A Night at the Museum

A few weeks ago, as a surprise gift for our anniversary, my wife got us a night’s stay at the Revolving Hotel Room, part of theanyspacewhatever exhibition (see video) at the Guggenheim.

Created by Carsten Höller, the room is a remarkable art installation that also happens to be a complete room suite that you can stay in for a night, letting us live the dream of camping out in the museum and sneaking out among the exhibits while it’s closed.

I had no inkling of the plan, just being told by my wife when to be ready to go out. Adding to the surreality, the BBC was there to greet us, filming our entrance and initial encounter with the exhibit for their video segment.

I had been inclined to write a Yelp-style review of the stay (“The continental breakfast served in the morning was serviceable, but our room didn’t even have a television!”), but since the Revolving Hotel Room is sold out, it seemed as if that would be unnecessary. As it turns out, the signature revolving motions of the platforms that hold the furniture in the room are barely noticeable once you’re asleep, though when you’re awake it’s very easy to observe how quickly you’re moving. In fact, that only thing that might have kept the night from being restful was the noise generated by the other exhibit pieces, echoing through the giant open rotunda of the building. But we had a friendly attendant/guide/security guard who, after escorting us through a personal tour of all the exhibits, graciously turned off all the artworks that used bright lights or loud sounds.

Right when we returned from our stay in the room, Alaina posted a brief writeup as well as a photo set on Flickr including some images and video from our vantage point staying in the room. Since our stay was only the third night the room was open, not many reviews or images of the exhibit had filtered out, so we inspired quite a few follow-up stories, from Gothamist’s salacious take to Art21’s more analytical look. Art21 also hints at the part of the experience that perhaps lingers with me most: The other exhibits we took in.

Being able to see the museum uncrowded and unhurried by the usual crush of competing patrons was the most memorable and distinctive part of the experience. We could take our time, really appreciate the works (as well as the incredible architecture of one of NYC’s signature buildings), and form our opinions without the awareness of thousands of people around us. The fact that, to me, many of the works seemed informed by the short, text-heavy world I live in, all a blur of Twitter updates and SMS messages, made the exhibit in its entirety particularly resonant.

me at the goog

The truth is, the Guggenheim as a space makes a terrible hotel. The room was hardly secluded, the amenities were perfunctory, and while the bed and chairs were comfortable enough, the gracious staff was the only part of the experience that compares to the quality of other fine hotels. That being said, I’d stay there again in a second.