An interesting phenomenon is occurring; that of the Food-Centric “Museum.” I put museum in quotation marks because Wikipedia defines the word as A museum (/mjuːˈziːəm/ mew-ZEE-əm; plural musea or museums) is an institution that cares for (conserves) a collection of artifacts and other objects of artistic, cultural, historical, or scientific importance. Last year, I was able to experience both the Color Factory and the Museum of Ice Cream. I actually went to the Color Factory more than once and while it was not specifically food-centric, the multi-artist collective offering contained a handful of food themes, including the Now Serving station of colored foods.
The next offering was the orange room by Tosha Stimage, and the finale of a miniature yellow ice cream after swimming through an entire pool of plastic yellow balls.
The Ice Cream Factory was less enjoyable as it was far more corporate in its attempt to shove products down one’s throat. It was supposed to be joyful to swim in a pool filled with sprinkles, but the sprinkles were actually plastic and there were many complaints about the litter it caused all over the cities in which the Museum was staged. Much of the museum was pink and I am still trying to figure out what a wall of pink-painted miniature army figures has to do with ice cream. It was as though they were just trying to create a pink palace and anything would suffice. Stylistically, I did appreciate the wall of pink taffy, just for aesthetic reasons, but – again – question its relationship to the museum’s chosen theme.
What has brought this all to a head is a recent article in The Guardian about these food-themed museums. They discuss a Museum of Pizza coming to New York this fall which lauds itself as “the world’s first and only immersive art experience celebrating pizza.” It is obvious these folks didn’t know about the Dusseldorf Pizza Is God exhibit that occurred earlier this year. There is also going to be a Museum of Candy in San Diego and the New York-staged Egg House is currently going strong.
These United States endeavors seem to be more gimmicky; enticing attendees into settings where they can play, be children again, and let their hair down in the frivolity of the ascribed themes. Europe is more serious about its food museums, offering history and context of the subject matter. In Bruges, a fifteenth-century wine tavern is actually the home of the Choco Story chocolate museum. Cork, Ireland is home to a Butter Museum. And in Toruñ, Poland, a sixteenth-century gingerbread factory invites guests to experience the ancient and traditional art of baking one of the oldest confections known in the Zywe Museum Piernika. There are many more than these, actually, but suffice to say that contextualizing food within an artistic setting is far from a new or original concept.