Even before it was opened fully, Gallery & Co. received a ringing endorsement last month as one of the 10 best museum shops around the world by The Guardian.
The respected British newspaper described National Gallery Singapore's museum and lifestyle store as "already chock-full of cool souvenirs".
A part of Gallery & Co.'s retail space that sells museum merchandise and other products opened with the museum on Nov 24. Its cafe, cafeteria and another retail area were completed last week. An alfresco cafe-beer garden is slated to open in the coming weeks.
The 8,800 sq ft shop is a partnership between the National Gallery and lifestyle and design collective & Co. The latter was founded by hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng, Foreign Policy Design Group creative directors Yu Yah-Leng and Arthur Chin, and Mr Alwyn Chong, managing director of cosmetics and fragrance distributor Luxasia.
Gallery & Co. is not your run-of-the-mill museum gift store.
Ms Yu, who worked with Mr Chong on curating products and merchandise for the project, visited numerous museums and their stores in Paris and London to find out "what not to do in our store".
The products are a mix of sourced merchandise from around the world as well as items designed by the Foreign Policy Design Group for the gallery.
The latter include a chic architecture-inspired umbrella ($49.90) featuring the gallery's rotunda, as well as a transparent bubble brolly ($55.90) which reinterprets ink painter Chua Ek Kay's 2004 work, After The Rain. There are also stylish totes, notebooks and watches decorated with prints modelled after the floor tiles of the museum.
Merchandise sourced include art and design prints from labels such as Atomic Printworks and stationery from Japanese brand Craft Design Technology. Works by local designers such as stationery by Olivia Lee and the Merlion plushie by Supermama are also on sale.
There is a children's section featuring learning toys and clothes from Australian brand La De Dah Kids. For adults, the store sells clothes and accessories from well known brands such as French label Maison Kitsune. New products will be added every quarter.
The design of the store was carefully thought out. Ms Yu, 43, says that designing a museum store with multiple uses has to cater to both local and overseas visitors while highlighting the beauty of the old buildings - the former Supreme Court and City Hall - the gallery is housed in.
Describing the interior, she says: "Our idea was to complement the solid and sombre hue of this wonderful historical building, so we went for something light-hearted to balance the overall experience within the space."
Gallery & Co. is separated into two wings, with each having its own look.
The Left Wing is a muted space, decked out in a blue-grey theme with futuristic tiles that have lines and dots. It also houses the Gallery Cafe, which serves pastries from Plain Vanilla, coffee made from Papa Palheta beans and tea from & Co.'s in-house brand, Commodite.
In the Right Wing, merchandise is displayed on supersized origami blocks. The highlight here is its Cafeteria - a warm, green space infused with a tropical, 1960s retro vibe. It is a self-service all-day dining spot that offers salads, sandwiches, mains and juices.
The seating area features terrazzo tabletops reminiscent of old-school kopitiam tables. There are also planters and green tiles which Foreign Policy Design Group created, and marble arranged in repeated Chevron patterns to dress up the four pillars in the space.
On the store concept, Ms Yu says: "We wanted to have a balance, instead of a store that is too inwardlooking and kitsch. Gallery & Co. shows what Singapore artists and designers have to offer, but it's also a good platform where visitors can access good global design."