Museum of Sex show turns on New Yorkers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 August, 2014, 11:28am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 August, 2014, 11:28am

Shouts, giggles and selfies. Mildly titillating and lots of fun, bouncing around on giant inflatable boobs is the hit attraction of a hot and steamy New York summer.

As temperatures rise and hemlines shorten, visitors flock to the Museum of Sex to jump up and down on an adult "moonbounce" (or bouncy castle) called Jump for Joy and nicknamed "House of Boobs".

It is the set piece in a flirty exhibition mounted by London-based conceptual art duo Bompas and Parr, and inspired by the naughtiness of an old-fashioned British or French funfair.

Shrieks of "Oh my God I'm not going on that!" or "I'm definitely going on that!" ring out from the low-lit corner where the boob castle stands erect, shoes quickly kicked off for a frolic.

Oversized breasts protrude from its walls in every shape and colour as couples and groups of girls fling themselves around, laughing in delight and snapping pictures on phones and cameras.

"The boob jump house was fun," New Jersey teacher Michelle Allen says when asked about the best bit. "It's like adult fun."

Alissa, a 25-year-old nurse too embarrassed to give her family name, says it's "better than I expected", during her "tourist day" with a couple of girlfriends.

The show's blurb promises a "rush of endorphins - many of which are the same as those released at the point of orgasm".

So did Alissa reach orgasmic heights? "No!" she says, laughing. "I've got a headache and my leg began to cramp. I'm dehydrated."

Bompas and Parr are darlings of the art scene in London, variously described as artists, "architectural foodsmiths", even novelty caterers since they started out creating models made of jelly.

They have designed five attractions for the exhibition, "Funland: Pleasures and Perils of the Erotic Fairground", and hope it will go on to show in London when it finishes in New York next spring.

There is Grope Mountain - a climbing wall dotted with orifices - and a rather creepy Tunnel of Love or maze of mirrors that ends with a sculpture of the elusive G-spot.

"You want to put your finger in for practice?" museum attendant David Jang asks, dissolving into peals of laughter.

Foreplay Derby - a game that involves thrusting balls into a hole in order to jerk a bronze penis towards the finish line - is another hit.

The Museum of Sex first opened on Fifth Avenue in 2002 to, as it says in its mission statement, advocate open discourse surrounding sex and sexuality as well as striving to present to the public the best in current scholarship unhindered by self-censorship. It has staged 16 exhibitions and "is committed to addressing a wide range of topics, while simultaneously highlighting material and artefacts from different continents, cultures, time periods and media".

The museum has a permanent collection of more than 15,000 artefacts comprising works of art, photographs, clothing and costumes, technological inventions and historical ephemera.

Sam Bompas says he was less interested in the work itself than in the smiles and joy it provokes.

"Everything looks rude but it's also very satisfying," he says. "It's gentle, and it's got a British humorous approach to sexuality which is quite playful."

The Old Etonian says he has also been taken aback by how positively even the most unexpected people have reacted to an exhibition he initially thought might be polarising.

Flying across the Atlantic with a G-spot sculpture, Bompas says the woman next to him saw crates and boxes, and jumped to the conclusion he was a wine merchant.

"Within the space of minutes we're talking about her G-spot, an extraordinary conversation to be having with someone, and people were craning their necks to listen to all the lurid details!" Bompas recalls.

Mark Snyder, director of exhibitions at the museum, says there have been roughly 10,000 visitors to "Funland" since it opened in June - an increase of 15 per cent for this time of year.

Agence France-Presse