But First… Let Me Take Selfie. . . at the Seattle Selfie Museum

Tucked away in a sunlit corner behind Seattle’s famous gum wall lies downtown’s newest attraction, the Seattle Selfie Museum.

A follow-up to the Denver Selfie Museum that opened last September, the co-owners of the new location, Alex Kurylin and Igor Benchak, aim to continue the popularity of their pop-up museum trend.

I walked in and immediately observed ecstatic groups of high school-aged girls enjoying mid-winter break, snapping photos of each other in front of various backdrops and installations on par with traditional pop-up themes.

Some rooms include a pale millennial-pink ball pit with rotary phones, a wall of yellow bubble gum machines and a minimalist version of Yayoi Kusama’s infinity mirrored rooms.

Vasyl Kucherenko is the Seattle location’s manager. On any given day, you can see him running around the two-story museum assisting customers and maintaining the sets.

“When you do a pop-up museum, it’s something kind of quick and you have limited time to access it,” Kucherenko said. “We try to be a little bit different on the market and stay open for longer. That way if you can’t make it in those first two weeks, you have at least a few more months to get in.”

Many are still trying to grasp exactly how social networks like Instagram have redefined the museum experience. A main argument against pop-up museums is that they cheapen and commercialize local art scenes.

The owners have made it a point to include muralists from both the local Seattle scene and Denver art scene. Although there is no didactic wall text material next to each artist’s work, you can find their large bolded signatures in the corners of each mural.

“There was a kid who was so obsessed with a local artist featured in the museum, his mom called us asking if her son could just come and see this particular installation and nothing else,” Kucherenko said. “We said, of course, it was a single mom, so we said ‘come on down we’re not going to charge you.’”

The museum plans on continuing operations well into spring and summer.

“The Denver location is still open and sometime in March they’ll close down for a week and change installations,” Kucherenko said. “With the same plans for the Seattle location, it will stay open probably six to seven more months for sure.”

Seattlite Kate Lomas visited the museum with a group of friends, snapping Instagram worthy photos on both their DSLR cameras and iPhones.

“We came because we heard about it on Tik Tok actually,” Lomas said with a laugh. “We loved the flower room the most.”

The pop-up museum phenomenon has also been criticized for being closely tied to social media and the negative effects that come with installations that prey on desires to be excessively photographed.

Junior Political Science major Mindy Miller sees social media as a rapidly changing medium, and in her experience as a social media user, a selfie museum feeds off of the same vanity as social media.

“When I think of pop-up museums, I think of social media content—people like you and me going to these museums specifically so that they can take pictures and post it on their social media,” Miller said. “Social media is completely its own phenomenon apart from pop-up museums, but those pop-up museums are playing into exactly that.”

It’s an interesting emerging industry, creating experiences exclusively for online content creation. Is it the way of future image-sharing and art viewing, or a temporary trend?

“If I were to describe pop-up museums in one word, I would use… strange. Strange to me, strange in the whole concept of museums that cater to your social media content. And it’s just something I don’t understand yet,” Miller said. “I guess it’s just a different kind of experience, maybe one that is just a new realm of experience. And honestly kind of brilliant, whoever came up with those.”

Once the selfie movement gained global recognition as the newest form of self-expression, personal preferences and insecurities curbed my efforts. I didn’t know what to expect from my visit to the Seattle Selfie Museum but in the end, I was pleased to go outside my comfort zone and take some marvelous selfies.

The Seattle Selfie Museum is open Monday through Thursday at 92 Union St. Admission is free for kids ages four and under, $22 for kids five to twelve, $29 for adults on weekdays and $34 on weekends.