The Denver Selfie Museum is a pleasant, photogenic distraction during trying times.
DENVER, CO—When I ask Alina Maliar, manager of the Denver Selfie Museum, if she thinks of the interactive museum she oversees as an art space, she’s quick to say no.
“I would say we’re more of a photo studio,” she quickly replies as a crush of fresh customers tromp down the stairs and approach the counter where she’s standing. “Sometimes you want to watch a documentary. Other times you want to watch cartoons. We’re cartoons,” she says before informing the group of the $29.99 entrance fee.
Replete with bright colors, regrettable selfie puns written in neon signage, and handheld props you’re likely to find scattered around the bedrooms of pre-teenagers across America, the Denver Selfie Museum incorporates elements of art but with the endgame of delivering lighthearted, photogenic entertainment, not intellectual stimulation.
The selfie museum phenomenon began as pop-up installations within art spaces, like Rain Room at London’s Barbican Center, and are becoming common in major cities around the world. At the Denver Selfie Museum, which opened in 2019, the 4,000-square foot space crams as many opportunities for unique photography experiences as possible throughout its walls and rooms. As Maliar tends to her duties at the front counter, I’m invited to explore the space, which features installations by local Denver artists.
I tread through the museum with hesitancy, acutely feeling my deep thirties as groups of teens and young families swarm around me in search of ’gram-worthy pictures. I encounter a hall of mirrors that resembles a Berlin dance club, a wall lined with rows of giant donuts, a bubble gum pink makeup room inspired by the backstage of a big music venue.
A young guy in a wolf mask and tank top flexes in front of the message “I Can’t Control Myselfie” written in pink neon and his buddy snaps a picture on his phone and laughs. The wolf guy runs over to his friend to check out the picture, says something in Spanish, and nods his head in enthusiastic approval.
Any cynicism I had drains from my body when I realize how much fun everyone around me is having, and fun is a crucial commodity at this precarious point in human history.
On July 7, 2021, about a month before my visit, Denver ranked number one for air pollution out of any major international city, a phenomenon caused by the uncontrollable megafires burning across the Mountain West. In a sign that the pandemic is far from over, the Delta variant is piercing through the defenses of many who have been vaccinated and killing many who haven’t. Women’s reproductive rights seemed poised for a dramatic dismantling that could take decades to reverse. I could go on.
Most everywhere you look right now, it feels like the bad is winning over the good. But not inside the Denver Selfie Museum. And that feels not just nice, but essential at the moment. This place is perfect for what it’s trying to be: easy, noncommittal fun for families with young kids and Instagram enthusiasts.
The Denver Selfie Museum is located at 1531 Stout Street, Suite 102, Denver.