Saturday 17 November 2018

New York pizza museum offers food fans a slice of culture

The group that came up with the Museum of Pizza idea said it had asked artists to supply their own interpretation of the food favourite.

Kareem Rahma, right, co-creator of The Museum of Pizza, appears in an art installation in New York (Bebeto Matthews/AP)
Kareem Rahma, right, co-creator of The Museum of Pizza, appears in an art installation in New York (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

By Gary Gerard Hamilton, Associated Press

Pizza lovers are being tempted with a taste of fine art at a new pop-up exhibition that has opened in New York City.

The Museum of Pizza is dedicated to all things cheese and sauce, but there is more to it than many deep pan fans may expect.

“It’s often that the simplest ideas are the best. And we wanted to use pizza’s ubiquitous appeal to get people through the door and looking at art and hearing about history in a different format,” said Alexandra Serio, chief content officer at Nameless Network, the group that came up with the Museum of Pizza idea.

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A textile sculpture from artist Hein Koh called Mystic Pizza, part of a group art exhibition celebrating pizza at The Museum of Pizza in New York (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

“Our approach to this Museum of Pizza is a fine art approach, so we went out to multiple artists contemporary in many mediums, and asked them for their interpretation of pizza,” said Ms Serio.

“And what we got back is – it ranges the gambit, let’s just say that. That’s an understatement.”

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A pizza video game creation from Jeremey Couillard (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

Located on the street level of Brooklyn’s William Vale hotel, the museum is an expansive, one-floor space that houses a wide variety of art, from giant photographs to sculptures, to large installations that engulf visitors.

And the pop-up museum, also known as MoPi, has already drawn a lot of interest – more than 6,000 people came through the doors when they opened this month.

Another instantly recognisable attribute of the space is the bright colours that are woven throughout the exhibits – perfect for taking pictures for sharing on social media.

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The Pizza Guitar, from musician Andrew WK, part of a group art exhibition celebrating pizza at The Museum of Pizza in New York (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

“Honestly, I thought it would be like more of a museum like at the beginning, with the pizza boxes and it kinda tells you when it was developed and stuff like that,” said Nene Raye, visiting from New Jersey.

“Then I was kinda hoping they had something artsy in it because I love taking pictures. So this is a mashup of everything – so you get a little bit of education and then some fun, which I love.”

Ms Serio said selfie-friendly exhibits are becoming a priority for museums as they try to get younger people to walk through their doors.

“It’s a kind of paradigm shift with museums,” she said.

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A pizza box playroom created with neon lights and colourful fluorescent tape called Gazoo, part of a group art exhibition celebrating pizza at The Museum of Pizza in New York (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

“You’ll see, I think in the next few years because of museums like the Museum of Ice Cream, and multiple pop-ups of this ilk, museums kind of courting a younger audience and seeing how they can make their exhibitions more tactile, touch and photography friendly.”

Lydia Melendez, a self-described “pizza aficionado”, bought her tickets in April.

For her, this experience was worth the wait.

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A three-dimensional sculpture from artist Shawna X called Say Cheese, part of a group art exhibition celebrating pizza at The Museum of Pizza in New York (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

“I thought it was going to be kinda boring, like I’m going to walk in and there’s just going to be a book about pizza and how to make it. But this is definitely one for the books.”

While pizza may be the hook that draws those interested to the museum, the focus of MoPi is to expose visitors to the fine art world – even if the education is fed one slice at a time.

“The Museum of Pizza’s target demographic isn’t necessarily the same type of people that are making quarterly trips to the MoMA or the Frick collection or the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art),” said Ms Serio.

“We’re really putting fine art in a place that’s easily accessible for a wide range of people.”

The pop-up museum, which costs 35 dollars (£26.70) for adults, closes on November 18.

Press Association

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