Art critic Amanda Hess writes for the New York Times on the phenomenon of themed pop-up “museums”, “mansions” and “laboratories” that function mostly as Instagram selfie backdrops:
The central disappointment of these spaces is not that they are so narcissistic, but rather that they seem to have such a low view of the people who visit them. Observing a work of art or climbing a mountain actually invites us to create meaning in our lives. But in these spaces, the idea of “interacting” with the world is made so slickly transactional that our role is hugely diminished. Stalking through the colorful hallways of New York’s “experiences,” I felt like a shell of a person.
I’ve experienced fantastical, immersive art environments done deeply and delightfully – go to the Musée Patamécanique in Bristol, Rhode Island, when they re-open – and I flatter myself that I’ve even had a hand in creating a few over the years. I’ve also, very often, mulled over their meaning-making potentials. The technologies are there. The appetite is there. The conceptual and design processes are there, provided that you’re looking in the right places. Hell, people have been doing this stuff for decades …
But yeah, spare me your Museums of Ice Cream, your self-branding opportunities, your #bestlifes and your goddamn ball-pits. Life is too short.