Rain Room

Rain Room

Laura and Thuy at Random International’s “Rain Room” installation at MoMA.

We waited forty-five minutes just to view the installation from the far side of the space; the queue to actually walk through it was at least seven hours long when we showed up. “Rain Room” makes for dramatic photos like this one, but I can’t say it was worth even the forty-five minutes. It was less a work of art than a really boring water park ride.

Worse was MoMA’s approach to handling the show’s crowds. On WNYC, Art critic Deborah Solomon criticized the museum’s line management; they could have issued scheduled tickets but preferred to force visitors to wait in line in the mid-summer heat (the “room” is just West of the museum itself), probably for to generate the PR spectacle of long, snaking lines.

There were similar lines when I went to see Christian Marclay’s “The Clock” earlier this year too, though at least the queue was indoors then. Like “Rain Room,” Marclay’s installation could have easily used scheduled tickets. More to the point though, it was a piece that need’t have been constrained to an on-site viewing room; it could have easily been exhibited online, available globally and instantly, without painful queues.

In general, I am a big fan of the work that MoMA does, but I wish they would reconsider their tendency to generate publicity at the expense of their visitors. Scheduled tickets would be an improvement, but commissioning works that acknowledge that MoMA is a big stage — and that it demands greater visitor capacity designs — would be even better.

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  1. Yeah, we went to the Rain Room when it first opened and even with the short wait then, I don’t know how much I’d recommend it. On the other hand, I though The Clock was worth the wait. (We saw it at Lincoln Center, which also just had a line and no scheduled tickets.)

    It’d be easy to set up scheduled visits for the Rain Room, since a typical visit is probably 5 to 10 minutes. The Clock would have been a lot more difficult, though, because many people stayed for hours. Me included.