What defines a museum these days? An impressive building? World-famous artworks? A star-curator? Maybe. One thing’s for sure: the museum of the 21st century can take on different shapes and forms, online and offline. New York City’s hidden Museum proves that even an old freight elevator can be the perfect spot.
Located in Cortland Alley, on the edge of Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, Museum is an 80 square feet venue that showcases obscure, under-the-radar and otherwise uncelebrated objects — “an assemblage of assorted collections from around the world”, as the founders explain. The idea of presenting collections of ‘ordinary’ objects as museum pieces is an interesting perspective that sets Museum apart from its big brothers in the cultural scene. I hear you think “Oh no, not another bunch of people who think that everything is art”, but that’s not the case — the collections represent meaning and value.
What intrigues me more is the museum’s inspiring location — an abandoned freight elevator with a transparent facade. Visitors who want to know more about a piece can call a toll-free hotline (888-763-8839) from their mobile phone and punch in the number associated with the artwork. Furthermore, in spite of its tiny footprint, Museum has managed to squeeze in both a gift shop and a café.
Museums and art galleries are busy exploring new ways to connect offline and online. If you consider buying paintings online there are things like Saatchi Gallery. You all know the BMW Guggenheim Lab, an attempt by the Guggenheim Museum and BMW to pop up in different places and engage with the theme of city-making. F.A.T.’s Aram Bartholl came up with Speed Show, an event that occupies a random Internet café and turns it into a net art gallery for only a few hours. Then there’s apps like the Museum of the Phantom City, an digital exhibition that showcases futuristic urban design in public space.
Museum perfectly goes with our secret urbanism trend, which involves increasing numbers of urban amenities that are under the radar, exclusive, or in places you wouldn’t expect them to be in. “We wanted the space to be something hard to find”, explains co-founder Alex Kalman to the BBC. This season features fifteen new exhibitions. Museum is normally viewable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through the viewing windows, and open for visitors on weekends. Head over the website for more information.