Museum, Cortlandt Alley

Duncan, Katherine, Laura, and Sonalee

The appropriately named Museum ( is a non-functional freight elevator on the scenic southern stretch of Cortlandt Alley, a stub that makes a brief appearance between Canal and Franklin Streets in Tribeca.  To enter, you pass through a curtain made of thick, industrial strips of transparent vinyl, to reveal an extremely enthusiastic curator. It’s a freight elevator, which tells you a little bit about the scale; it was intimate. With a curator + a Duncan, Katherine, Sonalee, Laura, and a little space heater in the back corner, it was downright snug. The exhibition is composed of thingies. Does that seem vague? It is. There wasn’t great cohesion in the collection, but let me see if I can at least provide a little more detail. The current exhibition features a series of products made by prison inmates for prison inmates, including a white supremacy ring-box with lid, whittled from two separate bars of ivory soap, as well as a toothbrush that clearly had no parameters of use considered in its design. It was like a tiny play hairbrush with a plastic ring attachment for the prisoner’s index finger. Not for those with sensitive gums. In addition to the various prison objects, there was also a very motley collection of silicon models of body parts (in various flesh tones), pierced: very nice.  In a similar vein, there was a row of fake vomit, each splatter featuring different content: also very nice. I’m not sure what they were made of. They looked a little like the special plastic food that Japanese restaurants use to demonstrate different dishes. And thus appropriate, we move on to food: the collection also boasted a series of empty potato chip bags in ‘unusual’ flavors, like sushi flavor, crab flavor… but nothing I thought was particularly outlandish, really. I guess that’s not really food. It’s the empties after food. So let me end with a palate-cleanser, the series of objects that I happened to the most refreshing: a bunch of toothpaste tubes from different countries. You’ll see in the photos that the graphics are awesome, as is the range of names. Importantly, they had ‘before’ and ‘after’ tubes of the hilarious Darlie brand toothpaste, a brand I remember distinctly as ‘Darkie’ toothpaste from a visit to Taiwan in my childhood. In Chinese, the name of this toothpaste is quite literally translated to mean ‘black person toothpaste,’ which they had translated to ‘Darkie’ for the western market. To make it even more literal, the brand visual was a jaunty illustration of a black man in a top hat, smiling a brilliantly white smile. You can guess how well that went over in the western markets. Yup. Classy.





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