Here Are the Artists that Made The Museum of Pizza More Than a Selfie Stop
There's a legitimate art gallery in the middle of New York's latest trendy selfie center.
Photos by Julian Master
In a climate charged with endless vital, polarizing issues, the creators of the Museum of Pizza wanted to celebrate one of the few things pretty much everyone can agree on. This weekend, 5,000 people visited the pop-up snaking its way through the underbelly of Williamsburg’s very fancy William Vale Hotel—neighboring Dylan Sprouse’s meadery—to get a tasteful reprieve from controversy.
The pop-up was spun into existence by Nameless Network, a media company (founded by one-time VICE employees Alexandra Serio, Max Nelson, and Kareem Rahma) known for bright, Facebook-friendly explainer videos. MoPi, the hashtag-length name for the museum, is the company's first IRL production. "We chose pizza because it needs no introduction. There's no barrier to entry," says Serio, Nameless Network co-founder and Chief Creative Officer. "We're using that to give people an educational element and a fine art element. It's nutritional value where you might not expect it. We feel that education disguised as entertainment is needed right now."
Scott Wiener, the NYC-famous guide behind Scott’s Pizza Tours, enthusiastically takes on the educational section of the museum. Visitors are greeted by a sample from his Guinness World Record-winning pizza box collection and a recording of Wiener reciting the history of the food with fun motion graphics. Throughout the rest of the pop-up is a mozzarella cave, a mirrored pizza vortex, and a bricolage beach dedicated to the Italian-American staple. The most on-brand brand collaborations possible—DiGiorno, Totino's Pizza Rolls, Hidden Valley Ranch—are sprinkled between the art. At the end is a pizza parlor where visitors can hang out and talk while they eat the free slice from Williamsburg Pizza that's included in each $35 ticket.
But aside from being a gooey wonderland of carbs and dairy, The Museum of Pizza is actually a platform for dozens of young, cool artists whose work would be equally at home at Soho galleries and Art Basel. RJ Supa curated a fine art gallery within the museum called the Psychedelic Pizza Parlor, which includes a wall of custom pizza boxes and Andrew WK's famous pizza guitar. "We gave pizza as a subject to a bunch of artists and let them do whatever they wanted," says co-founder and Chief Digital Officer Max Nelson. "We didn't restrict them at all."
There are a ton of selfie ops in the museum, but the meat of the exhibition is the array of thought-provoking artifacts by dope artists. Here are just a few of the creators that give The Museum of Pizza its edge.
The Palestinian-Australian photographer who most recently caught some shine for her heart-throbby photos of the internet’s boyfriend, Noah Centineo, contributed one of her most sultry, iconic works to The Museum of Pizza. A woman clutching a pristine slice, reclines on crisp, white sheets in a tasteful nude from her breakout SEX AND TAKEOUT photo series. Bahbah has shown work with Castle Fitzjohns Gallery, Corridor Contemporary, Zemack Contemporary Art, Lawrence Alkin Gallery, and k contemporary, but she’s best known for her incredibly regrammable, emotional, fourth wall-shattering Instagram posts. She also articulated her own experiences as a child sexual abuse survivor in an incredibly resonant poem published in April, I Could Not Protect Her.
There's a video game where you play as a foul-mouthed slice of pizza wandering a forest full of iridescent animals tucked in between all the drawings and paintings and sculptures in the Psychedelic Pizza Parlor. This is the work of Jeremey Couillard, a New Media professor at LaGuardia Community College who uses his skills to make mind-bending interactive art like a virtual reality simulation of an out of body experience and a mass hallucination at a multimedia festival. His trippy, bleeding technological edge has taken him to art spaces from Austin, TX to London.
Adam Parker Smith
Three disembodied arms mounted on pedestals are some of the closest objects in the Psychedelic Pizza Parlor to what stodgy Europeans a few centuries back might have considered "art," but they're still pretty zany. Styled off of Greek sculpture, Adam Parker Smith's golden appendages clutch bizarre objects like locks of hair, fake grapes, and leather fringe. His work has appeared at NYC emerging artist favorite The Hole, as well as San Francisco's Ever Gold Gallery and Nordine ZIDOUN in Luxembourg, among others.
The animated dough portraits of Soren Dahlgaard were a natural fit for The Museum of Pizza, but they're wonderful in any context. The Danish artist has been working with dough since his 2006 work, 3-Hour-Sculpture, in which he placed over 200 pounds of dough into an aquarium and let it rise. Since then he's incorporated the methodical movement of flour, water, and yeast a variety of ways, most prolifically oozing over the heads and faces of his human photography subjects. He's exhibited all over the world, from The Photographers Gallery in London to the National Art Gallery of Maldives to the Contemporary Art Center Brasilia in Brazil.
Behind the guy eating pizza in the picture above is Andrea McGinty 's Peppers and Olives with Built-In Storage, a large vinyl photograph of, well, exactly what it says, is printed on a canvas. A plastic pocket containing hand sanitizer is affixed to the front, though it's obscured by the brown-shirted pizza eater in the foreground. The Florida-born, New York-based artist's work is full of clever juxtapositions like the image of a greasy snack and an actual container of alcohol-based gel cleanser. Since graduating from the School of Visual Arts, she's exhibited her tongue-in-cheek brand of found-art mixtures all around New York, in Philadelphia, Wyoming, Mexico, Colombia, and more.
Mystic Pizza by Jersey City-born artist Hein Koh is one of the most expensive sculptures in the museum. Koh is a Dartmoth and Yale alum who has been tearing up the art world with great, cartoonish textile sculptures of emoji-like icons: flowers, body parts, junkfood, stars. Big lips, tongues, and eyes give her work a subtle sexuality that become very much not subtle in her playful photography, often posing nude with her own work. She went viral in 2016 for a photo of herself breastfeeding her twins, who were precariously perched alongside her laptop as she worked. Independent from that bout of internet fame, she hasn't had a year without a gallery show since 2007, exhibiting all over all five New York City boroughs, as well as Baltimore and Sweden.
At the top of his portfolio website, Siebren Versteeg indicates the exact number of days since he was born (17,238 at time of posting) in New Haven, CT. That gives you an idea of his sense of humor. His work is usually abstract painting and sculpture that looks like it was either carved from, dreamed up by, or vomited out of a computer, and he's shown it at nerd Meccas like Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University and bitforms gallery in the Lower East Side. It also appears in the collections of major like the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Guggenheim in New York, MoCA Chicago, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Washington, DC. Black Hole Apizza, the new work he contributed to The Museum of Pizza is slightly more formal and one of the best pieces for selfies in the room. It looks like a cosmic pizza delivery man punctured a hole in spacetime—which is naturally composed of pizza—in order to provide the event with fresh pies.
Moldy Peaches alum and perennial New York City creative boy Adam Green brought the trippy bricolage style from his Macaulay Culkin-starring stoner Aladdin redux to the real world with a room-scale install dubbed the Pizza Beach. It looks like one of those viral photo series where a dad takes the bizarre imaginings of his kid's scribbles and makes them IRL. There's an orthodox Jewish pizza Santa Claus, at least one ninja turtle, and pearly pizza gates that lead to pizza heaven. The NYC-born-and-bred anti-folk musician meandered into the film and visual arts world in 2005 with his film The Wrong Ferrari, and has since exhibited work at galleries like The Hole and Le Poisson Rouge Gallery, often with the art collective he formed with Culkin, 3MB.
Gazoo to the Moon
Gazoo to the Moon came on board The Pizza Museum just days before it opened. He freestyled with fluorescent orange and yellow tape over black satin paint and wound up creating one of the most photogenic backdrops in the space. "In the year 3018, a thousand years from now, all robots are gonna be eating pizza because all the oil in the cheese is going to keep them alive," he told us.
Shawna X is a designer and illustrator adept at adapting her 2D visions into sweeping three-dimensional sculptures and installations that feel drawn into existence. Her room within The Museum of Pizza is called Say Cheese, and it's loosely based on a drawing she made in 2014 imagining lipstick made from pizza. Her personal work is a vibrant window into her perception of sexuality, race, and culture, but she's also leveraged her aesthetic with brands to take over Times Square, the cover of New York Magazine, a US Women's Championship Volleyball court, and A/D/O's warehouse-like gallery space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with her mixed-media work. She's also illustrated a bunch of Broadly's horoscopes.
Caleb Gilbert and the 11th Street Workshop
Caleb Gilbert spearheaded the project with production company 11th Street Workshop, erecting a goopy cavern apparently inspired by Lebanon's largest cave, the Joita grotto. The Cheese Cave is one of the selfie-est spots in the whole museum, but the drooping stalagmites are made from soft textiles and the stalactites are styrofoam, lending the tight space a nice tactileness.
Signe Pierce's neon, mirror-glazed art is all about manipulating reality. Her provocations can be terrifying, as in AMERICAN REFLEXXX, her surreal, violent performance silently walking through Myrtle Beach in a mirror mask. It can also be sensual, like the melty nudes she published in the latest issue of VICE Magazine. Often, it's both—a winning combination that has earned her work gallery space from Castor Gallery in Miami to Galerie Nathalie Halgand in Vienna. For The Museum of Pizza, she teamed up with animator Emma Stern to construct the Pizza Vortex, a hypnotic 3D-animated pizza tunnel that ricochets off the walls of the reflective room that encases it. "We want everyone to be involved in the vortex," Stern told me on opening night. "It should blur the line between where you're standing and what's sailing past you."
The Museum of Pizza is open to the public through November 18, 2018.
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