museum shop (iamm.org.my)
The Museum Shop, located on the ground floor of the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, offers a wide selection of Islamic crafts and artefacts from around the world, from South-East Asian woodwork to intricate jewellery from the Middle East.
The focus here is on the creative arts in the Islamic world, and for something truly unique, check out the range of products developed exclusively by IAMM’s in-house graphic designers.
These stationery, household items, textile products, home decor and other accessories and souvenirs, incorporate design elements that are based on artefacts from the museum’s collection, so you can be sure there is a story behind each item.
Highlights include the Iznik pattern rice bowls, Orientalist paintings and contemporary Islamic calligraphy on tiles. The tiles borrow from the works of artists such as Fuad Kouchi Honda from Japan and Haji Noor Deen Mi Guan Jiang from China, paintings which have been displayed during special exhibitions at the IAMM.
To feed the mind as well as the soul, there are books on art and the Islamic world at the Museum Shop too. There is a children’s section in this shop, where books, puzzles and other educational material emphasising Islamic knowledge and good manners are housed.
Don’t forget to pick up IAMM’s classic souvenir T-shirt with Arabic alphabets on it.