Gallery Shops History
The mission of The Gallery Shops is to support the collection, exhibitions, research, educational programs, and events at the National Gallery of Art, helping to make possible its objective of outreach and service to the public. The Gallery Shops are an NGA tradition and have existed for more than 70 years. Prior to the Gallery’s opening in 1941, the Board of Trustees adopted a resolution approving a plan for a Publications Fund. The Fund’s sole purpose was to ensure that high quality catalogues, handbooks, color reproductions, postcards, and similar materials be made available to the public at a modest cost. Shop space was originally only in the West Building, but in 1978 when the East Building opened The Gallery Shops expanded to offer merchandise in three locations: the main gift shop on the West Building ground floor, and the bookstore and children’s shop in the Concourse near the cascade waterfall. The Gallery Shops offer exclusive reproductions and adaptations from the collection in the locations within the museum and online. Extensive consultations with curators, archivists, designers, and specialty vendors are the first step in The Gallery Shops’ production process. The creative team pays particular attention to the quality of reproduction and to the accuracy of art historical details and scholarship. Just as important is the educational relevance with regard to the Gallery’s mission to bring awareness of the collection to the widest possible global audience. The merchandise group also reviews works by thousands of publishers, craftspeople, designers, and other cultural institutions to purchase items for The Gallery Shops.
These pieces are unique in their artistic beauty, inspired in their creative potential to educate, and pertinent to the distinguished Gallery collections and works loaned for special exhibitions. Over the years various items have been offered for sale in the Shops, including scholarly monographs, sculptures, recordings, color slides, jewelry, art supplies, textiles, accessories, children’s educational materials, and various forms of printed reproductions. In 1945 Masterpieces of Painting from the National Gallery of Art, the most ambitious project of the Publications Fund at that time, was published. It has been updated and reprinted numerous times. Since then, the Gallery’s award-winning publishing program has produced numerous works that offer greater understanding of the Gallery’s collections and exhibitions through the diverse insights of its curators, conservators, educators, and resident scholars. Several publications are produced each year by the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA). Founded in 1979, CASVA is a research institute that fosters study of the production of and cultural meaning of art, architecture, and film worldwide. The Gallery’s conservation division also publishes a biennial journal, Facture, which highlights the Gallery’s permanent collection. Visit the approximately 7,500 square feet of Gallery Shops space to find high quality, unique souvenirs of your visit or meaningful art-related gifts for your family and friends.