The Art Angle Podcast: Is the Museum of Ice Cream the Future of Art, or Just a Sugar Rush?
This week, Artnet News critic Ben Davis has the scoop on the sprinkle-filled Instagram sensation.
Welcome to the Art Angle, a podcast from Artnet News that delves into the places where the art world meets the real world, bringing each week’s biggest story down to earth. Join host Andrew Goldstein every week for an in-depth look at what matters most in museums, the art market, and much more with input from our own writers and editors as well as artists, curators, and other top experts in the field.
There’s a buzzy new museum taking over New York, and it boasts the types of specs that would make competitors drool. Now housed in a prime 25,000-square-foot building in the hip SoHo neighborhood, this fresh destination has welcomed more than 1.5 million visitors since it launched as a pop-up back in 2016, and its $39 ticket price is higher than any major museum in America. But it’s not the Museum of Modern Art… or a traditional art museum at all. It’s the Museum of Ice Cream.
This magical cash cow—last year, venture capitalists valued it at more than $200 million—is a tour de force in the realm of the experience economy. It has spawned throngs of imitators hoping to replicate what co-founders Maryellis Bunn and Manish Vora have termed an “experium,” or an attraction that combines a memorable (and Instagrammable) in-person “experience” with the cultural enrichment of a classical museum (or some of it, anyway). Instead of art on pedestals or in gilded frames, the MOIC presents visitors with a giant pool filled with plastic sprinkles, an ice-cream-themed slide traversing three floors, and many more sweet visual treats. Instead of erudite texts penned by a curator or academic, the walls next to the various sights boast QR-codes that allow visitors to access branded selfie filters. You get the picture.
For this week’s episode of the Art Angle, Artnet News national art critic Ben Davis braved the Presidents’ Day weekend crowds to get a taste of the MOIC’s hot-pink environments and oh-so-cool installations so he could report back with his impressions. As he identified back in 2016, Bunn and Vora’s creation is one of the attractions luring visitors across demographics into a stampede toward what he calls “Big Fun Art“: immersive, flashy spectacles that prize social interaction over personal edification. So what does the Museum of Ice Cream’s four years (and counting) of resounding success signal for the future of museums and cultural attractions on a wider scale? Is this the solidification of a sugar-spun phenomenon, or will this trend be licked before too long?
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