The ArtReview Holiday Gift Guide 2023

People in the artworld are hard to please. We know. We’re here to help.

Playmobil: The Night Watch
Rijksmuseum, €6.95
These may be the only toy soldiers you’ll ever want. Your kid may struggle to say Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, which is the official name of Rembrandt’s 1642 masterpiece commonly known as The Night Watch, but one day when they grow up and go to the Rijksmuseum, they’ll see the Rembrandt and say ‘I used to play with this when I was little!’ Orit Gat

Little Rock Looking At You
Royal Academy, £2,950

It’s a rock and it’s not a rock. It’s made of iron and it’s got eyes painted on it. Suppose you could stick it at the bottom of someone’s Christmas stocking as if it’s a lump of coal. A festive alternative to the ol’ snooker-ball-in-a-sock trick. What does it say when an artist – Marina Abramović – turns a rock that’s been blessed by a First Nations medicine man into a commodity? Mostly I just want this misshapen blob because it resembles a surprised beakless pigeon. Fi Churchman

Swear Box
Gilbert & George Centre, £25

Grumpy old men Gilbert & George (Gilbert age eighty, George eighty-one) know that there’s much to curse during the festive season: burnt potatoes, a shortage of gin, last-minute gift orders that don’t turn up, gifts that do turn up, and of course the appalling friends and relatives who give them. Why not punish your nearest and dearest for spoiling the season’s good cheer with bad words, by forcing them to pay for every stray expletive into the duo’s ‘Swear Box’. Handmade in luxury birch plywood, it’s adorned with all your favourite censored obscenities, including F**K, S**T, L**K, S**K, P**S, B**T, C**K and C**T. J.J. Charlesworth

Penicillin Key Chain
Wellcome Collection gift shop and online, $12.95
In the Wellcome Collection’s shop, near the eyeball finger-puppets and oversized plastic insects, are an array of little plush keychains of cutified microscopic life: a little red and yellow ball of COVID-19 virus, discs of red blood cells, and – my choice stocking-stuffer – the broccoli-like sprouts of everyone’s favourite antibiotic fungus, penicillium. Chris Fite-Wassilak

Camera Pencil Sharpener
Postal Museum, £15

How about the Postal Museum’s pencil sharpener, modelled after what seems to be a Kodak Duaflex (which in the 1950s was advertised to be a perfect Christmas gift: ‘With a Kodak camera outfit you start taking pictures first thing Christmas morning’)? Of course, memories are to be captured and cherished. But who needs a photograph when a camera can make pencils equally sharp for your sketch pad! Yuwen Jiang

Romeo & Juliet Apron
Shakespeare’s Globe, £24

From the Romeo and Juliet section of the Shakespeare’s Globe gift shop, this kitchen apron relies on the prominence of the text to take something you already know and use it to introduce a new darkness into your kitchen. Orit Gat

Moquette Brighton Armchair in Victoria line colours
London Transport Museum, £1,700

Apparently, the average Londoner spends approximately 1.5 hours a day commuting to and from work, but amid that rush hour stampede of tired cityworkers, do you ever get a seat on the train? No. That’s where the London Transport Museum’s moquette furniture comes in. You could get an armchair made of the same fabric as the seats on the Victoria line (the TFL’s best line, obviously) and finally have your own seat without having to fight off that random child climbing over your armrest. Finally. Sweet, sweet peace. Marv Recinto

Black T-shirt
Times New Roman, €50

How to prove to the girly-pops that you’re entirely committed to the art-mag life – so deeply embedded as to identify fonts on frosted shop windows and recite colour codes over dinner catch-ups, unprompted and unappreciated; so unwavering in your conviction that grassroots print journalism is returning for an age starved of the tangible and tactile, if only there were more effective methods of dissemination than digital media through which we garland our physical entities; so dedicated to a community-based practice in your neighbourhood that the letter ‘W’ only ever autocompletes to WeTransfer? Well, you’re welcome. Alexander Leissle

Hot Dog Finger Gloves
A24, $36

Imagine this: it’s Christmas morning. There’s frost edging the windows, but it’s warm under the duvet. Coffee and panettone are on the breakfast menu. You roll over towards the other in your bed and whisper, ‘Good morning, love’. And then you gently stroke the side of their face with your brand-spanking new Hot Dog Fingers. Tell me: what could be a better gift than waking up to the caress of these latex feelers – merch courtesy of A24’s Everything Everywhere All At Once? Fi Churchman

Quarter-life Crisis
New Museum, £20.99
There are many things millennials are obsessed with, among which scented candles and memes addressing their (our?) past and future life crises rank high. The New Museum decided to combine both and give your existential dread notes of lavender, bergamot and rhubarb. They promise it’s relaxing. I don’t trust them. Merry crisis everyone! Olimpia Saccone

Thomas Hirschhorn: Edition
South London Gallery, £2,500

Today everyone knows that it’s bad to buy new things and good to recycle the old. But Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn knew that way before the rest of us. That’s why artists are special and exist on a dimension that’s superior to that of the average non-visionary that clutters up the rest of the planet. But back to the point. And back to 2016, when, just after his immersive installation In-Between at the South London Gallery, Hirschhorn left 15 pairs of his old trousers at the institution, with instructions that they should be sold for fundraising purposes. Presumably the fundraisers raised an eyebrow and booked a session with a washing machine. But they just didn’t appreciate how ahead of his time Hirschhorn was. Even though they may well have been confused on this point by the fact that the slogans that he had just then crudely scrawled on his old trousers suggested he was actually looking not to the future but back to the 1920s. That’s when Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci was languishing in jail for having challenged Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s undoubted right to make the nation great again. Gramsci died on the inside in 1937. But not before he produced a series of essays dubbed the Prison Notebooks (1929–35) – his most enduring work. Worried that most people had forgotten that (the work and its endurance), Hirschhorn borrowed some of Gramsci’s old prison-notebook words and liberated them from the past (and pages in a book) by transplanting them to the present (scrawled on a pair of his old jeans with a Sharpie). From Prison Notebook to prison tattoo, as it were (but without the pain)! All the while remorselessly doubling down on the whole recycling thing. Nirmala Devi

Or, of course, you could just buy… us.

Most recent


We use cookies to understand how you use our site and to improve your experience. This includes personalizing content. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, revised Privacy.