The Art of Attraction: 29 Rooms, Museum of Ice Cream, and Beyond

Photo of Museum of Ice Cream: Christie Hemm Klok

Photo of Museum of Ice Cream: Christie Hemm Klok

“Art is supposed to slow you down. It sticks in your memory and triggers a second, third and fourth look.” This maxim was often heard and perpetuated at Yale’s Graduate School of Art critiques in the early 2000s. Subsequently, the pace at which I process art’s material, conceptual, and historical significance has shaped my art experiences as I breeze past entire galleries of The Met or pause for 30 seconds or 30 minutes in front of an artwork. How would a Yale professor analyze the recent made-for-selfie immersive art installations 29 Rooms by Refinery 29, Monochrome by CJ Hendry, or Museum of Ice Cream?

I’ve never waited in line to experience any of the aforementioned art attractions or Big Fun Art, but I feel as though I’ve been inside each room after seeing every possible photographable angle through social media. Since taking a photo and sharing it is the ultimate goal of these experiences, I think these are fair terms for channeling a 2003 era art school critique on a 2018 phenomenon.  No prior knowledge, context nor PhDs required.

Photo of "Monochrome": Andy Romer

Photo of "Monochrome": Andy Romer

The fourth iteration of Refinery 29’s art attraction just concluded in SF with a brand- and star-heavy installation, curated by Janelle Monae, Demi Lovato, Anna Kendrick, and Jake Gyllenhaal, that occasionally touched on topical themes—gay pride, gender inequality, and cathartic social exercises—then moved on to vacuous patterned rooms and larger-than-life props. Eventually, sponsor Pure Leaf tea bottles started creeping into the frame. The dizzying experience of traveling from one disparate world into another without transition or context has a leveling effect of saying nothing about everything.  This edition of 29Rooms eerily approximates the experience of scrolling through the news, which similarly swings between surreal horror and empty chatter interspersed by advertisements.  For this (likely unintended) reason, 29Rooms SF is the most complex, layered, and interesting attraction of the group. 

Premiering this past April in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Monochrome is the least evidently corporate of the attractions, with artist CJ Hendry driving the vision as an homage to Pantone. True to the title, the rooms cover 5,000 sqft of color capsules, emphasizing unexpected textures (carpet covered kitchen cabinets, a chair encrusted with daisies) within otherwise traditional interiors. The budgetary constraints were evident where the 8-foot Lego-like wall ends: unless you crop close, it fails to hide the outside world. In the world of art attractions, Monochrome was textbook in its theme and one-dimensional in ambition. I longingly recall the color studies of Josef Albers, who created exhaustively iterative, constantly surprising, and yet deeply immersive work that changed how we see color forever. His medium was canvas and paper.

Museum of Ice Cream
MOIC’s motto that “Anything is possible” takes ice cream as a touchpoint for experiencing the five senses. With four iterations and a new product collaboration with Target, MOIC is an entertainment production agency and the most fascinating (and controversial) of this group for its sanctimonious coopting of “museum” in its name, as well as the micro-economy of Post-Millennials it employs and services. The experience it offers is unflinchingly saccharine and entirely product-driven. MOIC, as corporate entity, carries more intrigue than its hashtagged images, and I return for a second, third, and fourth look without a clear idea of what I’m looking at.

Andrea Hill is a New York- and Amsterdam-based entrepreneur and creative director who has founded companies that bring the ideas of artists and designers to a broad public. Paloma Powers and Culture™ both address how brands can better support culture and best practices for artist-brand collaborations.

ROUNDUP: Spectacle and the Self(ie)

Amazed and Automotive
Venerable art publisher Visionaire presented AMAZE, an installation at the Cadillac House space in New York designed by Rafael de Cardenas and featuring a score by experimental musician Sahra Motalebi. The experience was billed as "at once embracing selfie culture and calling it into question," and benefited from the most art-insider-credibility of any of these spaces thus far. Visionaire

Influencers-Only Outrage
On Monday, a street-art mural popped up on LA's Melrose Avenue with a security guard and a sign indicating only influencers with upwards of 20,000 followers could take selfies in front of it. It was soon revealed to be a marketing stunt for a web series, but not before it went viral and launched a thousand angry tweets. Even a piece of faux selfie-spectacle art can make news these days. Buzzfeed

Relational Aesthetics on the Smartphone
"Museums are no longer spaces in which to experience art, but rather spaces in which to perform the self having art experiences," writes theorist Rob Horning in this worthwhile essay about the smartphone and the contemporary art experience. An in-depth look at how even the most anti-commercial, non-branded, un-photographable works today—like Tania Bruguera's recent installation at MoMA—live in the shadow of the phone in our pocket and the "centrifugal force" it exerts. Even