I’m of the mindset that if you don’t have a truly good gift to give, you shouldn’t give one at all. Bad gifts contribute to clutter and waste, to awkward moments, and to a material mentality. But as any other art-world aesthete, I am a true lover of things. My brain is wired to collect and hoard, and with these covetous tendencies in mind, I must constantly tell myself: more stuff is not better, better stuff is better.
Giving good gifts doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive, and if you optimize your hunter-gatherer instincts, it definitely releases some delicious brain chemicals. I recommend getting things that you can’t find on Amazon—they exist! Look for items that are produced by expert creators and designers; maybe even get an artist-designed limited-edition object that benefits a local non-profit organization. (If you’re going broke buying presents for people anyway, doesn’t that at least soften the blow a little bit?) If you’re perpetually last-minute, make it work in your favor by bringing the recipient into the process and ordering something they can help design or customize.
After all, the most important thing about the holiday season is to remind your loved ones what good taste you have. Here are suggestions for shopping more intentionally and thoughtfully, while prioritizing above all the art of giving a good gift.
Ideas for your white elephant gift:
Because your colleagues will indeed judge you.
St. Agrestis Negroni 4-Pack
Bitter and boozey. I won’t insult you with further explanation. (Fun fact: the size of these Negroni’s are TSA approved.)
Purchase here, $25 for a 4-pack.
Ann Craven Wrapping Paper
A gift that keeps on giving. Artist Ann Craven designed this wrapping paper in 2013 for the non-profit organization RxArt. 100% of proceeds support RxArt’s contemporary art commissions in children’s hospitals.
Purchase here for $15
Tauba Auerbach Helix Rolling Papers
A different but arguably more useful form of artist-designed wrapping paper.
Purchase here for $5
Mitsu Okubo T-Shirts
Deck the halls with t-shirts that debase the names of your favorite artists. Personal favorites include *Sigh* Twombly, Ellsworth Smelly and Georgia O’Queef. These tees ship direct from the artist’s studio.
Purchase here, $25 per tee
Ideas for the loved one with champagne taste…
Because that holiday bonus just hit.
There are tons of options for private lessons or adult clinic packages throughout the city and, just sayin’, Louise Trotter’s Lacoste debut is on super sale right now if you think a gift in envelope form lacks theatrics. (If you play tennis but you weren’t wearing impeccable whites, did you even play at all?)
Tennis lessons sold separately, but get your Lacoste threads here for ~$400-500
Sophie Bille Brahe’s Botticelli Earrings
For the Venus on your list who’s expecting something big and sparkly. Bonus points if it matches her massive half shell.
Purchase a pair here for € 1100
Broodthaers Bode/Green River Project LLC Half Moon Stool
Menswear sensation Bode weaves historical narratives with vintage materials for her bespoke luxury pieces. This made-to-order stool is an ode to Marcel Broodthaers hand-drawn on Bode’s characteristic corduroy. I first spotted these stools alongside a presentation of Ed Ruscha and Mason Williams storyboards at a fair booth belonging to beloved gallerist Todd Alden, who also happened to be the muse of Bode’s Fall 2019 collection (and a Broodthaers expert).
Purchase here for $2,000
…but you have a cheap beer budget…
and you’ve never had a job that considered holiday bonuses a thing.
Sandy Liang Jordan Hoops.
The LES favorite Sandy Liang just released her first jewelry collection, now available for pre-order to ship mid-December. These nostalgic pink resin pieces are inspired by Polly Pocket. Perfect to gift your Dimes Square side-piece, at your post-holiday tryst at Lucien.
Get a pair here for $145
Custom Althea James Made-to-order Piece
Brooklyn-based artist, illustrator and tattoo-artist Althea James customizes sweatshirts, sweatpants and Dickies all with creations from her flash sheets. Slightly less cool than a real tattoo but a close second!
Get your angel hoodie here for $80
Maurizio Cattelan’s Limited Edition MUSEUMS LEAGUE Scarf for ICI
Wherever your giftee lies on the art-world-literacy spectrum, they have most likely heard of Maurico Cattelan by now. Just to be safe, you can duct tape a banana to the top of the box. Cattelan designs custom scarves that bear the names of museums rather than football leagues, and this one is a fundraising edition of 150 for beloved non-profit Independent Curators International (ICI). All proceeds help ICI’s crucial work to support and create opportunities for independent curators and arts communities around the world.
Cheer on your favorite art stars for $150
Georg Jensen Top Star
A shockingly affordable means to achieve the wow-factor of receiving an actual shiny Georg Jensen piece. Friendly for all religious-affiliations, as this piece converts easily from tree topper to an ornament they can hang in a window.
Top your tree for $50-$95
The Jewish Cookbook
Whoever is receiving this book is lucky to have a mensch like you.
Get your copy for $49
Cadis Made Hand-made Candle Holder
Hygge up with some artist-designed candlestick holders, all handcrafted from black walnut.
Purchase one for $25 to $75
Because you’re a new aunty or uncley:
Someone else will get them the teensie-tinsie socks, but who else will get them a…
Christofle Silver-plated Baby Cup
F*** the stroller, this baby needs a silver-plated sippy cup. A beautiful commemorative token for a religious ceremony, and after it can double as deliciously over-the-top crayon holder.
Get yours here for $340
The Letters NYC
Start the little one’s art history education early with these adorable limited edition prints. It’s never too early to spell culture!
Get an individual letter for $55, or the whole set for $250 unframed or $350 framed
Emerging Artist Baby Romper
This cute onesie from the Whitney store is sure to get some Instagram attention. Plant the seed early for the Whitney Biennial in 2039.
Let the little one romp in style for $48
Mini Eames Elephant
Baby’s first Herman Miller! Who wouldn’t want to be responsible for that?
Get yours for $105