RJ Supa, one of the founders of the terrific Lower East Side gallery Yours Mine & Ours, had been commissioned to curate an exhibition within the museum. “I was interested in using something so populist as an entry point to good, real contemporary art,” Supa explained via email, before the opening. (“Also, I love pizza,” he added.) Adam Green, formerly of the anti-folk duo the Moldy Peaches, was contributing a sculptural environment. The irreverent
was meant to build a pizza-related zine reading room, which ultimately didn’t end up in the final install.
Which brings us to last Friday evening, when MoPi was about to fling open its doors to advance visitors. The first sign of disaster came with an email announcing the project’s extended hours, along with a subtle mention of “official partners,” none of whom had been disclosed in advance. (Keep in mind that at this point, MoPi had already been previewed widely, by everyone from the Wall Street Journal
to the Washington Post
The press release’s descriptions of these sponsored rooms within MoPi read like something plucked from David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, which depicts a future in which the calendar years have been renamed for products: Year of the Whopper, Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad. At MoPi, there would be a “Pizzascapes Playground,” courtesy of DiGiorno. Seamless would invite visitors to share their most “saucy secret.” Artist Pinky Weber would unveil a mural to celebrate the joy of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. “Crispy, delicious” Totino’s Pizza Rolls were also throwing themselves atop this late-capitalist pyre. I devoured this last-minute news blast with disbelief. Maybe this was postmodern satire? Maybe someone had been hacked?
Then it was Pizza Time.
MoPi is front-loaded with a veneer of respectability that is slowly skinned away as one progresses through the environment. The pop-up opens with a small room dedicated to the pizza box collection of Scott Wiener, described by Serio as a “pizza historian.” The boxes are presented lid-first, behind plexiglass, with the solemnity of art objects. There are boxes from Joe’s Pizza, Mystic Pizza, Flying Pie, and Big Mario’s, the latter of which features a grainy black-and-white photo, presumably of Big Mario himself, looking like he’s headed to either Studio 54 or a porn set.
The next room sports a video projection across two walls, with Wiener acting as the guide to pizza across the ages. It’s busy and hyperactive, popping with graphics and factoids and notable dates (“2015: Pizza Rat breaks the Internet”). While it was quite hard to hear the narration over the buzz of the opening crowd, it’s difficult to imagine many visitors actually trying to gain an education here; the installation’s environment certainly doesn’t encourage lingering. Despite MoPi’s pretense at being a space of “knowledge and discovery” for pizza, this is the sole element of the project that makes any attempt at either.