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21 Colorful Art and Architecture Gifts for Your Holiday Shopping List

From a Lego Louvre to a sticky-note pad homage to Piet Mondrian, arty gifts in every price range for everyone on your list.

(illustration by the author for Hyperallergic)
(illustration by the author for Hyperallergic)

Only a professional gift buyer could possibly find exactly the right gift for all those near and dear to them at the holidays, and even they would probably be off some seasons. For the rest of us, there are gift guides, and this one will do its best to lead you to artful, art-themed, and artist-made gifts for even the most hard-to-satisfy people on your list. And if you’re really at a loss — and our guide to great art books and Hyperallergic store don’t do the trick either — just remember: arty socks beat paperweights every time.

Places to Snag Stuff

If you’d rather buy your gifts IRL than online, kudos to you — you have nerves of steel and much better brick-and-mortar karma than us. For New Yorkers opting to find their gifts in the wild, there are plenty of pop-up holiday markets and fairs where local artists and designers are showing their wares.

A previous edition of the FAD Market at the Invisible Dog Art Center (via fadmarket.co)
A previous edition of the FAD Market at the Invisible Dog Art Center (via fadmarket.co)

The FAD Market (whose name stands for Fashion, Art, and Design) will pop up at the Invisible Dog and City Point in the coming weeks, proffering with everything from handmade jewelry, clothing, and art to artisanal foodstuffs, soaps, and furniture. In a similar vein, the BUST Craftacular will take over the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint (December 9 and 10) for a holiday market of its own. In addition to its many, many vendors, it will offer a vast range of workshops and tutorials. And, at the opposite end of Brooklyn, the Renegade Craft Fair will set up shop at Industry City (December 9, 10, 16, and 17) with a huge range of artisans selling art, pottery, accessories of every stripe and pattern, and more.

If a giant holiday market in an enormous venue with hundreds of people seems a little daunting, we feel you. Some of the city’s galleries are filling their spaces with more affordable artworks this month, offering more tightly curated and less overwhelming arrays. In Park Slope, Ground Floor Gallery has an exhibition with a self-explanatory title, Gifts By Artists (December 7–31), with works by more than 50 artists all priced at $100 or less. In Chelsea, Carter Burden Gallery is hosting a Holiday Bazaar, which will include a broad range of artworks and functional objects made by more than 40 artists.

$25 and Under

The Playmobil Milkmaid (via rijksmuseumshop.nl)
The Playmobil Milkmaid (via rijksmuseumshop.nl)

You probably figured your chance to give anyone a Vermeer as a gift was long gone, but happily the Rijksmuseum has created a Playmobil version of “The Milkmaid.” (~$5.85)

Though you may just want it for your own wrapping purposes, artist-designed wrapping paper would also make a nicely meta gift. Happily, Oklahoma City nonprofit The Curbside Chronicle has tasked local artists — including Flaming Lips lead singer Wayne Coyne — with creating original wrapping paper patterns, with proceeds helping the homeless. ($10–20)

If your New Year’s resolution for 2018 includes “getting out and exploring more,” an invaluable tool in that pursuit is the Concrete New York Map — edited by Hyperallergic’s own Allison Meier — which maps and provides information (and original photos by Jason Woods) about the city’s concrete architecture. (Blue Crow Media has other thematic architectural maps of other cities, too.) (~$10.50)

There are plenty of souvenirs out there distilling De Stijl, but these Piet Mondrian sticky note pads from the SFMOMA store are among the standouts. ($15)

"Guess the Artist: The Art Quiz Game" by Craig Redman and Karl Maier (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
“Guess the Artist: The Art Quiz Game” by Craig Redman and Karl Maier (photo by Allison Meier for Hyperallergic)

I consider myself pretty clever when it comes to art trivia, but I have to admit some of the cards in Craig & Karl’s Guess the Artist: The Art Quiz Game stumped me. If you’re looking for a gift to humble the dearest know-it-all in your life, this is it. ($19.99):

New York City’s streets and public spaces are overwhelmingly gendered male by the names they bear, from Frick and Rockefeller on down to Washington and Hudson. Rebecca Solnit’s City of Women poster reimagines the city, via the subway map, entirely renamed for its important women. ($21.95)

Brutalism is a much maligned architectural movement, and it seems that every few months another example meets the wrecking ball. But thanks to the book Brutal London: Construct Your Own Concrete Capital you can do your small part to replenish the world’s stock of Brutalist buildings. ($22.22)

If magazine subscriptions seem like a typically 20th-century gift, a Bone Box subscription — whereby a person receives a box every month containing an assortment of pristinely cleaned animal bones — seems somehow slightly arcane and very 21st century. ($24.99 per month for month-to-month subscription)

$26–100

Guerrilla Girls tote and gorilla mask (via thirddrawerdown.com)
Guerrilla Girls tote and gorilla mask (via thirddrawerdown.com)

Art tote bags are actually a dime a dozen, but how many of them also double as feminist activist artist costumes? Just one: this brilliant Guerrilla Girls tote. ($26.81)

Magnets and scale models of the Empire State Building or Statue of Liberty may do for distant relatives living far away, but the architecture and urbanism nerds in your life deserve better. Luckily, the Storefront for Art and Architecture recently commissioned an array of hyperlocal souvenirs based on features of the New York City streetscape, from iconic buildings to more noble elements like fire escapes and curbside trashcans. (prices vary)

Nothing says “I’m an art history nerd who’s fed up with the patriarchy” like Jenna Gribbon’s simple, bloody “Judith and Holofernes” T-shirt. ($30)

For the adventurous eater who will try anything, even sly aesthetic dupery, try serving up one of Bob Dornberger’s Snack-Rocks. ($35)

Do you miss the dodo, the black African rhino, and the endearing quagga? Keep the memory of these and other extinct animals close at hand thanks to this series of beautiful and functional commemorative plates. ($38 per plate; 10% of all sales goes to the Wildlife Conservation Network)

An umbrella is a great gift because it’s both extremely practical and has the potential to broadcast to all passersby something unique about the person carrying it. The New-York Historical Society smartly realized this and put the names and photos of women suffragists on its Votes for Women umbrella. ($38):

David's Marble Legs leggings (via rageon.com)
David’s Marble Legs leggings (via rageon.com)

Arty socks may be catching on, but I firmly believe that arty leggings are actually the next great art historical accessory, and for further proof of this we need look no further than these incredible leggings featuring the marble legs of Michelangelo’s David. ($42)

If the Playmobil “Milkmaid” (see above) is a bit too basic for your gift-giving purposes, why not offer the young art-lover in your life the Louvre Lego kit? (~$71)

Those opting for a more traditional type of holiday gift can do so while also paying homage to the established canon of modernist architecture thanks to this snow globe featuring Philip Johnson’s Glass House. ($75)

Over $100

Searching for something for that art history buff who also keeps their apartment spotless? Look no further than Edith Young’s poster featuring red color swatches for the red caps worn by figures in 20 Renaissance portraits. ($150)

Balloon Dog Lamp (via SFMOMA)
Balloon Dog Lamp (via SFMOMA)

Remember when Jeff Koons tried to claim exclusive ownership of any image of a balloon dog? He seems to have given up on that cartoon villain scheme, judging by the cute porcelain Balloon Dog Lamp available from the SFMOMA gift shop. ($150)

Just as experiential art is supplanting traditional objects on walls and pedestals, so classes, events, and other activities are increasingly popular gifts, and the League of Kitchens may be one of the most inventive and potentially powerful. Students get to attend an intimate cooking class in the kitchen of an immigrant chef in New York City. ($175)

Help your loved ones store all the other gifts they receive this season (well, at least a couple of them) by giving them artist Matt Richards’s miniature shipping crate sculpture. ($200)

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