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Photo by Nancy Todd
Chocolate Museum shop
Chocolate Museum shop
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Photo by Nancy Todd
Museum stores used to be afterthoughts, somewhere to buy a souvenir of a visit, or a cute piece of kitsch, but more and more they have proven to be important sources of revenue streams for cash-strapped institutions, as well as places where visitors can count on finding creative, out-of-the-ordinary items. A wide variety of such shops are found in Barcelona’s museums. Below are just a few, with lots of others waiting to be discovered.
For instance, how often is there a chance to have an archaeologist for a personal shopper? That’s what customers get at the Egyptian Museum’s store. Christian Mil, store manager and buyer, is also an archaeologist. With his discerning eye, he stocks the store with merchandise representing the museum’s collection, some of which he purchases in Egypt. This tranquil sliver of a store is an oasis from the noisy street. Stately sculptures are moulded from original Egyptian antiquities (€50 to €300). Cheaper than a burglar alarm, a sleek, bronze cat goddess sculpture will protect the home, according to Egyptian tradition. Tailored, geometric jewellery is replicated from old styles, but is surprisingly contemporary in design. Mil buys hand-made glass beads from an old man in Luxor and has them incorporated into sterling jewellery in Barcelona.
Stationery items are of fine quality. Pads, in desert tans, are decorated with hieroglyphics, and there is a King Tut metal pencil box. The store boasts the largest Egyptian book inventory in Spain, with books in several languages. Want to really impress that special someone? Book a trip for two on a cultural expedition down the Nile River on the School Boat. Lectures, archaeological sites and moonrises will be memories forever.
At the Joan Miró Foundation, two stores under one roof make for efficient shopping. Opened in 1975, the Foundation Book Store has approximately 20 percent of their 5,000 titles in English. Categories include interior design, photography, cinema, art history and books on Barcelona. A rare book, Cahier de Poems, written by Miró in 1937, contains individual pages with sepia-toned copies from his notebooks. This large book, a great gift for devoted (and well-heeled) Miró fans, is 18-inches high and fits in a ceramic case. Printed in a limited edition of five hundred, it sells for €520.
For those who have always craved a colourful Miró adorning the walls of their homes, there are dozens of striking choices. An original Miró lithograph can be bought for around €150,000. Considerably less expensive prints, with excellent colour quality, come in small to large sizes at €30. Kandinsky, Klee and Dalí prints are also available, as are numbered and signed engravings of contemporary Catalan artists.
The second Miró museum store pops with colour. Large windows bring natural light to display shelves of cobalt blue, yellow and red—colours Miró used extensively in his paintings. Similar to a mini-department store, there are gifts for all ages in all price ranges. Socks, clocks, candles, cava glasses, fans, finger puppets, briefcases and bracelets are all fun gifts. A set of four small coffee cups and saucers with vivid Miró designs would be a special house present. Miró, influenced by the Japanese, often used black to outline his work. A stunning place setting of white dinnerware with an abstract black design would add a lot to any table. Jewellery ranges from colourful and funky to elegant. A sleek volcanic-rock necklace and earrings set is surrounded by sterling silver. If your refrigerator calls for more magnets, these bestsellers are a bargain at €2.50.
Chocolate is one of the basic food groups in Spain. The sophisticated Chocolate Museum is a chocolate lover’s lair. Only eight years old, it was founded by the Pastisseria Trade Union Association of Barcelona. Barcelona’s long history with chocolate goes back to the 16th century when chocolate sailed into Barcelona’s harbour on ships, to be distributed throughout Europe. Originally a convent, then an office for the military, the museum has dramatic vaulted ceilings. Friendly sales people are well-informed about the nuances of chocolate and its history. This store is unusual in that chocolate, food and gifts are combined with a café. So while drinking syrupy, dark, hot chocolate, made fresh daily, visitors can meander about and consider the perfect presents for loved ones.
Small chocolates, with their ruffly paper nests, line up in perfect order. Other delicious treats twist and swirl. For example: chocolate-orange marmalade, chocolate liquors, and—move over Rioja—chocolate wine! Silver foil-covered chocolate sardines are sold in a tin with a peel back lid. Almonds that look like rocks or chocolate lollipops will delight kids of all ages. The hottest seller is a large, melt-in-your-mouth bar for €2.35. A small collection of books are for sale in Catalan and Spanish. Jewellery is finely crafted with gold cocoa beans surrounded by carnelian and jade. Dark brown, snuggly teddy bears and miniature ceramic trucks hauling cocoa beans are also enticing.
Giving a birthday party? Alicia Roger, manager of the store, said that tastings are always popular. These special gatherings are cava-and-chocolate parties. Guests are taught how different types of chocolate enhance various wines and cavas. Who needs a birthday cake with that menu? School groups and children’s parties are also popular, as kids receive a guided tour of the museum and make chocolate candy at €6.50 per child. It’s not all fun and games—corporate team building with chocolate happens when businesses have their meetings in the museum store, according to Roger.
Surprises always await at the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB), and their gift store is also full of twists. The Centre is known for its diversity in lectures, festivals, concerts, films and artistic research. This diversity is represented in their 8,000–10,000 book titles, 25 percent of which are in English. The shop is a branch of Laie bookshop, and categories of titles include social commentary, film, architecture and graphic design. Books on philosophy are among the bestsellers and special orders are welcomed, according to store manager Damia Gallardo. His passion for books is evident throughout the shop, and he confessed, “It’s heaven and hell to work here. I am my own best customer!”
Wacky gifts also abound, such as finger puppets of Charles Dickens, Nelson Mandela, James Joyce and Gustav Klimt. A vase on which a message can be written in chalk, in case the flowers don’t speak for themselves. Penguins prance in a snow globe, which seems the perfect place for them.
Gifts bought in museum stores can even mean savings. Many offer a five-percent discount with a library card, and up to 10 percent off for museum members. The shops can be visited without paying the museum’s entrance fee, and they’re open on Sundays and holidays.
Shopping and supporting the arts at the same time. Who could ask for more?
Egyptian Museum, Valencia 28; Tel. 93 488 0188; Mon-Sat 10am-8pm; Sun 10am-2pm
Joan Miró Foundation, Avda. Miramar; Tel. 93 443 9470; Tue, Wed, Fri and Sat 10am-7pm, Thurs 10am-8.30pm Sun and holidays, 10am-2.30pm
The Chocolate Museum, Comerc 36; Tel. 93 268 7878; Mon-Sat 10am-7pm Sun and holidays, 10am-3pm closed Mon
Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB), Montalegre 5; Tel. 93 306 4100 Open every day, 10.30am-8.30pm