Christmas gifts from your local museum

If through happenstance or procrastination you’re faced with last-minute Christmas shopping, Culture Monster brings tidings of comfort and joy: You can do it at a museum store, getting a jump start on the peace-on-Earth payoff to this hectic season by enjoying a calming hour or two in the galleries before getting down to the spending at hand.

Museum gift guide: An article in the Dec. 22 Calendar section about gift suggestions from local museum shops identified Cim Castellon as assistant vice president of marketing at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Her title is assistant vice president of merchandising. —

We asked the shop managers at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, the Getty Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County for popular sellers for all budgets.

Bowers Museum

Devoted to world cultures, the museum is known especially for its exhibitions on Chinese art and history. Pauline Rusterholtz, the director of retail sales, points to a luxury item from the days when Chinese barbers paid house calls, toting their scissors, razors and lotions in a portable stool with drawers. The lavishly painted, 16-inch replica stools go for $190. From Vietnam, for $50, comes a red lacquered jewelry box adorned with fishes made from the shells of duck eggs. If you have revolutionaries or history buffs on your list, for $12.95 you can stuff their stockings with 5-inch Ben Franklin action figures, newly arrived in conjunction with the Bowers’ exhibition " Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World.”

2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana. Open 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Wednesday-Friday. (714) 567-3600,


Natural History Museum

Trino Marquez, store director for the Natural History Museum and its sister Page Museum, says visitors have been eagerly buying up junk and poop — really old junk and poop. Junkyard Critters, dinosaur and insect figures that a craftsman in Vietnam assembles from discarded bicycle and motorcycle parts, sell for $9.99 to $119.99. The $59.99 T. rex is the one in peak demand. Also hot is Monopoly: Dinosaur Edition, $39.99, in which the object isn’t to build properties into hotels but to acquire fossil beds and unearth valuable species. At $9.99, “Dino Poop” is a book that will teach its recipient the science of coprolites, the paleontological term for fossilized doo-doo. It comes with a packet of the subject matter. Marquez, skeptical that anything could still smell after 65 million years or more, says he visited the lab where curators are preparing exhibits that will open in July in the museum’s new Dinosaur Hall. He learned the hard way that if you just add water, you can raise quite a stink from the extinct.

900 Exposition Blvd., L.A. Open 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m Wednesday-Friday; (213) 763-3466, Museum at La Brea Tar Pits, 5801 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. Open same hours. (323) 934-7423.

J. Paul Getty Museum

If your giftees prefer a touch of the sublime, the Getty has custom-made apparel patterned after two of the highlights of its collection: the Irises scarf, $65, from Van Gogh’s famed 1889 painting of the flowers, and the Degas silk shawl, $125, whose colors derive from the material being used by the two hat-makers in Edgar Degas’ painting, “The Milliners.”

For stocking stuffers, there’s an item that any quake-conscious citizen would appreciate: the $8.95 Hand-Cranked Flashlight, which Susan DeLand, the Getty’s head of retail and merchandise development, attests will shine for 20 minutes if you crank it for 60 seconds and will help find your way in the dark after just a few seconds’ winding. The same merchandise is on sale at the Getty Villa.

1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades. Same hours. (310) 440-7330.


The Los Angeles County Museum of Art also offers gifts based on its artists and artworks. For the “Friday Night Lights” fan on your list, a limited edition, signed print of Catherine Opie’s photograph “Crenshaw High School Marching Band, 2007" provides a slice of high school half-time pageantry for $300. Cim Castellon, LACMA’s assistant vice president of marketing, says the museum kicks 10% of the proceeds to the titular band program.

A gift that’s merry and bright would be the Urban Light Tote Bag, $28, or the Urban Light Umbrella, $48, which let you carry around a reminder of the landmark forest of old-fashioned streetlights that artist Chris Burden planted outside the museum. Need a stocking-stuffer for a mistake-prone friend or loved one? The right gift could be the Wrong Eraser for $5.95. It’s inspired by a late-1960s picture by John Baldessari that’s in LACMA’s collection in which a photo image that violates conventions of correct composition carries a one-word caption, “Wrong.”

5905 Wilshire Blvd. L.A. Closed Wednesdays; the museum and gift shop will be open noon-8 p.m. Thursday and noon-5 p.m. Friday. (323) 857-6000,


Lots of shoppers have been accessorizing their tech gear, says MOCA director of retail operations Grant Breding. Hot items include a scrawl-patterned iPhone case by street artist Jose Parla, $49.95; and C.R. Stecyk III’s $59.95 MacBook case, which shows a skater dude in flight. Coffee drinkers can imbibe in style with a $20 oversized Andy Warhol “Campbell’s Soup” mug. One of rock ‘n’ roll’s great kitsch items, the “Energy Dome” — a red, flower-pot-like helmet that’s been part of Devo’s stagewear and iconography for 30 years — can be had for $32, or $100 signed by the five band members. Devo’s groundbreaking music videos are on view in the current exhibition “The Artist’s Museum.”

For $8 to $12, MOCA offers a whole bunch of stocking stuffers — cheery pins, buttons, key chains — designed by Pop artist Takashi Murakami. “They make you happy, and it’s art,” says Breding, pithily summing up the whole point of shopping at a museum.

250 S. Grand Ave., L.A. open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday (store hours 10:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.) and 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. Friday (store hours 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.). (213) 621-1710. Geffen Contemporary, 152 N. Central Ave. Museum and store open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday. (213) 621-1745. Both locations closed Tuesdays-Wednesdays.