Service of Sights, Some Better than Others

October 18th, 2018

Categories: Museums, Photography, Sights

Alistair Steinberg at Museum of Illusions

I’ve always enjoyed historic house tours. How good they are depends partly on the docent but the experience is rewarding regardless for the peek at how people lived in the day, the art they collected or the décor, gardens and architecture they chose.

The other morning, on WOR 710 AM, Len Berman and co-host Michael Riedel mentioned a tour of Madison Square Garden that they thought was a waste of time and money. What’s the point, they said, of visiting an empty arena and seeing a virtual Billy Joel concert for $30+ a ticket? The Expedia description notes, in part: “This exciting 75 minute guided tour celebrates over 130 years of Garden history and gives exclusive access inside this legendary venue.”

Austen and Alistair Steinberg @ Museum of Illusions

Nancie Steinberg recently posted great photos on Facebook taken at the Museum of Illusions in NYC. They made me want to visit. Be sure to bring someone with you to take best advantage of the photo ops–her sons are in photos above and at right and her husband also enjoyed the illusions.

Laura Feasey recently covered some curious museums in “Mood Upswing,” in The Wall Street Journal. Like the Museum of Illusions, they also offer countless opportunities to take fun photos and post them on social media. In fact, that was the approach of her article–they were super Instagram-able. She reported that the cost of each is around $35.

If you’re in LA, you might want to wait in line at the Broad Museum to see Yayoi Kusama’s installation that “features LED lights reflected endlessly in a mirror-lined room.”

In NYC at the Color Factory you’ll see “a dive-in pit filled with 500,000 pastel blue balls. Other top draws: the conveyor belt of pick-your-own macarons and, less delectably, a collection of fake vomit.” Feasley chose to add The Museum of Ice Cream in San Francisco for its photogenic pool of sprinkles and giant gummy bear.

Color Factory. Photo:

You have only a month to visit The Museum of Pizza at the William Vale hotel in Brooklyn, NY. with its “ ‘cheese cave,’ made of silicone, a ‘pizza beach,’ and a space for ‘pizza meditation.’” The exhibit closes November 18. Opening in LA in December is 29Rooms, a frequent pop-up sight that in the past included “a human snow globe and walk-in womb meant to simulate the in-utero experience.” It arrives in L.A. in December.

Launching museums designed to inspire selfie opportunities where visitors promote it on social media is 2018 marketing-smart. But don’t all the signature sights around the world from the Eiffel Tower to the Empire State Building serve the same purpose? Except for the inspiration what’s the difference? Have you visited some memorable sights—terrific or disappointing? Can any collection of things become a legitimate museum? Have you noticed that traditional museums increasingly offer unorthodox exhibitions that resemble those in Feasey’s aticle?

Museum of Ice Cream

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11 Responses to “Service of Sights, Some Better than Others”

  1. David Reich Said:

    The Museum of Pizza and the Museum of Ice Cream are pop-ups. The Ice Cream museum was in NY a year ago.

    I have my doubts about pop-ups. I think they’re more money-making attempts, rather than real museums. Especially at admission prices of $30.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You’re probably right that they are money-making ventures yet they give the public something many crave: Something to do with the kids. If parents and two kids go to one of these places they’ve spent $140 without transportation. Would they not be better off visiting the Metropolitan Museum, MoMA, the Smithsonian, the Art Institute of Chicago etc.?

  3. Anonymous Said:

    $140 without transportation is a lot. But there are people spending much, much more to see the most popular shows, concerts, and sporting events so why are museums less deserving of our entertainment dollars? The phone/selfie thing is out of control. I was at a rock concert Saturday and watched the sea of people in the expensive floor seats filming the entire concert on their phones. What’s with that? They missed most of the experience by doing that. I have been to places billed as museums and felt my money could have been better spent. But I have a relative who enjoys taking tours of sports arenas when ever he travels so who am I to judge? I’m thankful for the choices we have today. I recently visited the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey with a friend who is, in fact, a scientist and it was so much fun. We talked about how we wished we had something like that when we were kids. Then she ran off and started building a molecule out of giant plastic pieces. Our family also enjoys the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. We’ve always liked the traditional museums as well but even they have special exhibits for which there is usually an extra charge. It’s a necessary revenue stream for them, I assume, since they don’t enjoy the level of public funding that many in Europe do. Plus special exhibits make the museum worth coming back to. I’ve also seen gimmicks in traditional museums (I’m not over a set of torn envelopes I saw years ago). But it was memorable!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Your ripped envelope exhibit is a hoot! I can envision fake intellectuals carrying on in loud tones about the meaning of it all.

    I question $35pp to look at ice cream and cookies.

    Museums need money but $35 a ticket is hefty for a young family.

    Some, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, are given large sums of tax money to help support them. NYC residents get a break but so many others miss an opportunity to visit such an awesome institution when the price of admission is too high. According to the Met’s original charter “The new institution was charged with encouraging and developing the study of the fine arts, and the application of the arts to manufacture and practical life, of advancing general knowledge of kindred subjects, and, to that end, furnishing popular instruction and recreation.”

    NYC theater ticket prices are nuts though there are discounts available and off-off Broadway is reasonable. But the theater experience is quite different from a museum visit.

    Years ago we were in Paris over New Years with a French family. They introduced us to wonderful museums tucked here and there and had a wonderful time. Hooray for the diversity especially in major metro areas.
    The Liberty Science Center and Museum of the Moving Image sound like places to visit. Thanks for the tips.

    As for experiencing a concert through a phone’s video lens I can’t decide if it’s to show off on social media or what. A young woman sitting with her family in front of us was furious and would no longer look at a performance after the attendant tapped her on the shoulder and threatened to take her phone if she didn’t park it in her handbag. In the era of cameras with film I ran out of film and missed what I thought was going to be the best shot of a trip to England. Turns out it is the scene I remember most! It’s in my mind.

  5. Protius Said:

    I also value odd ball museum like experiences. I’ve selected three examples to write about:

    The first, when I was at college and stopped by a friend’s room, it was always a thrill and a shock to find facing me, covering almost the whole wall, a magnificent Turner marine abstract …, one of his powerful later canvases, which he had inherited. My friend came from an artistic family and when on to a distinguished career in the theater.

    The second is a sad one. On my last and final visit to Naples, I finally stayed at the Hotel Vesuvio. (My family almost always stayed at the Excelsior.) but I did not allow enough time to go see the bedroom of the greatest tenor of all time, Enrico Caruso, which the hotel has maintained unchanged as a shrine ever since his death there in 1921.

    The third was a lunch I attended, following a marvelous private curated tour of a Metropolitan Museum drawings exhibition, in the private rooms of a nearby Fifth Avenue Apartment House. After lunch, our hosts, a leading old master’s dealer and a well-known Museum curator took us upstairs to visit their residences in which they displayed their prize possessions.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Few can beat your examoles.

    It sounds as though you identify museum as a place where art is. Like you I knew people with private collections of great art which was just there when I was a child but that clearly made an impression as I remember it so clearly to this day. I learned of the death of a former classmate’s father when I saw a Calder that had been in his bedroom for sale at Sotheby’s.

  7. Protius Said:

    I’d like to correct a misimpression. I am fond of art, but I am also fond of museums. Museums are collection points for objects, some of which may be “art” according to current tastes. It may or may not be that.

    Caruso in 1921 may have been an artist, but he most certainly was a popular tenor whose records outsold everyone else in sight. Furthermore, there are vast acres of expensive public spaces worldwide stuffed full of all sorts of junk produced in the last hundred years. The buildings may be art museums, but, in my opinion, what is in them most certainly is not.

  8. Anonymous Said:

    Jeanne: Interesting that you wrote that the theater experience is quite different from a museum visit. That’s true but I consider both things educational and worth supporting so I tend to lump them together. RE; $35, most museums have days or evenings where admission is lower. We tend to take public transportation to save on parking and tolls. This is not a popular decision in my family but life is full of choices and this is one of them. There are also some museums that are free or affordable. In New York, there is the Museum of the American Indian and also Federal Hall. The Museum of Jewish Heritage has extremely family friendly admission prices.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Anonymous, Often theater is entertainment which some exhibitions such as ice cream and pizza museums are but others might fall more clearly into the education column. The education umbrella is huge and could include a walk through a garden.
    A beach day with swimming lesson could be educational too. Most museums feature inanimate objects vs theater in which people predominate. Interesting discussion.

    Thanks for the tips about less expensive museums.

  10. Lucrezia Said:

    While I’m a strong supporter of modern efforts, some of which can be extreme, give me the Egyptian, Medieval and Asian wings at the Met. At the risk of losing a potential title of “Grim Old Buzzard,” other favorites are Tanguy and Kandinsky among others. Trouble with time is that it can’t be stopped, so guess these “newbies” are getting long in the tooth as well. Too bad.

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Revisiting old favorites or works often seen in books is both comforting to me and in the latter case, thrilling. I feel the same sense of “Wow” when in a city and I pass by or visit a well known sight.

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