The pizza museum, in fact, exists in both places because there are two pizza museums. Each was founded by a dude who really, really likes pizza.
They came up at the same time: The Chicago museum opened in August, and the New York one opened recently.
They each have a display of pizza-box designs, and they each end in a gift shop selling cheesy pizza tchotchkes and shirts.
Content-wise, however, they’re about as different as a deep dish is to a dollar slice and equally reflective of their locations.
The United States Pizza Museum in Chicago is Midwestern sensibility: a straightforward presentation of pizza artefacts and memorabilia through a wry, pop-cultural lens, with free admission.
The Museum of Pizza in New York is style: immersive installations by artists, Instagrammable backdrops and a slice shop at the end, with $35 tickets that are selling swiftly.
And because of the two cities’ long-standing pizza rivalry, everyone assumes the two founders hate each other. In fact, they have a long-distance mutual respect.
“There’s lots of styles of pizza. Everyone has different opinions. That’s part of what’s great about it. But I opened this here because I live here,” said Kendall Bruns, founder and director of the United States Pizza Museum. “There’s not like some council that was like, ‘Where should the pizza museum go? Let’s put it in Chicago.'”
The United States Pizza Museum is an odd but delightful place.
It’s in Chicago’s South Loop neighbourhood, in a mixed-use development sandwiched unexpectedly between an Ann Taylor Loft and a Victoria’s Secret.
The museum, which comprises Bruns’s personal collection of artefacts, has bounced between festivals and pop-ups before, but this is its first semipermanent space. It’s one big room packed with artefacts and display cases, with a small gift shop in the front. Tragically, it is not near any great pizzerias.
But it’s immediately clear that Bruns’ collection is a passion project, and it makes you want to root for him. The 40-year-old began collecting pizza memorabilia after reading a 2009 Alan Richman article in GQ about the best pizzerias in America.
He set out to visit them and began saving menus as mementoes. The menu collection expanded to include pizza boxes. Then came pizza toys (such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures) and marketing gimmicks such as the Noid – a onetime Domino Pizza mascot.
Posters from the film “Mystic Pizza” or the Garbage Pail Kids trading cards. Vintage menus from old-school Chicago pizza joints and chains such as Pizza Hut bought at auctions. Coal from a Chicago coal-fired pizza oven.
Pop-culture figurines of Jeff Spicoli, the “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” character who ordered a pizza during history class, or the animatronic bears at Chuck E. Cheese.
The Museum of Pizza in Brooklyn has a display of pizza boxes, as well as an educational, historical component. But the similarities end there: Rahma’s museum is a temple not to pizza history, he says, but to contemporary pizza art.
The United States Pizza Museum is to the Museum of Science and Industry as the Museum of Pizza is to the Museum of Modern Art.
“We’ve given the artists almost carte blanche to make whatever they want to make,” Rahma said. “We’ve just provided this framework of pizza celebration as the kind of creative brief.”
Artist Adam Green, known for his band the Moldy Peaches, designed an installation called “Pizza Beach.” There will be a reading room of pizza-themed ‘zines, and an installation called “The Pizza Vortex,” by Signe Pierce and Emma Stern, described in a news release as “a fluorescent black-light room that plays with [the] collective conception of art history, pop culture, life on earth and existence amongst the cosmos.”
The artist Shawna X’s installation, “Say Cheese,” explores the intersection between pizza and the beauty industry. And an educational exhibit about the history of pizza, created by a collective called Optical Animal, combines “the most cutting-edge digital hologram production with the old-school 16-millimetre slide carousel projectors to create an old-world-meets-new-world history of pizza,” Rahma said.
The hologram is a projection of Scott Weiner, known for his New York pizza tours, who will teach guests the history of pizza from its invention through the present day.
And there are pizza boxes from around the world – from Japan to Israel to Italy – from Weiner, who holds the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of them.
– The Washington Post