I’ve been meaning to check out the Museum of Sex on Fifth Avenue for quite a while–it’s only a couple blocks south from my office, and I’ve walked past it on many a lunch break. I always suspected the “museum” was an ad-on to exploit some loophole and locate a sex shop in such a prime location, but it turns out I was wrong: It appears the sex shop is the afterthought, a means to help fund the museum.
Ultimately, I wasn’t wowed. The main exhibits when Liz and I visited were:
- A pretty excellent exhibit on the life and fame of Linda Lovelace, including rarely-seen art photographs commissioned by her husband and manager; the exhibit explores Lovelace’s rise to fame with the release of Deep Throat, her turning away and then returning to porn, and the way she was abused and exploited both by her partners, by the porn industry, and by anti-porn activists. Lovelace is an interesting figure, and someone I’m now interested to learn more about.
- A carnival-themed exhibit, “Funland,” that is what drew me in–I fully admit I wanted to experience a breast-themed bounce house. Unfortunately the bounce house was deflated after sustaining damage, and as museum staff said was waiting for a “doctor” to arrive for repairs. In general Funland, while a neat idea, was not imaginative enough to really be entertaining, or information enough to teach us much.
- An exhibit on animal sexuality that is really thoughtful and well-executed, and was second only to the Lovelace exhibit in my estimation. The informational exhibits are text-heavy, but that’s how I like my museums. They combine with multimedia exhibits and life-sized sculptures to depict animal sexual interaction in a way that is educational while also being uncomfortably erotic.
- A hall exhibiting their general collection, including erotic art by Keith Haring and Pablo Picaso, some really interesting sculptures, and collections of original Tijuana bibles and Victorian-era “Fancy Books,” which made it quite clear how seldom Victorian artists saw actual genitalia.
The museum’s presentation is strong; I just thought it was a bit small, and didn’t make the best use of what space it had. It seems to be straddling the line between art and science museums, with aesthetics tending more toward art–lots of negative space, which looks very nice but wastes valuable real estate. Aside from the animal sex exhibit, Liz and I also thought there was not enough context provided for the items in the collection, and more analysis of human sexuality and social mores would have helped. In all, I’m glad something like the Museum of Sex exists, but not thrilled with present curation.
I didn’t take a lot of photographs, but there were a few things I couldn’t resist.