No Pushing There’s Plenty of Mmuseumm

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MMUSEUMM Season 6 2018 is NOW OPEN. Thursday and Friday 6–9. Saturday and Sunday 12–6. Serving espressos, ice pops and bbookks next door at Mmuseumm Rest Stop. The grand opening on April 28 was, as usual, a spectacular event with hundreds of people filling the narrow Cortland Alley in lower Manhattan, NY. This season’s exhibits include “the Wall of Globalization,” the humble “Occlupanid,” or “bread clip” and “Nothing Is Perfect,” among others. I spoke to founder and director of Mmuseumm, Alex Kalman, to talk about why he invests so much into his opening events.

Mmuseumm 1.

Mmuseumm 2: Rest Stop.

I’ve written about mmuseumm’s past exhibits, but never focused on the opening ceremonies. What is your impulse, motivation or inspiration for these extravaganzas?To maintain a sense of surprise. To have fun. To embrace the alley and the characters that represent the greatest parts of New York City. To have an unofficial block party where you feel like any though could happen. To make people wonder if they are even in the right place when they show up. To make people feel that they are really at something special rather than another art opening or “event.” To make something that is simultaneously small and intimate as well as grand. Something formal as well as rough. Something serious and absurd. Something that feels like if there was a museum about the modern world in an alley run by people who hate boring and enjoy playing with the conventions. Which is all the case here.

Zoe and Joell, Mmuseum’s host and singer.

Zoe (MC) and Joell (entertainer). Photo: Monica Mena

Joell sings his heart out.

How do the opening ceremonies relate to you mission?The ceremony is made up of elements that are a part of the vernacular of the city as opposed traditional event elements. For catering, we don’t have Danny Meyer but we have A NYC hot dog cart operated by Samya who owns the cart and an icee cart operated by Daniel who own his cart. And each of those elements are their own universe and narrative. We don’t have an event space we have an alley. For an MC—we don’t have a celebrity or an authority in the art world—we have an 8-year-old girl or Charles Pellett, the voice of the MTA. For stage we don’t have a big build—we have local customized cars or fire escapes. And for entertainers, we don’t have a pop star, we have subway and street musicians. It’s a celebration of the vernacular made up of the vernacular.

video by New York Nico

Photo: MM

Zoe’s triumphant entrance.

Last night you had an incredible array. First a small parade of flavored ice cart, hot dog cart and an open-top SUV with a little girl announcing the event. Then a 10-year-old Journey singer pops out of the museum. How’d this all take shape?It comes together quickly and very close to the event. We all keep our eyes out for warm and wonderful characters in the city. Also at this point I have a large collection of contacts for performers from around the city. I actually discovered Joel, the young and super talented singer, through my good friend Nick Heller who also happens to be your son. Joe is one of the many people who have their own sincere character, their own narrative, and who help maintain the soul of the city no matter how many salad places open.

It’s wonderful to have so many people enjoying themselves in your little alley of NYC. How will you top yourself?It’s amazing to get hundreds of people together for something that is as small as an elevator. It’s part of the absurd joy of the whole formula. At the same time it’s really big. This year we estimated around 500 people at the event. Who knows what next year will bring. That is part of the joy (and the stress).

Confetti parade.

For more social media go here and here.

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Design / Designer as Entrepreneur program, and writes frequently for EYE and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 190 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal, is in the Art Directors Hall of Fame and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →

Posted inThe Daily Heller