tag Sign Up for our Newsletter
Site Logo
Don’t miss out on the art world’s most entertaining newsletter - every Friday. And career news every Tuesday.
Become a members
8 (More) Arty Gifts for the Impossible to Shop For
Something for your top clients from the gallery who you’ve gone out to dinner with a couple times....
Art Stuff 19 Dec 2018

December is in full swing, which means Sagittarius season, frozen fingers, roaring fires, and gifts, gifts and more gifts. Now that the rise of online shopping has put an end to that cherished Christmas tradition, elbowing your way through an overcrowded Macy’s on December 23rd, we still get to live out the same frustration, but in the comfort of our own homes.
Before, holiday shopping stirred up nightmares of overzealous suburban mom snagging the last Fujifilm Polaroid from right under your nose at Urban Outfitters while you fight off an oncoming migraine from the fluorescent lighting; instead, you now get whole afternoons filled with endless scrolling through Amazon, sixty-five tabs open and closer to mental breakdown than checking anyone off your list. Never in the history of humankind has a crueler phrase than “Out of Stock” been invented.
Or maybe it’s December 20 and you’re cursing yourself for standing firm against the Cyber Monday online shopping tsunami. You could’ve gotten all your gifts in one fell swoop like every other human on this planet, but no. As an anti-capitalist stunt (and, let’s be real, a thinly veiled cry for social media attention), you loudly decided to boycott. Now you’re stuck with your finger hovering over the express shipping button, paralyzed and unable to take the plunge. Guess $39 is the price for taking the moral highroad.
You’re seriously missing the days when you could just scribble some crayon nonsense on a piece of paper and write “Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad” above the mess, knowing in the back of your toddler mind that no matter what you do, to them, you’ll always be the next Cy Twombly. Unfortunately, now all your friends have advanced degrees in art history and slightly more discerning taste.
But this year, you’re in luck. We’ve already brought you 20 gift ideas for art lovers in your life, but since we’re feeling extra generous (or maybe it’s the mulled wine…) here’s another eight. This time, we focused on the the notoriously hard to shop for, like your aunt with super niche tastes, your top clients from the gallery who you’ve gone out to dinner with a couple times, or that girl from work that you’re in murky, past-work-friends-but-not-quite-good-friends territory with.

For the activist intellectual

The gift: Whitewalling: Art, Race & Protest in 3 Acts by Aruna D’Souza (2018) ($13)
This timely and necessary new book by acclaimed art, feminism and politics writer Aruna D’Souza examines three incidents in the last 50 years when museums flagrantly excluded work by artists of color, inspiring eruptions of public protest. Guaranteed to get your neurons firing and your blood boiling.
Works best for: art history professors, any friend you’ve heard refer to themself as an “intellectual,” all the artists/activists in your life, or anyone engaged with race issues in the art world. Doesn’t work so well for your racist great grandma, board members or family of board members of the museums called out (Whitney, New York Artists Space and the Met), or anyone you’ve never seen holding a book. Although admittedly, it’s hard to tell who’s literate these days with all the audiobooks, e-books and Kindle versions floating around out there. Not to mention all the pseudointellectual posers on the L Train clutching pristine copies of Schopenhauer.

For the architect or the doodler

The gift: a very good set of sketching pencils, and/or the perfect sketchbook or journal
Yawn all you want, but as vanilla as they are, graphite pencils are the holy grail of art world gifts, and I’ll explain why. For starters, they’re wonderfully versatile. If nothing else, no one is ever not rummaging through their bag for a pencil. Plus, in the art world, graphite pencils are what baking soda is in the kitchen: always necessary and never on hand when you need them most. So while I’m not suggesting you dump baking soda in your baby niece’s stocking, a high-quality set of drawing pencils demonstrates a very practical kind of thoughtfulness.
And if you’re worried about coming across as a little bland, remember: in gifts as in life, sometimes it’s best not to send strong messages. Do you really want to go out on a limb and get a risky personalized gift for all your coworkers, only to have them think that you’re either in love with them or have no social life and way too much time on your hands? Probably not. But as the kind and giving soul you are, you probably still want to get them a little something. Enter: drawing pencils.
And the cherry on top? Unlike other acquaintance gifts, like sweaters (Fitted or oversized? Will she think it’s weird if it’s thrifted? Does she like yellow?? Do vegans wear cashmere??? Cue panic attack) or bath products (Wait… does she even own a bathtub?), drawing pencils require no personalization. Check and mate.
For a casual friend or acquaintance, a great set of drawing pencils will do just fine. But if you’re looking for something a bit more robust, drawing pencils and a sketchbook are a no-brainer duo. A trusty journal is indispensible for any artist, so you really can’t go wrong with one as a stand-alone gift, either.
Works best for: Architects and avid doodlers, but also literally anyone, except for maybe your innermost circle—think parents, best friends for 10+ years and anyone you’ve been naked with in the past three months.
Imagine: Thanks for the avant-garde glass sculpture that I know cost you a month’s salary! Here’s… a really nice set of drawing pencils. Awkward.
Other than that, pretty much everyone in the art world sketches, has thought about sketching or really wants to start sketching but has been waiting for the perfect set of pencils to come into their life… which is where you come in.
We love:
For the sketching snob: Prismacolor ($21 for set of 18)
For the beginner: Staedtler ($14 for set of 12)
For the traditionalist: Moleskin Art Plus Sketchbook ($15)
For someone with a lot of ideas: Art Alternatives Very Big Sketchbook ($35)
For the artist on the move: any Muji notebook
When it comes to most things, Muji can do no wrong. Their notebooks contain such perfectly buttery paper that only angels should be allowed to write on them, bound into every imaginable shape and size, lined or unlined, you name it. They even made taking notes in my college Macroeconomics class a joy.

For your friend who needs to calm the fuck down 99% of the time

The gift: an adult coloring book. By working in an elementary school for a year, I learned that coloring is the universe’s gift to teachers faced with a classroom of little kids hyped on a diet of sugar and Fortnite. Instead of losing your mind and your voice screaming and shushing, just whip out the markets and boom—instant Zen. Well, the same sneaky technique works for adults.
Works best for: You know that friend that you only see for coffee twice a year (and God knows she doesn’t need more caffeine in her system)? The one that sends you a Google Cal invite to confirm the hang, which lasts exactly 35 minutes, minus the 13 that she spend on the phone with a Very Important Client? You could call her out for being a workaholic, a bad friend, lecture her on the importance of self-care, demand she reevaluate her priorities and make space for the people in her life… or, you could take the path of least resistance and… get her an adult coloring book.
Especially if she works in the art world, she probably has vast reservoirs of dormant creativity frozen under the surface of her type-A shell—reservoirs begging to be unleashed on a farting animals coloring book.
Will she actually use it? Chances are, yes. Coloring is fairly low-maintenance; it doesn’t take a big commitment of time or energy, and it can even be done on autopilot, while on hold with investors, for example. At the same time, it’s proven to be calming, so you can sneak some mindfulness into her life through the back door, so to speak. And don’t forget that adult coloring books are usually hilarious, making them the perfect haha-I’m-totally-joking-isn’t-this-a great-gag-gift-but-seriously-you-need-to-calm-down-so-you-don’t-have-a-heart-attack-by-age-45 gift.
We love:
For the one who knows she has a problem: Calm the F*ck Down: An Irreverent Adult Coloring Book ($4)
For the one who loves South Park and Family Guy humor: Cat Butt: An Off-Color Adult Coloring Book for Cat Lovers ($6)

For the one that really wants a pet but lives in a shoebox on an island made of concrete

The gift: Better Living With Alpacas Calendar 2019 by Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek ($15)
If we ever meet at a party, chances are we’ll end up on the fire escape, hashing out philosophical theories about truth, beauty and everything in between. By the time the vodka is gone and everyone starts piling naked into the bathtub for an impromptu photo shoot, we’ll have agreed that there’s no such thing as absolute truth, definitely not in art but probably not in life either, and our job as human beings is to blunder around this trippy planet until each one of us finds a relative truth that we can live with without our brains exploding.
All this might sound devastatingly sexy delivered with artfully tousled bedhead and a French exhale, but it’s not strictly true. I’ve stumbled on exactly one great piece of universal truth so far in my life, and it’s this: alpacas make everyone in their vicinity 300% happier. Take that, string theorists.
Clearly, photographer Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek is also privy to this esoteric knowledge, because he has created a delightfully kitschy calendar filled with alpacas.
Works best for: anyone who would grasp the association between specific months and different pictures of alpacas. Or, anyone who your intuition is telling you has a tough year ahead of them (take a peek through their birth chart if you’re not sure). Ugly breakup? Alpaca calendar. Lost your job? Alpaca calendar. Creative block? Alpaca calendar. I don’t know exactly how it works, but it works. Just trust.

For the one aged 11 and up and struggling with direction in life

The gift: In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists and Entrepreneurs, by Grace Bonney (2016) ($15)
A delightful and easy-to-read collection of inspirational interviews for the aspiring creative—or aspiring human.
Each woman’s obvious passion for what she does will surely inspire you to follow your own, but the best thing about this book is its artful blend of inspiration and practical wisdom. Oftentimes, in interviews of successful artists and creatives, the how gets lost in the glamor and grandeur of the so-called artistic life.
It’s not the stuff that makes for great pull quotes, but for someone aspiring to follow in the same path, it’s the step-by-step guidance, the tips for cultivating a routine, the advice on boring stuff like managing your finances and drinking enough water, that are most indispensible. You already you want to do what these women do—that’s why you picked up the book—but you’re dying to figure out how they do what they do. Well, this book delivers both.
Works best for: a Millennial struggling through a quarter-life crisis. This book was given to me when I graduated college and had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, and after I finished reading it cover-to-cover in one sitting… I still had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, but at least I felt like I could breathe without hyperventilating. And some days, that in itself is great progress.
For the design junkie, or your friend in desperate need of an interior design upgrade
The gift: anything from Super Good Thing, the modern, functional design brand you didn’t know you desperately needed in your life. They’ll make you drool over basic household objects like shelves and flashlights as if they were the new Yeezy slides, promise.
Works best for: Got a friend that reads design blogs during lunch break? This is the perfect gift for her.
On the other hand, it could be equally fitting for someone who is the opposite of a design junkie, someone whose home desperately needs a little well-designed touch. You know, that friend that’s needed new light fixtures and has been putting it off since 2015. That friend who’s still trapped in her twenty-year-old dorm room poverty aesthetic even though she’s no longer a broke college student but a very successful young urban professional, killing it at her job and making a comfy five figures, thank you very much.
There is a time for cardboard box night tables and there is a time for a new set of sleek, modernist bowls to hold your nuts and jewelry.
We love:
Gather vases—clear ($29.50)
Stand-up bottle opener ($22)

For the rebel lit lover who got kicked out of the Guggenheim for swearing too loudly on the staircase

The gift: A Henry Miller watercolor print, book or poster
Insomnia #4 (1966)
You probably know him as the writer that holds the world record for number of times using the word “cunt” in the same sentence, but what you don’t know about Henry Miller is that he was also a passionate watercolorist (You can find his musings on the medium in his essay “The Waters Reglitterized: The subject of watercolor in some of its more liquid phases.”).
Painting was the yin to the yang of Miller’s main profession, the play to balance out the work that writing was for him. I should probably tell you straight away that if you’re expecting cunts and cocks, you’ll be disappointed (try Mapplethorpe); if any of the spirit of Miller’s writing seeped into his watercolors, it was his childlike groping in the dark. In a way, the aiming at preverbal truth that colors his prose finds its answer in his paintings, in a flash of brilliance that reveals a luminous universe.
Works best for: If you know anyone (and I suspect you do) who stumbled upon Tropic of Cancer in a suburban Barnes and Noble, and, thrilled to her fifteen-year-old bones by all the dirty words on the first page, immediately called her mom to be picked up no earlier than in five hours so she could finish the book that afternoon, well, this would be a wonderful gift for that girl (hint, hint).
Jokes aside, this would be a super original gift for all the arty lit lovers in your life like the friend that wants to go to grad school but can’t decide between literature and art history.
We love: Okay, let’s break this one down by price bracket.
If you #just #got #paid and you’re rollin’ in the Benjamins (sorry for both of those jokes), buy the originals.
If you clicked on that link, saw the price tags, laughed out loud and thought if I had that kind of money, I would pay off my student loans, go get my teeth cleaned for the first time in five years and treat my cat to some vegan organic cat food, do not despair. You too can afford to give a loved one some Henry Miller Christmas magic.
Abstract (1965)
Abstract (1965)
And if you’re somewhere in between, try this lovely coffee table book.
Cover of Henry Miller: Watercolors, Drawings and His Essay ‘The Angel Is My Watermark’ (1962)

For the arty mystic who hosts full moon parties and regularly asks for guidance from the universe

The gift: Art Oracles: Creative & Life Inspiration from Great Artists ($14)
Let’s take a moment and visualize asking for life advice as the expanding brain meme:
As you can see, your options top our at consulting the mystical spirits of great artists of years past using your Art Oracles deck, a collection of 50 cards, each featuring wonderful life and creative advice from famous artists.
art oracle
Works for: anyone who owns a deck of Tarot, reads their horoscope daily, has been to a psychic, or could just use a little mystical guidance from the universe. And let’s be honest—couldn’t we all?

Text by Katya Lopatko 
Images via Aruna D’Souza, My Modern Met, Rakuten, Amazon, Etsy, Saying Images, @doublekoek, Design Sponge, @sighswoon, Art Brokerage.

You May Also Like

How Art Girls Recover From A Bad Day At Work
How Art Girls Recover From A Bad Day At Work
Portals, Pranks, and Proximity: The Tale of a Transatlantic Art Installation
Portals, Pranks, and Proximity: The Tale of a Transatlantic Art Installation
Weekly Wrap-Up
Weekly Wrap-Up
Artistic Escapes: Films to Ignite Your Creativity
Artistic Escapes: Films to Ignite Your Creativity
Weekly Wrap-Up
Weekly Wrap-Up
Films to watch for back to work prep
Films to watch for back to work prep


Social Media Manager 
Vogue Italia - Milano, IT
Junior Presentation Designer
Howard Hughes - Remote
Head of mediation
Weserburg - Bremen, Germany
Blikopeners Coordinator
Stedelijk Museum - Amsterdam