MOFAD Lab, the first exhibition space for New York's developing Museum of Food and Drink, has been open for a mere six months in a small industrial-looking space in a far north corner of Williamsburg. But in that time, says executive director Peter Kim, the response he been tremendous. Thousands of people have lined up to see the inaugural exhibit, "Flavor: Making it and Faking It."
"We're a destination," says Kim. "When we were putting together the exhibit, we didn't have much of a marketing plan." But thanks to word of mouth and some solid press, he says, "Poof! People seemed to magically know about us and came to visit."
Still, as Kim points out, MOFAD Lab is not a full museum. It's an incubator space for the eventual museum that he hopes will be "something on the scale of 10 times bigger than this." But getting from here to there is still a mystery. MOFAD Lab will stay put for the next five years, rotating through exhibits, but Kim is still unsure whether it will then jump to a medium-sized interim building before landing in its final, "proper" museum space. So far, things are moving quickly for MOFAD â the team has been hustling, and they opened the Lab ahead of schedule â so anything could happen.
As makes sense for a team inspired by Willy Wonka and his factory, there's an air of mystery about what will happen next for MOFAD Lab. The inaugural flavor exhibit will close in February 2016, but Kim is tight-lipped about what will follow it, noting only that "it's an issue of great contention" in-house. But when it's announced, in spring 2016, it will feature elements just as unusual and interactive as the current show's smell synthesizer and custom-made flavor tablets. "Tasting and smelling will not be a garnish," says Kim, "but be right at the core of it."
One possible exhibition Kim admits might be in the works is breakfast: "cereal, coffee, and traditional kitchens from around the world," he says. When you bring those three together, he says, "they actually interlock in a way that's really interesting: Coffee is a beverage and economic commodity. Breakfast is an American thing that involves crazy religious diet gurus and marketing. The traditional kitchen is a really interesting way of looking at food and cooking, and an interesting way to take on gender issues and roles." (The topic would be also suit what Kim calls MOFAD's "five primary angles:" culture, history, science, production, and commerce.)
Whether or not breakfast becomes MOFAD's next focus, there's some good news for those who like a bit of drama and Wonka-esque magic in their museums. Puffy — the beloved and very explosive 1.5 ton cereal puffing gun — will return this year. "We're still figuring that out, but stay tuned," says Kim.
Although Kim can't predict when a bigger space will actually become a reality — even though "in the world of museums we're actually moving at a rocket pace," he says — he wanted to move quickly. "One of my biggest motivators for getting there is that I want to visit that museum myself," he says. "I'm feeling pretty impatient."