An Instagram-Baiting Museum in Indonesia Is Ripping Off Chris Burden and Yayoi Kusama
Indonesia has a knockoff of Kusama's "Obliteration Room" and Burden's "Urban Light."
The latest made-for-Instagram “museum” experience is here, and it looks, to put it lightly, slightly familiar.
Allow us to introduce you to Rabbit Town, a new Indonesian selfie paradise. Its biggest attractions are installations that look a lot like oft-reproduced works by artists Chris Burden and Yayoi Kusama, as well as carbon copies of several rooms from the ultra-popular the Museum of Ice Cream.
A self-proclaimed “selfie tourism” destination—”swafoto” in Indonesian—Rabbit Town is the brainchild of Henry Husada, the chairman and CEO of the Kagum hotel group. Rabbit Town is named after his zodiac sign: Husada was born in 1963, the Year of the Rabbit. (Indonesian news outlet Kompas has a photograph of a room full of statues of the museum’s namesake animal collected by the founder from 17 countries, but the display is somewhat lacking in selfie appeal.)
Formerly Husada’s private mansion, Rabbit Town is located on the island of West Java, in the city of Bandung, part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network—which has led to some mockery on social media, on the charge that plagiarizing other artists is not particularly creative.
At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, visitors are greeted by Chris Burden’s Urban Light (2008), a massive installation made up of 202 functioning lampposts. At Rabbit Town, they can pose with the almost identical-looking Love Light.
Rabbit Town also appears to rip off Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room, in which visitors are invited to affix colorful dot stickers to surfaces in an all-white room, gradually transforming the space. A hit at New York’s David Zwirner in 2015 and several traveling exhibitions dedicated to the popular artist, including one at the National Gallery of Singapore in 2017, the piece is replicated in Rabbit Town’s Patrico Sticker.
The Indonesia museum also features a mural of a pair of wings that seems to be based on the work of Colette Miller, who began painting “Angel Wings” murals in Los Angeles in 2012.
A quick look at Rabbit Town’s Instagram account also reveals that the museum has created its own version of the popular banana, ice cream cone, and palm tree rooms from the Museum of Ice Cream. After debuting a New York pop-up in 2016, that social media-savvy institution has unveiled locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami.
The similarities between Rabbit Town and these existing works has been noted by Instagram fashion-knockoff police @diet_prada, Coconuts Jakarta, as well as the Indonesian-language outlets detiktravel, linetoday, hai, and kumparan. (It’s worth noting, however, that Urban Light is itself reminiscent of Sheila Klein’s Vermonica (1993), a display of 25 lampposts installed in an LA strip mall to commemorate the Rodney King riots, as W points out.)
“Rabbit Town has grown ever more notorious for their blatant disregard of artist’s intellectual property,” a representative for the Museum of Ice Cream told artnet News in an email, noting that Instagram had previously shut down an initial Rabbit House account at their urging. “Instagram’s legal department has already been notified about this attempt to circumvent our efforts and we anticipate it being shut down very soon.”
“After countless hours of creating something as unique as Museum of Ice Cream, we want to ensure the ideas and designs stay within the walls that they were born,” the representative added, offering to collaborate with other affected artists to rectify the situation.
Rabbit Town does not appear to have a website, and has disabled comments on its Instagram account, which has 18,000 followers. According to Arcom Media, Rabbit Town also houses a number of live animals, with birds, monkey, koi fish, and yes, rabbits. Other attractions include a millennial pink ball pit, a multicolored striped wall, and an upside-down Spider-Man statue that you can pretend to kiss to recreate the scene from the 2002 movie.
The museum has been operating since January 11 of this year, but plans to have a grand opening celebration on Husada’s birthday, April 22, as reported by destinasianews. Tickets cost 25,000 Indonesian Rupiah (about $1.82), and the slogan is “the way to more happiness.”
As of press time, artnet News had not received comment from Rabbit Town, LACMA, or Kusama’s gallery, David Zwirner.
UPDATE: At some point Monday afternoon, Rabbit House removed all photographs of its Museum of Ice Cream rooms from its Instagram account. Later, all Instagram posts previously embedded in this story were also delated.
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