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MoPOP's newest long-term exhibit is 'Massive'

An archway painted light pink with blue lettering serves as the entrance to this exhibit. Columns of spheres are to the left of it.
Grace Madigan
"Massive: The Power of Pop Culture" is the newest long-term exhibit at MoPOP and is meant to be the first exhibit visitors explore.

The Museum of Pop Culture covers everything from the worlds of science fiction and horror to Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana. But their newest long-term exhibit, "Massive," zooms out and asks visitors to explore the question: What is pop culture?

The curators created “Massive” to be the first stop for museum visitors. Adeerya Johnson is an associate curator at the museum.

"When you start off in the exhibit, we have these key points: pop culture is global, pop culture is a catalyst for change, and it's always been transformative," Johnson said.

On the wall to the left when you enter are three big screens playing video clips of, well, pop culture - including viral TikToks, clips of reality shows, and music videos.

"We want this gallery to be the primer of 'what does pop culture mean to you?' with a big question mark," Amalia Kozloff a senior curator at the museum said. "And then, how does it make you feel? What do you think about this? What do you think about that? How do you interact?"

The exhibit explores different aspects of pop culture like appropriation versus appreciation, what makes an icon, and fandoms. At the end, the museum's guest curator invites visitors to explore how the world deals with the death of pop culture figures by looking at Robin Williams, Kurt Cobain, and The Notorious B.I.G.

Throughout the exhibit, visitors can engage with different interactives. In the section that talks about controversial figures and how we look at their art, visitors can use a color wheel to show how certain pop icons make them feel, like Michael Jackson and Lizzo.

Another section highlights the biggest pop culture moments from the past few decades. People can choose a year and bring up clips that you may or may not be familiar with.

Pick 2010, and you’ll get Lady Gaga in her meat dress at the MTV Video Music Awards. 2004 brings up the music video of Jay Z’s 99 Problems and 1976 will blast ABBA throughout the gallery.

“Massive” also offers visitors an understanding of how the museum chooses what to acquire and the context to display it. Johnson said it was important for them to take the opportunity to explain the work that the museum does.

For example, why some things might be behind a glass case that you can't touch. The exhibit also invites you to share what sort of pop culture you want to see next.

"Massive: The Power of Pop Culture" opens to the public on Saturday, March 16, and will be on display.


Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Corrected: March 18, 2024 at 9:38 AM PDT
Updated to correct that 'Massive' is a long-term exhibit and not a permanent exhibit.
Grace Madigan covers arts and culture with a focus on how people express themselves and connect to their communities through art, music, media, food, and sport.