By Larissa Schwedes, dpa
Cologne (dpa) – Elena and Melina, known on Instagram as “Joan_twins,” sit in a bright yellow ball pool and suck on an ice pop of the same colour. One room over, another woman poses in a pink convertible; her reflection can be seen in a huge, glistening golden disco ball.
What happens here at the Supercandy Pop-Up Museum in Cologne doesn’t just stay in Cologne. With the hashtag #supercandymuseum, all the content produced here finds its way out into the world within seconds, where it is streamed, posted and liked on social media.
There are no works of art to be seen in this museum, unless you regard yourself as a work of art. Over three levels, the museum has “exhibits” that have only one purpose: to serve as the backdrops for staged photos. Japanese cherry trees are lined up next to supermarket shelves full of cornflakes and washing machines, pink balloons pile up next to prickly cacti. For three months, countless photos are to be taken here, after which the warehouse will turn grey again.
It’s two days before the official opening on November 1, 2019, and the first people allowed to take a picture in the colourful Cologne spectacle have been carefully selected. Those who have been invited, most of whom are young women, call themselves bloggers or influencers; they have tens of thousands of followers online.
“You don’t have to be an influencer to have fun,” says Frank Karch, the man behind the museum. “But you should at least come with the intention of taking pictures.”
However, the museum’s not intended for traditional photographers with professional cameras; instead, most of the images are snapped with a smartphone.
Karch didn’t invent the concept of a museum made for Instagram – the idea came from – where else – the United States. However, the trend has long since spread to Europe. There is a similar museum in Vienna, and the “Cali Dreams” museum in the German city of Dusseldorf recently opened with the same concept.
Going to a museum to photograph oneself is nothing new. In the Louvre in Paris, masses of visitors stream in front of the Mona Lisa every day, waiting to grab a selfie with the famous painting. The museum estimates the average amount of time visitors look at the smiling woman to be less than a minute.
At the Cologne pop-up museum, things are different. If you want to get in, you have to set up a two-hour slot online in advance. Photos with people standing around in the background are less likely to attract many likes – the currency for recognition on Instagram.
In principle, Berlin art historian Dorothee Haffner has nothing against the idea of “museum spaces as a backdrop to put oneself in the right light.” Nevertheless, she finds it a pity that viewing the actual content falls by the wayside, as is often the case with the Mona Lisa.
There’s no risk of that happening in the Supercandy world because there are no great works or themes being conveyed. The entire content is the fun of self-dramatization, no more, no less.
But does this still count in order to be described as a museum?
“The term ‘museum’ is not protected,” says Haffner. According to official criteria from the International Council of Museums (ICOM), a museum must have a collection, convey things and be permanently open.
By those criteria, Cologne’s pop-up museum would not be officially recognized as such. Yet it’s still allowed to call itself a museum.
Haffner is relaxed about the trend: “If the need to stage oneself on Instagram and company is so great – why not?
As empty of meaning as these backdrops may be for lovers of classic museums, in one aspect, they are role models.
“Interactivity is a major topic,” says Haffner. When designing an exhibition these days, many museums are thinking about how to involve visitors in the process – whether through digital guides, drawers to be pulled out or touchable fabrics.
“This can’t be recommended enough,” says Haffner, adding that it’s not just children who remember things much more clearly when they’ve interacted with them.
As for sisters Elena and Melina, they are using the opening event as a test run. “We are allowing ourselves to be inspired – and will then come back again.” With red lips, necklaces, colourful skirts and lavishly embroidered denim jackets, they are styled to be incredibly photogenic. But their Instagram fashion channel is in constant need of new outfits.
After all, their close to 43,000 followers are waiting.