Sweet Tooth Hotel: A generation of social media-based art museums

If you have any interest in modern art, you’ve probably been to the Dallas Art Museum or Meadows Museum. After all, Dallas boasts one of the best art scenes in the country, from traditional museums to art festivals and the downtown Arts District.

But have you heard of Sweet Tooth Hotel? One of Dallas’s newest and most popular sites, Sweet Tooth Hotel is an experiential art and retail pop-up exhibit in Victory Park. “Instagrammable” interactive art museums like this may have begun as a passing curiosity at first, but have now become popular among younger generations. The traveling interactive art museum, Museum of Ice Cream, has had a lasting effect on pop culture and influenced the rise of many more “made-for-Instagram” museums, inspiring Dallas’ very own Sweet Tooth Hotel.

With a hallway filled with clouds made from cotton candy and a suite consisting of macaroon bedside tables, it’s no surprise the aesthetic of this exhibit has become a social media capital. But did the artists intend for these exhibits to be purely “for the ‘gram?” Innovative artists such as Rob Wilson and Hatziel Flores design specific rooms for the hotel, frequently changing their installations each time the museum remodels the exhibition. This method of ever-changing “Instagram backdrops” keeps the visitors intrigued and coming back for more pictures.

This method of branding is profitable, as Sweet Tooth Hotel will be doubling in size come May 2019. The third exhibition of Sweet Tooth Hotel, “Chapter Three: DISCOTECH,” will be opening in just two months, their biggest exhibition yet. Collaborating with a mixed reality studio that focuses on audio-visual tech installations, this exhibit will be attractive to younger crowds in need of a new Instagram photo.

It’s not surprising that our generation of selfie-dominated culture has begun to influence the contemporary art world. Even restaurants, bars and cafés have adapted to this brand of culture by creating aesthetically pleasing atmospheres for customers to post on social media. The question of whether or not Sweet Tooth Hotel was established solely with the intention of giving consumers “the perfect Instagram pic” has prompted me to ask for potential visitors’ opinions.

“I feel like the artists created it for the purpose of pictures, but I thought it would have a different meaning like most museums I’ve been to,” Grace Murray, social media chair of Delta Delta Delta, said about the second exhibition, “Chapter Two: 1955.”

After another member of Delta Delta Delta suggested the two of them go because “it sounded interesting,” Murray thought it would be the perfect place to take photographs for the sorority’s Instagram page. While going with the intent of enhancing her social media, she also expected something more traditionally artistic in the experience that she felt wasn’t there.

“I learned nothing; it seemed as if it was all for social media,” Murray said.

This brings up the question of what we actually get out of “made-for-Instagram” exhibitions such as this one. Do these museums cheapen art, or is this new aesthetic just our generation’s response to the modern art world? They may not be comparable to the MoMA, but there is something undeniably intriguing about Sweet Tooth Hotel and other “Instagrammable” art museums that keep our generation coming back for more.