The Museum of Ice Cream Fails to Put the Cherry on Top of the Sundae That Is Art Basel Miami Beach
The Instagram-famous museum-ish thing is less delicious than we hoped.
A massive hit in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the sensation that is the Museum of Ice Cream—recently revealed as this year’s 10th-most Instagrammed museum in the entire world—debuts in Miami Beach this evening, timed, of course, to the art world juggernaut that is Art Basel Miami Beach. Promising a confectionery fantasy full of candy-coated photo ops, the museum, while sugary sweet, doesn’t quite deliver.
The museum’s co-founder Maryellis Bunn has been described, by New York magazine, as the “Millennial Walt Disney.” She and her partner, Manish Vora, hope to take the concept international in the coming year.
At a press preview, Vora told artnet News that the museum is expecting “everyone from major collectors and celebrities to people who are coming to the fairs with their families. They’ll end up doing dessert at the Museum of Ice Cream!”
With monied international collectors in town, MOIC is looking to capitalize by selling $98 tickets to the opening weekend, as opposed to the already pricey $38 everyday price. (Valet parking costs an extra $25.) Tickets are still available.
What does one get for that not-insubstantial amount? There’s definitely ice cream: a scoop of vanilla with the MOIC’s special pink whipped cream—for sale in the gift shop at $10 a can—served at a sparkling, pastel pink take on the classic diner; chocolate-covered frozen bananas, gluten-free and vegan, on hand in the pink palm tree-filled jungle room; and various other treats, including a self-serve candy bar and an unpleasant carton of melted ice cream full of ice crystals.
There’s an enthusiastic staff, who introduce themselves with dessert-themed names, and a series of activities, some more interesting than others. Who wouldn’t want a game of ping pong or shuffle board on a roof deck overlooking the ocean, ice cream-themed or not?
One room, the “Sweet Sculpture Studio,” advertises that it “challenges you to explore creativity through flavors, feats, and ice cream delights that are as grand and robust as your imagination.” But hauling giant colored beads across the room and stacking them on lollipop sticks just felt foolish and failed to live up to that promise.
“This is not a place for critics to come and review installations,” warned Vora, who claims to like being criticized by the art press for blurring the definition of what constitutes a museum.
That’s fair. One does not go to the MOIC expecting great art, or even to learn much of anything. There are a few fun facts about ice cream sprinkled throughout. Did you know that Hawaiian Punch was invented as an ice cream topping? Or that there are no less than 80,000 ice cream shops in the US?
The crowds are in this for the spectacle, to enjoy an immersive environment, and to pose for fun photographs in the hopes of amassing a respectable number of likes on social media.
In general, however, the rooms were less captivating than I expected, mainly because it felt like there just wasn’t that much to see.
And does anyone really care, really, about having an ice cream-themed fortune telling? In my case, I chose cards with a crown and a cherry on them. I was told that meant that I was “the ice cream princess,” and that I add a little bit sweetness to everyone’s life.
While I spent hours exploring Refinery29’s similarly Instagram-conscious 29 Rooms, I moved quickly through the MOIC’s cheerful rooms. Vora talks about inspiring kids and millennials, but I fall squarely into the second category, and was still decidedly underwhelmed.
There were some pink ice cream cone sculptures with fans, good perhaps for a Boomerang. A “secret” coconut cave was just a small storage space with the walls and ceilings lined with silver coconut bling. A massive ice cream cone sandcastle was equally bland. (Tailored for Miami, the latest iteration of the MOIC offers a few odes to its beachfront view and the city’s Latin flavor.)
From my first taste of the experience, the problem isn’t that MOIC isn’t Serious Art. It’s just not Serious Fun.
Even its Instagram-famous swimming pool filled with sprinkles was somewhat underwhelming in its Miami incarnation, dwarfed inside a large pink-tiled room. (Also, it was harder to pose in than I thought!) In the end, the MOIC was just empty calories.
See more photos from the Museum of Ice Cream Miami below:
The Museum of Ice Cream is open at the Faena Bazaar, 3400 Collins Avenue, Faena District, Miami Beach, December 8, 2017–January 22, 2018.
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