Pop Up Museums

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Pop Up Museums

Pop-up exhibits or installations use elements such as color, lighting, technology, and unique materials to provide immersive and engaging experiences. Consumers are drawn to these exhibits for a number of reasons, including entertainment, photo-taking and social-sharing, the ability to immerse themselves in an experience (many of which are interactive), education, and the opportunity to view and engage with immersive art that inspires introspection or a sense of community. While many pop-up museums and exhibits initially catered to a younger generation inspired by the social-sharing aspect of the experience, many pop-up exhibits now reach a broader audience, such as families seeking entertainment or adults looking for a unique museum experience. Seven pop-up exhibits are described in detail below.

The Traveling Billboard: 29Rooms

  • The Traveling Billboard is an exhibit within 29Rooms, a pop-up museum in the United States that offers 29 "multi-sensory installations, performances, and workshops" that facilitate a connection with "creativity, culture, and community."
  • 29Rooms emphasizes the cultural relevance of art and features interactive exhibits that "ignite people’s imaginations, spark dialogue, and get people outside their comfort zone so they can discover something new."
  • The Traveling Billboard is a full-scale, billboard mural developed by a local artist at each pop-up location, intended to highlight local talent and provide a visual depiction of a "silhouette of the urban landscape." It is often the first exhibit seen by visitors, with the museum calling it "a striking beacon to welcome you to 29Rooms."
  • Atlanta artist, Neka King, produced one of the billboards in Atlanta's latest 29Rooms installation. Titled "Expansion", King says her piece is intended to convey optimism and possibility: "My art usually depicts black figurative work, so I decided to pair that with an afro-futuristic feel in order to express this feeling of grand optimism and possibility, something I think Atlanta has a lot of."
  • The Traveling Billboard appeals to consumers' sense of community, offering an opportunity to spark their imagination, while at the same time providing a photo opportunity.
  • Beyond photo opportunities, consumers are drawn to 29Rooms based on a desire for interaction and connectivity ("phone-free moments"), with Refinery29's executive creative director and co-founder Piera Gelardi noting that "past visitors have asked for more than just Instagram backdrops."
  • While a number of visitors have expressed dissatisfaction due to crowding and lines (pre-COVID-19), one reviewer noted that the museum offered "an amazing and interactive experience for people who love creativity and appreciate thought-provoking artwork."

Sprinkle Pool: Museum of Ice Cream

  • The Sprinkle Pool is an immersive experience offered at the MOIC in New York and San Francisco.
  • Created by founders Maryellis Bunn and Manish Vora, the 363-cubic foot pool filled with 11,000 pounds of inedible rainbow sprinkles includes a slide, a mock diving board, and mirrors on the ceiling. Prior to COVID-19, visitors could jump into the 3-foot deep "pool" and play with inflatable toys while in the space.
  • The Sprinkle Pool has not been without controversy, with the exhibit coming under fire for plastic sprinkles in the pool that could potentially "attach" to guests and end up in storm drains or sidewalks throughout the city. These concerns resulted in "fines in two cities, a petition demanding its highlight exhibit shut down, [and] inspections from city officials."
  • In response, the museum re-designed the sprinkle pool to include biodegradable sprinkles, which are frequently cleaned in an antimicrobial "sprinkle shower."
  • Exhibit drivers include entertainment and social sharing. Appealing to wide range of audiences, from families looking to play in the "pool" to teens and young adults seeking "selfie" opportunities, USA Today says the Sprinkle Pool is "... every 5-year-old's dream and the perfect backdrop for grown-up selfies."
  • A visitor from January 2020 says, "The kids loved this area and could have spent all day here."
  • While the museum currently does not allow visitors to "swim" in the Sprinkle Pool, they note they have "revamped" the experience and "promise it will be just as exciting!"
  • A picture of the NYC Sprinkle Pool (prior to COVID-19) is below.

Infinity Mirror Room: Wndr Museum

  • USA-based (Chicago, Illinois) Wndr Museum integrates technology and art to"ignite the curiosity that exists within and around each of us." The museum includes experiential and educational exhibits and installations that are intended to appeal to visitors of all ages.
  • Developed by artist Yayoi Kusama, the Infinity Mirror Room is filled with "reflective steel balls and a small mirrored column that itself encloses an even smaller Infinity Room." The first Infinity Mirror Room ("INFINITY MIRRORED ROOM: LET’S SURVIVE FOREVER") was previously in place at the David Zwirner Gallery in New York, where it was seen by 75,000 visitors.
  • Kusama's Infinity Mirror rooms are intended to create "an illusion of a never-ending space." By using mirrors, Kusama creates "an immersion experience within the work of art."
  • As the feature installation at the Wndr Museum, guests are given 1 minute to explore the Infinity Mirror Room in groups of no more than 6. They allow (and encourage) photographs, but prohibit touching the artwork.
  • Many consumers are drawn to the Wndr Museum by the Infinity Mirror Room, though the limited time available to experience the room leaves some disappointed. A visitor expresses this sentiment in her 2018 review of the Wndr Museum: "If your sole reason for coming here to see Kusama's infinity mirror room, you might be a little disappointed. Why? Because you only really want to see that but find out you only get a limited time to spend in there."
  • The exhibit generates positive sentiment among other visitors, such as this 2018 guest who said about the exhibit, "Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirror Room. Amazing. The two minutes you get with this artists incredible perspective are longer than the 30 seconds usually allotted for her installations, but alas still far too short. I will probably come again to get another tantalizing glimpse into infinity. When I do it again I will not take pics but just be with it."
  • This WNDR reviewer (who visited with her 10 and 11-year-old nephews) notes the key reasons for visiting include "highly immersive, experiential and, above all, Instagrammable" experiences. The Infinity Mirror Room supports the broader missive of the museum, with the reviewer commenting "There, amid graceful floating balls and reflecting mirrors, we’re allotted just one minute, so we take it all in, gazing at one another and at our multiplying reflections, wishing we could stay just a little longer to find a different angle, a new perspective."
  • The Infinity Mirror Room at the Wndr Museum is pictured below.

Rubber Ducky Bathtub: Happy Place

  • Currently open in Sydney, Australia, the Happy Place is an immersive pop-up experience that includes multi-sensory themed exhibits such as "the world's largest indoor Confetti Dome", the Cookie Room (with a chocolate chip cookie scent), the Upside Down room, Super Bloom (with 40,000 handmade flowers), and the Rubber Ducky Bathtub.
  • The museum, calling itself a "massive pop-up experience", designs its exhibits with bright colors and lights, specifically focused on cultivating the perfect picture for social media. While originally designed as an "Instagram Museum", the Happy Place bills itself as appropriate for all ages, even offering private parties.
  • The first Happy Place installation in Los Angeles "featured over 100,000 guests exploring life-size installations, interactive rooms, and guests capturing their happiest moments."
  • The Rubber Ducky Bathtub is a room filled with "cheek-to-cheek" rubber duckies on every wall, with a yellow bathtub in the center. The bathtub includes bright yellow plastic balls ("bubbles").
  • The Rubber Ducky Bathtub is the most well-known experience at the Happy Place, offering visitors fun, happiness, and picture-worthiness, in support of the museum's mission.
  • At the Boston, Massachusetts Happy Place pop-up, one visitor with 40,000 Instagram followers "posed in the yellow bathtub, grinning and kicking up her leg playfully", noting that she would have "content for days."
  • One Facebook reviewer who posted a picture in the Rubber Ducky Room commented on her experience: "Great place to go with people that are important in your life. Loved taking fun and creative photos with my best friend."

Augmented Reality Sandbox: Zerospace

  • The exhibit offers benefits of interactivity and visual stimulation, with one reviewer highlighting the "free-roaming interaction" of the museum and "humungazoid sand table with special effects." Another reviewer who says Zerospace is the "place for some artsy Instagram photos" describes the Augmented Reality Sandbox as a "sand exhibit with psychedelic colors."

Submerge: Artechouse

  • Artechouse blends art, science, and technology to provide experiential, multi-media art exhibitions. Committed to the principle that "art should be for everyone", Artechouse strives to generate interest among all ages in the "possibilities of technology, science, and creativity."
  • Submerge was announced earlier this year as an "immersive installation inspired by the Pantone Color of the Year 2020" (Classic Blue).
  • The installation was slated to be on display during New York City fashion week, from February 5 to February 23, 2020.
  • Sandro Kereselidze, ARTECHOUSE founder and Chief Creative Officer, commented on the integration of technology and design to deliver an immersive sensory experience for consumers: "Our collaboration with Pantone offered us an opportunity to utilize our state-of-the-art technology and design tools to push the possibilities and truly submerge people into color, creating an unprecedented multisensory exploration where one would not only visually take in the color but feel it all around them. We are thrilled to bring this exciting installation to a larger audience.
  • With the blue color representing dependability, the exhibit is intended to evoke a sense of stability and resiliency amidst global instability. Visitors are encouraged to take their time to fully immerse themselves in the exhibit, meant to inspire introspection and an examination of the environment from a different perspective.
  • The exhibit is designed as less of an "Instagram" photo opportunity, aligning more closely with the mission of Artechouse to" get inspired, educated, and empowered by exploring the latest and the best works of art and tech."
  • One visitor commented on the thought-provoking nature of the experience: "What a wonderful mind-expanding experience. This was a terrific and unusual art experience.....I am an artist and regularly work with color, even on electronics, but have never experienced the totality of any color the way in which I have now experienced BLUE.
  • While the exhibit has ended, Artechouse now offers an audiovisual, interactive "Exploration of Blue" experience, accessible via computer and inspired by Submerge.

Rainbow Cave: Arcadia Earth

  • Arcadia Earth is an environmentally-focused pop-up exhibit with a mission to "inform, inspire and activate" the community to "positively impact our planet."
  • The current exhibit features 15 rooms with installations from a number of environmental artists offering an "immersive, augmented reality journey through planet earth."
  • Through AR, VR, projection-mapping, and interactive art installations built entirely from recycled and biodegradable materials, Arcadia Earth strives to demonstrate the impact of small changes on the future of the planet.
  • Rainbow Cave is an installation resembling a "crystal palace" that uses 44,000 discarded plastic bags to demonstrate the number of plastic bags used each minute in New York. Created by Basia Goszczynska, a Brooklyn Artist, the exhibit is designed as a data visualization exercise, bringing the statistic to life to create an emotional connection to the environmental issue.

  • Drivers of visitation to Arcadia Earth (including this exhibit) are education and information, entertainment, and interest in immersion in environmentally-focused initiatives. The exhibit is considered by many to be appropriate for children, students, and adults.
  • One family commented on the positive experience for their children, "They learn a lot about sustainability in school so it was right up their alley. The experience was totally engaging with a combination of art installation, education, AR, VR, and just a lot of fun overall."
  • Another visitor found the exhibit "beautiful and impactful but also empowering and inspiring."
  • The museum appears to be moving toward their goal to "inform, inspire, and activate" as demonstrated by a review from a recent visitor: "It is so visually impressive and beautiful that it becomes easy to overlook the tremendous amount of environmental information presented verbally through speakers and in print throughout each room. The focus on the environment is what needs to be taken away from experiencing this location. The beauty and artistic nature of the displays amplify the environmental message."

Research Strategy

We reviewed pop-up museum and exhibit websites, social media sites, news articles, and reviews (professional and consumer) to provide a diverse array of pop-up exhibits/installations. Exhibit and museum reviews and news articles, along with messaging from the museum or exhibitor, provided insight into the drivers of appeal for the experience described.
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