The museum shop is usually an afterthought, a place visitors pop into after taking in exhibitions.
Gallery & Co, which opens in November at National Gallery Singapore, aims to change that.
The multi-concept shop hopes to entice gallery visitors to stay on after browsing the artworks, with two eateries, shopping and programmes such as art workshops and exhibitions.
The 8,800 sq ft space comprises a cafe, cafeteria and a multi-label retail shop that sells gallery merchandise and an eclectic range of books, apparel, homeware and stationery, all with a strong South-east Asian focus.
The shop is owned by the National Gallery and lifestyle and design collective, & Co, which is founded by hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng of the Unlisted Collection group, creative directors of design firm Foreign Policy Design Yah-Leng Yu and Arthur Chin, and Mr Alwyn Chong, managing director of cosmetics and fragrance distributor Luxasia.
Gallery & Co will span the first level of the gallery’s City Hall wing, which faces the Padang. The retail space, which has sections for books, fashion and kids, will be seamlessly integrated with the dining areas.
Mr Chin, 45, hopes that Gallery & Co can be a vibrant gathering point for the gallery’s visitors.
He says: “We felt a national calling to re-interpret the museum-going experience by making the space fun, accessible and relevant for locals and tourists.”
Ms Chong Siak Ching, chief executive officer of National Gallery Singapore, says: “We wanted to create a distinctive dining and retail experience that relates to the Gallery’s unique visitor experience philosophy, so that visitors can enjoy a seamless experience as they extend their art journey into Gallery & Co.”
To encourage visitors to hang out in the shop, there will be regular pop-up exhibitions and workshops, to be conducted by artists whose products are sold in the shop.
The shop has a free-flowing design that incorporates the cafeteria in between the shop’s retail zones. The cafeteria, with 75 seats indoors and 45 seats outdoors, will serve modern South-east Asian cuisine in its menu of salads, soups, sandwiches and stews.
Some dishes with local flavours include quinoa with chicken rendang, tandoori chicken salad and a sirap limau (lime-flavoured) slushie.
Its bar will serve “locally inspired cocktails”. The menu will be crafted by executive chef Sufian Zain from Restaurant Ember, which serves modern European fare.
The menu will change regularly to reflect the themes of the gallery’s exhibitions. For example, if there is an exhibition on Filipino art, adobo (a tangy stew) can be included in the menu. Prices of a main course and drink range from $10 to $25.
The cafe, with 50 outdoor seats, will offer cakes, snacks and coffee. Besides eating, visitors can also browse in the multi- label store that will stock 60 to 80 local and international brands.
Some products include solar-powered watches featuring the gallery’s architectural designs with Japanese watch-maker Smile Q&Q, and scarves and cushion throws with prints by home-grown design label Matter. The product line-up will change four times a year.
Mr Chong says: “Museum shops are usually static, but we want people to look at art from different perspectives and stimulate their creativity through a sensorial shopping experience.”
There will be a section selling National Gallery merchandise – 50 to 60 products inspired by the gallery’s architecture.
Items range from tote bags bearing designs of art deco tiles to umbrellas designed to look like the majestic rotunda design of the former Supreme Court’s dome.
Mr Chin says: “Through these products, we hope that customers can have a better appreciation of good design and take pride in the National Gallery, which is one of our cultural institutions, just like how New Yorkers are proud of the Museum of Modern Art.”