Mmuseumm 1 is located at 4 Cortlandt Alley in lower Manhattan, New York City. Once only a cult tourist attraction in New York it now has completed several seasons and is not as hidden as it once was. The space in Mmuseumm has been modified for the public display of 200 modern day artefacts on wall-to-wall, glowing shelves lined in red velvet. These objects are collected from donors and organisations around the world with the aim of exploring the world we live in through these objects.
The 60-square-foot exhibition space is on the ground-floor of a former freight elevator and opens directly onto the street. If you are nearly 6 feet tall, you will have to duck to enter, and there is really only space for three or four people to enter at any one time. Just three doors down the street, you can find Mmuseumm 2, a 20-square-foot space and the latest wing to the world of Mmuseumm.
Mmuseumm has three rules. The objects are not art, vintage or sentimental. Instead, the objects offer an insight into human beings whose interests go outside the norms, where they place value in things that people in general ignore. It frames the objects that have an unexpected narrative, so that people can be reminded of the absurdity or the beauty or the meaning or the ugliness of everyday objects. Here, you don’t just look at the object, you look at what its purpose is in life. The space also features video programming (one small screen), a gift shop (a shelf of Tshirts and postcards) and an espresso cafe (in reality an Nespresso machine). There is also a list of items that visitors can have made with the image of their favourite item.
Founded in 2012, by curator Alex Kalman and his Columbia Prep high school friends brothers Josh and Benny Safdie, the trio also run film production company, Red Bucket Films, located in the same building as their museum. The curating is part of the trios story with film. In 2008 they worked on films, lasting from 5 – 60 seconds, about people and moments. This work was in association with Rooftop Films and the Museum of Modern Art and led to the founding on Mmuseumm.
Mmuseumm’s collections over the years have inspired curiosity. We’re not told what to think, but are made aware that we should be thinking.
Since 2012, the collection has included bullet-proof backpacks branded by Disney, fake vomit that looks different around the world, detailed sculptures used in the piercing profession as training tools, crisp packets and more. They have also included reproductions of ISIS currency, a scattering of cornflakes and a collection of so-called ‘suspicious items’ that include a rock and a toy pony, that the bomb squad had to verify were not incendiary devices. They appear random, but they are a case study of today’s modern world.
One of the permanent objects on display is alleged to be the shoe thrown at George W. Bush at the Prime Minister's Palace in Baghdad in 2008 by Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi. Mmuseumm are not allowed to publicly disclose how they came into possession of the shoe. When asked if the item is authentic, Kalman’s response was that there was no way of knowing since the documentation and the various elements that would prove its authenticity could themselves be forged.
Aside from collections, Mmuseumm curates exhibitions. In A Year in Review in Cookies, one of the cookies was a homage to Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair Cover from June 2015. Another exhibition, Lineage of the Body Bottle, featured 20 perfume bottles, including a gold-faced Nicki Minaj one called Pink Friday, collected by Sally Thurer.
The Message is the Medium: Donald Trump Merchandise exhibition featured items endorsed by the then presidential candidate, including a cologne called Success, a small gold bottle of Trump Vodka and a set of floppy discs from the Trump Castle computer game, all collected by Max Abelson, 2016.
Another exhibition The Fake American Fast Food Franchises of Iran looked at objects from fast food chains in Iran. Government sanctions mean that no American fast food franchises exist in Iran, so many Iranian brands have copied American ones. A meal box from McMashallah and a cup by Raees, a coffee shop with a logo similar to Starbucks, were collected by Holly Dagres, 2016.
Personal Items of Immigration is a more sombre exhibition of objects left behind at the US-Mexico border. A shoe wrapped in a cloth to hide the wearer's footprint and a blue bunny left behind in the Arizona Desert, collected by Deborah McCullough, 2016.
Mmuseum 2 opened in 2015. The stand-alone display, Future Aleppo, was a model made of wood, paper, and other objects by Mohammed Qutaish, a 14-year-old Syrian living in the city of Aleppo, who wants to be an architect “to build the Syria of tomorrow.” A documentary by film-maker and journalist Waad Alkateab, also living in Aleppo, accompanied the project.
Mmuseumm is open Thursdays and Fridays from 6 to 9pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 to 18:00 when members of the Red Bucket Films crew is there. The Mmuseum is free (donations accepted). For USD5 you can purchase a detailed brochure, explaining each of the exhibits. When not open, the exhibits can be viewed through the metal door's slot-like windows and at any hour there’s a free audio guide. Using the toll-free number posted on the wall, enter the number of the object and you will hear a description of its history and appearance.
On the west side of Cortlandt Alley, just north of Franklin St. Cortlandt Alley is midway between Broadway and Lafayette St. By subway: Take the N or R to Canal Street. At intersection of Canal and Broadway walk south three blocks on Broadway to White Street. Make a left on White Street. Cortlandt Alley cuts into the middle of the block on your right. Walk down the alley. Mmuseumm is near the end of the block on the right side.