Hokusai swimwear, Mondrian timepieces, diffusers dispensing the aroma of Cézanne landscapes — these are among the myriad ways the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA Boston) may soon reach beyond its own walls with its intellectual property (IP) and into the lives of global consumers. 

What happened?

MFA Boston has signed a partnership agreement with master licensee company ARTiSTORY. The deal grants ARTiSTORY access to the museum’s 500,000-strong collection which encompasses Egyptian and Greek artifacts, Ming dynasty porcelain, Medieval and Ottoman textiles, and modern works from the likes of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. 

ARTiSTORY will use MFA Boston’s IP to create novel designs before collaborating with brands and manufacturers on products. The deal is global, excluding China, where the MFA has been represented by Alfilo Brands since 2019.

From MFA Boston’s 500,000-strong collection: Edward Hopper’s “Room in Brooklyn,” 1932 (above) and a shaman effigy pendant from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta region, A.D. 900–1600 (below). Images: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

What is ARTiSTORY?

Launched in 2021, ARTiSTORY is a UK-based master licensee that specializes in turning artifacts into merchandise. It hopes to further expand the reach of partner organizations through storytelling-focused hybrid exhibitions and immersive experiences. ARTiSTORY is backed by Sinofaith IP Investment Company, the same group that supports Chinese IP licensee company Alfilo Brands. To date, ARTiSTORY has partnered with Taipei’s National Palace Museum and London’s National Gallery.

Why it matters

Simply put, the world’s largest museums are increasingly serious about the financial potential of IP products. The closures and restricted reopenings forced upon cultural institutions by the pandemic have had severe financial consequences and encouraged a search for new revenue avenues. In the US, the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) reported three-quarters of museums saw revenue fall 40 percent in 2020; the programming, staffing, and educational cuts that around 60 percent of institutions underwent are not long-term solutions.

The museum’s partnership with Alfilo Brands has produced a wide array of IP products, including a Monet-inspired range that includes scented candles and T-shirts. Image: Zhihu

Generating income from virtual programming and new digital memberships are being widely trialed, but the move into IP products — less a mere extension of gift shop offerings, more a holistic approach to delivering on the value of an institution’s collection and inherent storytelling power — may prove lucrative. MFA Boston has tasted success in this space through its partnership with Alfilo Brands, which has created a range of IP goods for the China market. Now, it’ll hope to replicate the model globally. 

For ARTiSTORY, it’s the latest coup for a company less than a year old and a sign that major institutions trust its ability to reach global audiences with products both trendy and faithful to their brand. Expect more big name museums to sign with the master licensee.

What ARTiSTORY says 

What are ARTiSTORY’s first steps in working with Boston MFA?
Natasha Dyson, Licensing Director at ARTiSTORY: Our internal researchers and historians have already identified many artworks that connect with our themes. Our creative is trend-led and the products are determined based on the designs. One example is a fantastic episode (look) that takes inspiration from Hokusai, perfect for beachwear and beach products. 

What are ARTiSTORY’s upcoming plans?
Dyson: We will be presenting our global annual theme launch this coming September. We are hosting two release events, one for the global market on the 13th of September and one for the and one for the Chinese market on September 15, which is hosted by ARTiSTORY China and SIPIC China. The event on the 13th will be hosted online to accommodate attendees from multiple time zones, and will introduce SS 2022 and AW 2022 themes to consumer brands and retailers in various key markets.  


Jing Culture & Commerce