The Honest Shop is an art gallery’s self-serve and self-pay store

Jun 26, 2019 | Arts

The Honest Shop, a showcase at Toronto’s Museum of Modern Art, is full of local handmade items. (Su Kustric)

Su Kustric

A self-serve arts store at Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) relies on the honesty of shoppers that they will plunk down the right amount of money for a piece of handmade art.

The Honest Shop showcase, which runs until July 19 on the fourth floor of the Sterling Road gallery, is MOCA’s fourth project in its Art in Use series and the Honest Shop’s first Canadian appearance.

The self-service store sells handmade products by people in the Junction area, offering them a platform to showcase and sell their items.

The shop relies on a system of trust and generosity, where customers can record their purchases and leave cash in the “Honesty Box” without salesclerks or receipts.

“Honest Shop is offering a space for cultural practices that are considered useful to showcase amateur crafts, making and skills, while also presenting a way for hidden talent to be exposed and supported,” said Danielle Lim, Marketing Manager and organizer of Honest Shop.

She said this unregulated model for trading offers an alternative to commercial mass consumerism which is driven by individuals, enthusiasm, and goodwill.

At MOCA, the team made an open call for handmade items and let makers set their own prices.

Handmade jewelry presented by local artists at MOCA’s Honest Shop in Toronto. Su Kustric

“There’s no special selection process, and anyone who lives in the neighbourhood is invited to drop off their goods during one of three weekly time slots,” she said.

The first Honest Shop was devised seven years ago by Grizedale Arts, a contemporary arts residency in northern England, which offers artists a  platform to sell their work.

“It is still running today, the Honest Shop in Cumbria provides an opportunity for collaboration and cohesion between local producers, as well as securing additional income for local people,” Lim said.

The Honest Shop has been hosted at museums worldwide to support local producers in their communities.

“The shop runs on a self-serve basis, relying on the honesty of customers, 80 per cent will go to the maker and 20 per cent will go back to the maintenance of the shop and MOCA’s Art in Use program,” she said.

The tables and the interior are designed by Adrian Blackwell and were purpose-built for this project.

Lim also invites participants to a drop-in maker space where people can produce their own useful items to trade with others or take them home.