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The Sixth Gala Shopping Bag Exhibition
Portable & Popular
Thirty Years of Collecting, 1973-2003
April 10 through June 14, 2003
Third Floor Gallery
Curated by William J. Dane

The continuing and proven wide appeal of shopping bags of all sorts is once again the theme of an exhibit in the 3rd Floor Gallery of The Newark Public Library (New Jersey). The show which is entitled “Portable and Popular” is broken down into separate themes for particular emphasis on the diversity of these merchandising necessaries. These include geographic sources such as Japan, the Caribbean, Europe including Russia, Paris, China and New Jersey sources. Major retail sources and special events of the calendar year are noted such as the great designs from Bloomingdale’s with a gifted staff for bag design and production, winter and cozy Christmas holiday shopping as well as bags created just for bookstores and libraries. Some bags are distinctive for their all-over patterns and others come from the expanding museum world which is now so aware of merchandising and the enormous appeal of great design and unusual objects for museum shoppers in great and small museums with their highly appealing gift shops.

Of timely interest in the Spring of 2003 are bags featuring patriotic American themes and the grouping of carefully selected bags with notable iconography many of which demonstrate the appeal of animals. Miniature bags are included for very small and often precious prestigious purchases. Some of these show up in doll-houses. About 25 tiny functional bags with small dimensions all around plus handles are singled out for display.

The Special Collections Division of The Library maintains a gathering of over a thousand bags nearly all of which were acquired by gifts from the larger design community, from friends of the institution, and from involved staff members, too. The show marks the 6th bag event over the past three decades when the first shopping bags were gathered together in the early 1970’s. Foreign bags come chiefly from generous and thoughtful donors who regularly travel to world capitols in Europe and the Near and Far East regions of our world. One shopping bag enthusiast carried a suitcase full of bags all the way from north Italy to donate to the Library’s collection. Well over one hundred bags are currently on view indicating that this highly popular and portable art form has definitely become a visual feature of international life in the commercial world of retailing. The variety of designs and messages appeals to the design community, to collectors and to the average person much interested in the visual world which surrounds us in the 21st century.


This lively and colorful exhibit is installed through June 14, 2003 and is open without fee to all Library visitors during regular hours when The Library is open at 5 Washington Street in downtown Newark’s cultural neighborhood center. Curated by William J. Dane, Keeper of Prints, Posters and art works on paper, the show has wide appeal to children as well as adults of wide interests and enthusiasm for collecting popular, contemporary artifacts. Please call 973-733-7745 for further details.


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