It’s that time of year again! The weather’s gotten colder; lights are carelessly strung over bare tree branches. Christmas music emanates from storefronts, a gentle reminder that you should probably spend a lot of money there to make your friends and family happy.
And all this can only mean one thing: finals are approaching. As we enter reading period, most undergraduates will be bleary-eyed and hunched over under the weight of impending tests, papers and projects.
What’s one to do? Here’s a suggestion. To combat seasonal depression and stop thinking about your GPA, you should pop on over to the Yale Gift Shop, located in the Yale School of Art on Chapel Street.
But be warned: the Yale Gift Shop doesn’t feature run-of-the-mill sweaters or shirts with the University’s name plastered all over them. Instead, the items for sale are made by graduate students at the School of Art. This makes for an eclectic collection, to say the least — the stock includes “finger-sized dildos,” candles shaped to resemble Vladimir Lenin, thongs adorned with a portrait of Monique Atherton ART ’16 and pre-written-on college-ruled paper.
The shop is the brainchild of Allyn Hughes ART ’16, Tommy Coleman ART ’16 and Kate Ruggeri ART ’16. “All of us had an interest in object-making, and what [that] means as an artist,” Hughes explained. To be clear, though, the curators don’t consider the items featured in the shop to be Art.
“We were looking for objects you can find in a regular gift shop,” Hughes, the head curator, said. She explained that she and her co-curators had put out a call for submissions across the different disciplines — which include sculpture, graphic design, photography, painting and printmaking — in the School of Art.
“The object isn’t art exactly, but is evocative of something that would have been seen in a shop gallery,” Coleman added.
As such, the Yale Gift Shop is part store and part gallery; it seeks to comment on artists’ agency over their work and what happens after they’ve allowed their pieces to be shown in a more conventional manner. “All the artists have a lot of agency in terms of what they’re contributing, how they’re contributing and the pricing of their objects. Agency is important. We want the people to feel as if they have a say or an authority in making,” Hughes explained.
This concept lies at the heart of the Yale Gift Shop, which comments on the commercialization, duplication and consummation of art. “[The shop] takes an informal gallery setting and changes it to become a space of commerce organized by artists,” Coleman said.
Fittingly, all of the proceeds from the Yale Gift Shop go to the artists who created the items. At checkout, there’s also the option of donating money toward the installment of a gender-neutral bathroom in the School of Art.
The creation of the shop required a great deal of effort and spanned the different disciplines within the School of Art, and that effort shows. “I think in the School of Art, the work you create is mostly shared within your discipline. Opportunities to work together come rarely, and it’s kind of a shame; we all bring something different to the table.” Hughes noted.
To be perfectly frank about it, the Yale Gift Shop is hard to understand. It’s not entirely a shop, nor is it entirely a gallery. Rather, it’s an interactive — and intriguing — in-between. Overall, the collection is both novel and playful, while also asking essential questions about the ownership and commercialization of art.
And only at the Yale Gift Shop can you buy a temporary tattoo in the shape of a tear. I considered buying two for my chemistry exam, one for each cheek. Sadly, I didn’t have enough money on me at the time — but I’ll be back.