Imagine a museum that's only 6 square feet. It's called, simply, Museum and it's housed in an old elevator shaft in an alley near New York City's courts. It has some odd exhibits on 18 small shelves, and only about four people can fit into the space at a time.
The museum was created by three filmmakers: Alex Kalman and brothers Josh and Benny Safdie. Josh Safdie says the idea grew out of a combination of frustration and storytelling. The filmmakers would tell each other amazing tales of what they had seen and found, and the others would want proof. He gives one example:
"So we would be like, 'I saw these fake Sharpies and they are called Shupays.' And it was like, 'No you didn't.' ... So we started this collection of stuff."
Those Sharpies are in the museum — bootlegs, apparently, from China. Safdie says you can buy 40 of them for $1 and "they dry out really quickly and they are terrible, but each design is a slight riff on the word Sharpie."
Charnelle and Darryn King are visiting from Sydney. They read about the museum in Time Out and decided to check it out. Charnelle loves "little pop-up stuff" but says, "I'm still trying to figure out what's going on."
Darryn, her husband, loves the display of fake vomit from around the world. It has a certain Jackson Pollock quality. "Saying it's interesting just scrapes the surface," he says. "It's very enlightening."
There's a number you can call to find out about each object. Most of the descriptions are serious, but Peter Allen, who collected the fake vomit, is clearly having a bit of fun at the art world's expense.
"This subtle palate of primarily beige tones intercedes with robust fragments of dimensional inner meaning; the delicate hints of animal projects are not overwhelmed by the soothing, soft, vegan-based composition," he says of one piece in the vomit exhibit.
Another shelf has bulletproof backpacks, a product that came out after some of the school shootings. They're all in pinks and pastels with Disney-like characters. They say things like "Blast off!" or "I believe in fairy tales" or "Nice day for flying" or "Up in the clouds." It's fairly creepy.
There are three shelves devoted to the late Al Goldstein, editor of Screw magazine, including a pair of his gold Air Jordans, size 13.
There's a shelf devoted to prison contraband, including carved soaps with racist slogans and a tiny pair of dice (easy to hide) molded from bread with the dots done in felt pen.
And then there's a shoe. The museum says it's the one that was thrown at President George Bush by an Iraqi journalist during a 2008 visit to Iraq. Most descriptions say the shoe was destroyed.
"We promised we would never say who they were and where we got it from," Safdie says. "And we were told it was the shoe that was thrown at George Bush and as much as we can believe it, you can believe it. That's what it is."
It's one of their biggest attractions, he says, but it's just a shoe.
The museum is only open on weekends, but you can look through a window on other days — if you can find it.