QUEENS, NY—The Robert Mapplethorpe Children’s Museum officially opened its doors to the public Tuesday, drawing over 1,000 visitors with its interactive exhibits and youth-oriented activities aimed at making the photographer’s signature nude, explicit art more fun and accessible for younger generations.
Located in a converted warehouse where the late artist reportedly shot several photographs of his infamous sadomasochistic X Portfolio in 1978, the brightly colored, 200,000-square-foot facility contains more than 60 hands-on installations. Each of the museum’s exhibits—which include dozens of pieces of textured, touchable erotic artwork, male and female genitalia silk-screening stations, and a working BDSM dungeon—are designed for children ages 3 and up.
“Robert always wanted his work to affect the broadest possible audience, and by introducing children to the wonders of the human form and hardcore homoeroticism at a young age, we hope to instill a lifelong appreciation for his art,” said head curator Eileen Greco, dressed in the standard leather bondage harness worn by all Mapplethorpe Children’s Museum guides. “This museum is a celebration of everything Robert loved—from muscular male thighs to nylon cords wrapped tightly around one’s own scrotum—and our interactive exhibits make it fun for even the youngest child to explore and enjoy these themes.”
“Our live stage recreations of classic Mapplethorpe pieces are sure to appeal to teens and adults, while younger kids just love our two-story vulva slide,” Greco continued. “There’s really something here for children of all ages.”
Greco hailed the grand opening event as a success, noting that the sound of children laughing and playing could be heard throughout the day, from the museum’s Penetration Wing to the Hall Of Pubic Hair. Indeed, many young visitors appeared visibly delighted upon simply entering the building’s spacious atrium, which houses a climbable 20-foot-tall erect penis that employees said was thronged with small children until closing.
Additionally, sources noted that many patrons waited in line for 40 minutes for a chance to meet the museum’s mascot, Leather Daddy, a large costumed character who poses for pictures with children and allows them to playfully yank on his slave leash.
“The great thing is that these kids are receiving an education about art and photographic composition, but they’re just having so much fun putting each other in wrist and ankle restraints or inserting their forearms up a replica human anus that they don’t even realize they’re learning,” said third-grade teacher Lynnette Fuller, one of a number of educators who have brought their students to the museum as a field trip. “Each one of the domination fetish exhibits really engages and stimulates students’ imaginations.”
“It was hard to pull them away from one lickable silicone installation and move on to the next,” Fuller added.
According to employees, the museum’s most popular attraction is the Coprophagia Activity Center. The walk-through exhibit, in which patrons travel down tunnels of spread-eagle nude figures, create virtual representations of fecal matter on interactive touch screens, and ride a fireman’s pole into a mouth-shaped ball pit, was reportedly funded with a $40 million grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
In addition to three floors of images and hands-on displays, the museum also boasts an IMAX theater, which reportedly screens the 3D film Uncircumcised every 90 minutes.
“I have to say, my favorite attraction was the life-sized recreation of Mr. Mapplethorpe’s 1979 piece ‘Dominick and Elliot,’ which had cutouts that me and the kids could stick our heads through,” said father of two David Whitson of Stamford, CT, referring to an image in which one man clutches a second man’s testicles, the latter bound and suspended upside down. “We all really got a kick out of that.”
The facility is reportedly set to complement its indoor attractions by opening a large courtyard on Memorial Day. According to Mapplethorpe Children’s Museum administrators, the outdoor space will feature a prominent centerpiece fountain in the shape of a shirtless man in a bondage hood and skintight leather pants who will urinate a constant stream of water that children can cool off and splash around in.
Speaking with reporters as they exited the museum Tuesday, young visitors were near unanimous in their praise for the facility and the activities it offered. “They had all sorts of cool outfits to dress up in and fun things to play with,” said 9-year-old Dylan Titus as he held up a black-and-white photograph of himself wearing a studded codpiece and a boa constrictor over his shoulders, which was taken at the museum’s Mapplethorpe Juniors Photo Booth. “I got to play with a real bullwhip, too. It was so much fun.”
“I love it here,” added the child, sporting a newly purchased T-shirt bearing the museum’s logo of a naked black man in the fetal position. “I can’t wait to come back!”