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If the commercialization of the art industry was satirically critiqued by Banksy’s documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, a new venture in Shanghai featuring the globe’s most iconic museums posits a more direct approach: enter through the gift shop, ask about the art later. 

What happened?

Museum & More, a “one-stop museum gift shop,” featuring IP products from the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery, and the V&A, among others, has opened in Shanghai’s Metro City Mall, a venue popular with post-’90 and post-’00 consumers. 

Newly opened in Shanghai, the store retails products from western institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery, and the British Museum. Image: Museum & More on WeChat

What’s Museum & More?

The newest offering and boldest extension to date from Alfilo Brands, a Chinese master licensee and retailer that holds exclusive license rights in Greater China for some of the best known European and American museums. The compact shop on the second floor of the shopping mall in the heart of the city’s Xujiahui is packed with IP museum goods, many of which have been designed specifically with local tastes and trends in mind, a category known in China as wenchuang (文创) products.

What are wenchuang products?

Literally translated as “cultural creations,” they’re inventive products inspired by Chinese history often sold by cultural institutions. The development stems from the Ministry of Culture’s 2016 encouragement for organizations to commercialize. These items have been well-received by China’s younger generations who are expressing a resurgent interest in traditional heritage with the Palace Museum in Beijing, Sanxingdui in Sichuan, and the Dunhuang Research Academy in Gansu leading examples of institutions successfully leveraging the trend. 

Some IP products at Museum & More include a toy-sized recreation of the Rosetta Stone by the British Museum (above), and a tea set featuring imagery of Tipu’s Tiger and Alice in Wonderland by the V&A (bottom). Images: Museum & More on WeChat

Why it matters

It’s a significant step in an evolving strategy from Alfilo Brands. The Shanghai-based company — which obtains IP rights, collaborates with retailers and manufacturers on products, and distributes them — has previously promoted its museum clients in three main ways: holding physical brand awareness campaigns, launching e-commerce stores on Taobao and Tmall, and creating large pop-up experiences

When Alfilo Brands launched in 2013, wenchuang was a niche, though rapidly emerging product category. Today, it’s mainstream, and opening a traditional retail space inside a major shopping mall speaks to the demand that exists for unique, well-crafted art goods from western museums. 

The shift in branding is also noteworthy. Previously, Alfilo Brands’ physical promotions have largely centered on a single institution — V&A’s art deco pop-up or the National Gallery’s Shanghai subway takeover, for instance; here, international museums and their IP goods are grouped. As the name Museum & More suggests, the branding power is stronger, the offering more lucrative when pooled together. 

What Alfilo says

“Since opening e-commerce shops [for international museums], we’ve created popular merchandise and marketing events online. Now, we want to extend our beloved museum IP to the offline shopping experience for our museum fans in Shanghai. This offline experience is the first one-stop museum shop in Shanghai and we decided to bring all of our beloved brands and products closer to our customers.” — Statement by Alfilo Brands

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Commerce, Licensing & E-Commerce