“I want ice creammmmmmm!!!!” A group of campers, waiting impatiently outside the Whitney Museum, shrieked in the heavy heat. Their attention was focused on the far more enticing Museum of Ice Cream across the street. I could hardly blame them: Who would want to look at contemporary art when they could be indulging in the ultimate summer treat?
As a lifelong dessert fanatic, I was certainly as excited as a camper to visit the pop-up museum, which opens today for a sold-out run for the month of August only. Not only do I love ice cream, I love pop culture museums, like the Costume Institute at the Met or the Museum of the Moving Image, both of which effectively prove that museums can be fun but also analytical, critical and informative. We may not give much thought to the television shows we watch or clothes we wear, but that doesn’t mean a lot of thought hasn’t gone into them.
Unfortunately, the Museum of Ice Cream does not treat its subject with the same degree of seriousness as those institutions, and instead provides an experience comparable to eating Twinkies for dinner: frothy, sugary and ultimately unsatisfying.
Though it is nominally a museum, do not be fooled; the Museum of Ice Cream is first and foremost a social media playground. While random facts about ice cream are sprinkled throughout (George Washington loved it so much that he used to spend $200-a-summer on it — roughly $5,000 in today’s currency; the first ice cream scooper was invented in 1897), the truth is there’s not a whole lot to learn here – except perhaps, how to take a good selfie in a pool of sprinkles (not an easy task, FYI). There is a lot to eat: two scoops of ice cream, a helium balloon made of sugar, candy from Dylan’s Candy Bar and Dove chocolate pieces come with the price of admission ($18 per person or $30 for two).
There are also a lot of opportunities for iPhone photos — from the chocolate room that smells like yes, chocolate and features videos of gushing chocolate rivers playing to the Willy Wonka theme, to the seesaw made out of a life-size ice cream scoop.
I gave in to temptation too, snapping a picture of a wall covered in ice cream cone lights. When I checked Instagram later, I noticed four other people had the exact same photo (and this was just from the press preview).
The standout of the museum is the three-foot-deep pool of (inedible) sprinkles that comes with bouncy balls and a diving pool. No, it is not sanitary. Yes, it is incredibly fun to stand in.
As I was leaving the poolroom, I noticed a man engaged in the Sisyphean task of sweeping up the countless number of sprinkles that had escaped the pool and scattered onto the floor. “How many times have you done that?” I asked him. “I just started,” he replied, seemingly resigned to his fate. “I built this pool, you know.”
“Was it fun?” I asked, stupidly. Then again, it seemed like the only question possible to ask in this rainbow-colored world.
“No.” He answered bluntly. He and the rest of the team poured 11,000 pounds of sprinkles into the pool that he built out of tiles. And now here we were, the first group of many, scattering those very sprinkles all over the floor.
I trudged guiltily into the next room, the sprinkles jammed uncomfortably in my sandals. There, a smiling woman then instructed me to take a “miracle berry” and let it dissolve on my tongue. It would make everything I ate taste sweet for half an hour, she explained, even broccoli or the lemon wedge in the scoop of ice cream she handed me.
It was cool, certainly, but also unnecessary; after forty-five minutes in this saccharine fairyland, I felt ready to eat – and to taste – my vegetables.