Impressionist painter Claude Monet has turned out to be quite a money-maker for the Denver Art Museum this holiday season. Ever since “Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature”—an ambitious solo exhibition of 120 paintings loaned from 80 different collections—opened in October, truckloads of Monet merchandise have been delivered to the museum’s docking bay to keep up with intense visitor demand.
The artist’s pastel-hued paintings of light-speckled landscapes appear on around 700 different types of products, including watchbands, music boxes, coloring books, scarves, puzzles, wine totes, postcards, and eyeglasses (the latter an interesting choice since the painter suffered from cataracts and poor eyesight in his later years). Bearded mini-Monet figurines are attached to keychains that read: “Monet ensures you make a good impression on everyone you meet.”
The museum’s retail department, staffed with 26 employees and around 65 volunteers, has been placing around 30 orders a week to keep their shelves flush with Monet wares, reports Denver-based publication, Westword. When the orders arrive, they work overtime to prepare these goods for sale.
And of course visitors, after making their way through the popular show’s two floors, must exit through the Monet-themed gift shop at the end of their timestamped entries. The last three sections leading up to the prismatic retail finale are devoted to the artist’s paintings from his adopted hometown of Giverny, with its Japanese bridges and ponds filled with water lilies.
The exhibition, billed as the most comprehensive U.S. show of Monet paintings in over two decades, is a collaboration between the Denver museum and Germany’s Museum Barberini (where it will travel in a slightly different version next spring). For now, it’s taken over Denver. The museum advertises hotel packages that include skip-the-line tickets (even when the show is sold out during your preferred time slot), and the audio guide includes music especially recorded by the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra.
The museum’s retail team may not have known that it would so successfully monetize Monet when it curated the wares for this show. Despite what some may feel is a disconnect between what was once avant-garde art and keychains of questionable taste, purchases of art-themed puzzles and other museum shop merchandise go right back towards supporting programming and collections at the museum. Who knows what blockbuster the Denver Art Museum might be able to host in the years to come, with all the rain Mr. Monet is making this season.
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