December 14, 2014

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In Tribeca, around the corner from the old Mudd Club on White Street, is Courtland Alley — one of the only back alleys in Manhattan. And in a freight elevator in that alley is Mmuseumm, the smallest museum in New York.

I love quirky museums, so this place never fails to amuse me. It consists of 20 rotating exhibits of items collected from around the world by a different curator/collectors, all installed in the 80 square foot space. The exhibits are viewable 24/7/365 from windows in the elevator’s steel doors, and the museum is generally open from 12-6 on weekend. Only two or three visitors can fit inside at a time, along with the attendant. However, quirky and reliable don’t always go together, so when I visited this Sunday afternoon it was locked up, so I had to peer into the museum from the alleyway.

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The Mmuseumm bills itself as a “modern natural-history museum,” displaying unusual artifacts of modern life in a sort of contemporary cabinet of curiosities. While their stated policy is “no art, no sentimentality” some of the collections are from artists. Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, two young artists whose work I follow, contributed a set of artificial cakes with 1980’s pulp novel graphics and mysterious statements airbrushed on them, such as “Pre-Teen Huff Job”. Some other collections that struck my fancy are:
  • over a dozen plastic spoons, all different
  • toothpaste tubes from around the world
  • 200 New Delhi mosquitoes, killed mid-bite
  • a set of peep-show tokens
  • a set of counterfeit Sharpie non-toxic permanent markers, some of which are not non-toxic.

One particularly poignant collection is Natural Styrofoam Rocks, collected from the East River by artist Maia Ruth Lee. These are pieces of styrofoam garbage that has been worn by the river until they look like natural rocks. The combination of beauty and repugnancy in these objects somehow reflects the esthetic of this museum.

In addition to the temporary exhibits, there are items from the permanent collection such as the shoe that was thrown at George W Bush and a water boiler. These are from the Mmuseumm’s creators and meta-curators Alex Kalman, and Benny and Joshua Safdie.

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Tech Bonus

With the hundreds of objects in such a small space, there is no room for label cards. Instead each collection or item has a number. Visitors are directed to call a number on their cell phone and punch in that number to get the name and a brief description of each item, similar to The Fed at 100 exhibit I had posted about previously. This adds to the mystery, as visitors at first have no idea what they are looking at.

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