Brooklyn’s Museum of Pizza Is Now Open—and It’s Exactly as Cheesy as You’d Expect
This pop-up "museum" delivers a dose of pizza art and a lot of advertising.
The pop-up museum may have reached its zenith this weekend with the long-awaited opening of the Museum of Pizza, dedicated to the quintessential New York delicacy. For $35 a ticket, guests get free reign in an art-filled pizza wonderland, plus a slice, courtesy of Williamsburg Pizza.
On view at Brooklyn’s William Vale hotel through November 18, the “museum” is the latest funhouse for Instagram-crazed attendees. It features fun facts drawn from pizza history around the world, as well as pizza-inspired short films by artists and some 70 selections from what the Guinness Book of World Records recognizes as the world’s largest collection of pizza boxes, from New York-based pizza tour guide Scott Weiner. That’s all in addition to photo ops and interactive installations, such as a cave of molten cheese stalactites.
It’s a far cry from the first pizza-themed institution to open this year, Chicago’s US Pizza Museum, which is free and open to the public. That outfit houses Kendall Bruns’s extensive collection of pizza-related memorabilia and artifacts, including vintage pizza menus and coal used to fuel the oven of an old-school Chicago pizza joint. That institution is heavy on nostalgic pop culture references, with posters from the film Mystic Pizza and action figures of the pizza-loving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
In Brooklyn, the Pizza Museum is the brainchild of Kareen Rahma, CEO of the entertainment company Nameless Network, which has enlisted artists to create works inspired by everyone’s favorite oven-baked combination of dough, cheese, and sauce.
In the lobby, guests can admire Weiner’s pizza box collection—undoubtedly a museum highlight—before watching a cutting-edge hologram of the pizza historian recounting the food’s invention and rise to global popularity.
As he speaks, a series of old-fashioned 16-millimeter slide projector carousels offer additional factoids (people in the US eat an average of 46 slices of pizza a year), historical milestones (Alice Waters inventing California-style pizza at Chez Panisse in the 1980s), and celebrity quotes (Jennifer Lawrence: “I want a pizza with my face on it!”). Called “The Interactive History of Pizza,” it’s put together by Optical Animal.
Unfortunately, more than some other pop-up spaces, the Museum of Pizza is a little bit of an ad, with several corporate sponsors helping foot the more than $1 million in production costs. The VIP preview included passed appetizers in the form of Totino’s Pizza Rolls—more disgusting than I would have even imagined—and the free pizza at the end comes not with grated Parmesan or red pepper flakes but the option to douse your slice in Hidden Valley Ranch sauce or powder. (Apparently this is a popular flavor combination among some pizza heathens.)
Totino’s has also contributed a bizarre diorama, viewable from inside a giant googly-eyed pizza roll, of a “Pizza Heaven,” featuring dead pizza rolls in the clouds. Then there’s a “Pizza Playground” from DiGiorno, maker of supposedly acceptable frozen pizza.
Thankfully, the work by actual artists is a bit more inspired. The heart of the museum is the Psychedelic Pizza Parlour, curated by RJ Supta, full of pizza-themed art such as a guitar by Andrew WK and a glittery stuffed pizza pie by Hein Koh.
Be sure to take the time to watch all the pizza videos in the museum’s penultimate room, such as Anthony Clune’s Pizza the Musical, the cast decked out in sculpted pizza costumes designed by Jason Leinwand.
When asked to make a video short about pizza, Clune, who came to the opening dressed in one of the outfits from the film, was inspired by the debates over what kind of pizza is the best. “Everyone who loves pizza has their own way to enjoy it,” he told artnet News, calling his piece “an allegorical morality play defining different pizza points of view.”
Adam Green, of the band Moldy Peaches, has created a “Pizza Beach” room where guests can pose with a pizza-shaped crab and a pizza-eating surfer riding a wave as the pepperoni pizza sun beams down its rays on the sand and surf. Shawna X has reimagined pizza as larger-than-life beauty projects for her room “Say Cheese.”
Finally, don’t miss Signe Pierce and Emma Stern’s “Pizza Vortex,” a wild 3-D animation projected and reflected in mylar mirrors, famous sculptures and pop culture icons swirling around in a portal that opens up into pizzas past, present, and future.
Remarkably, there is no ball pit, a staple of the traditional pop-up museum form. But there is a custom-made video game, Pizza in the Woods, by Jeremy Couillard, which allows visitors to inhabit the character of the world’s most depressed slice of anthropomorphized pizza. “That pizza’s in an existential crisis,” artnet News heard Rahma explain. “That’s why his face is so sad!”
The rest of the museum is decidedly more cheerful, for obvious reasons—is anything more guaranteed to put a smile on your face than a piping hot pizza pie? Thankfully, with art and pizza trivia, the Museum of Pizza is able to translate some of this joy into pop-up museum form.
See more photos of the installation below.
The Museum of Pizza is on view at the William Vale, 55 Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, October 13–November 18, 2018. Tickets are $35.
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