Fun and Fine Art: Why a Slide in a Museum Isn't Simple Frivolity

Are museum exhibitions with "tricks" just "arty junk food?"

If your local museum had a roller coaster would it make visiting more fun? How about a slide? For the general public the answer would likely be yes, but for art world purists, the idea of having "fun" in a museum is met with suspicion, or at least concern that tricks to get attendance numbers up will trivialize the institution and its purpose, and take the focus off the main attraction—art. But around the globe, when institutional funding is at an all time low, exhibitions that bring in an audience outside of the insular art community, may make sense: higher attendance numbers means more money earned.

So it seems those favoring playful experiences have been pitted against those with an allegiance to more earnest, intellectual exhibitions. In London, architects firm Atelier Zundel Cristea recently won the proposal to transform one of the world's more recognized buildings—London's Battersea Power Station—into a museum of architecture with a fully functional, gravity defying roller coaster surrounding it. The firm is fully aware this might ruffle some feathers and explains, "In its spatial ambition, our project encourages play and fun, categories largely devalued in the traditional world of art. Conceived in this way, cultural spaces are liable to attract new types of visitors."

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