Riverdale Students Discuss Pop-Up Exhibits in New York City
Blinding camera flashes, never-ending lines, and overcrowded venues are just a few notable characteristics of the pop-up art exhibits that have been flooding NYC in recent months. These galleries thrive because of the free publicity they get from each visitor who documents and shares their experience online.
Whether it be the Museum of Ice Cream or the Color Factory, these galleries have exploded on social media, and Riverdale students have not hesitated to hop on the trend.
Though these exhibits are entertaining and even thought-provoking, the abundant coverage online calls into question whether visitors are driven more by elevating their social media feeds than by exploration of the art.
When Junior Sophie Neugarten recently visited the Happy Go Lucky exhibit in downtown SoHo, she immediately felt out of place among the crowds of bloggers and instagrammers that surrounded her. On its website, Happy Go Lucky is described as “a fun experience which brings you lots of joy.” This is not, however, how Neugarten interpreted her visit.
“Basically it was just a space with a lot of different backdrops that you were supposed to take pictures in front of,” she said. “I felt that it was very narcissistic and just intended to cater to an Instagram-obsessed generation.”
What bothered Neugarten most was that the art itself didn’t seem to have any substance. It was as if its purpose was more to provide a setting for a picture than to provoke thought and captivate an audience. Neugarten believes that “if you are going to post something to social media, it should be organic and not posed just to attract attention.” She continued on to explain that what concerns her about these pop-up experiences is the fact that “people will go to a place solely to create a post for social media. It just goes to show how concerned people are about their image and the way they’re perceived by others.”
Morgan Eilers, another junior at Riverdale, presented a different perspective. Although Eilers agrees with Neugarten that these galleries are clearly meant to be “Instagram bait,” this doesn’t seem to bother her.
In late August, Eilers visited the Color Factory, an “interactive exhibit that celebrates the discovery, serendipity and generosity of color.” According to Eilers, this Soho gallery has about 30 discrete rooms each designed by a different artist with the intention of highlighting some aspect of color. Some rooms focus on one specific color while others showcase multiple colors or explore what these colors mean to people.
While Eilers recognized that the exhibit was definitely centered on taking photos, she didn’t believe that this was an inherently bad thing.
“I went to the exhibit because of pictures I had seen online,” Eilers said. “If it weren't for the pictures that my friends posted on their accounts, I would have completely missed out on this experience.”
Eilers went on to say that the museum was definitely crowded, but she actually enjoyed meeting and connecting with those around her.
“It’s honestly really interesting to watch the responses that people of different ages and backgrounds have to the same art,” she said. “I wasn’t just having a personal experience, but I was sharing one with everyone else there.”
Eilers understands that taking photos was a main focus of this exhibit, but because she understood this going into her visit, she was not as struck by it as Neugarten was.
“An interactive museum was a new experience for me,” said Eilers. “And although people were constantly taking pictures, I don’t think it took away from the impact of the art.”
Mr. Peter Simon, head of Riverdale’s art department shared that though he can understand both Neugarten’s frustration and Eilers’ fascination, he is just glad that his students are seeking out art beyond the walls of Lindenbaum. Mr. Simon explained that it’s nice to know that he is teaching kids who have a genuine interest in art and the way it’s curated. Though there may be some conflicting responses to this new wave of pop-up galleries, Mr. Simon believes that, “any reason for visiting a gallery is justified.” And whether critical or praising, “there is no wrong way to respond to art.”