"You have no idea how weird we are"
May 3, 2019 9:14 AM   Subscribe

Meow Wolf started as a loose group of penniless punks. Now it’s a multimillion-dollar dream factory... Six years ago, the group was an anarchic collective of artists who were barely known outside Santa Fe, N.M., their hometown. They numbered a dozen, or a few dozen, depending on how you felt like counting, and were known for prankish installations and raucous warehouse parties.<

In the years since, as the group’s playful aesthetic has aligned with the market’s appetites, it has undergone a dizzying transformation. Meow Wolf has broken ground on a $60 million flagship project in Denver that will have more art-exhibit space than the Guggenheim and signed on to build a three-story, 75,000-square-foot permanent installation in Washington. Visitors to the Denver-area amusement park Elitch Gardens can strap in for a trip on a Meow Wolf ride, complete with laser guns and animatronic creatures; in a few years, you’ll be able to spend the night at the 400-room Meow Wolf hotel in Phoenix.

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posted by tangosnail (18 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's a pretty fantastic place. Its current scale feels appropriate for New Mexico, and Santa Fe specifically. It's a relatively small town, so having something 3x as big as it is now seems like it would really overwhelm the region.

But if they want to expand in NM, they should do something with the abandoned outlet mall (Google street view), about 25 miles south of Meow Wolf Alpha, with about 20 acres of built and paved space that has only served as an occasional filming location in the past 7 years that I've been in the state.

And they've spun up their own little festival, Taos Vortex (MeFi IRL), which is heading into its second year this summer. Kinda pricey, but it sounds like a fun time. But if you're already in the area, they have a lot of events in the House of Eternal Return, and for about the same price of admission, you can roam the place for a while and then see a show! (Some shows are even cheaper than admission!)
posted by filthy light thief at 9:35 AM on May 3 [2 favorites]


One thing that appears to be missing in the NYT article (I have to admit, I skimmed) is that The House of Eternal Return is called that in part because the exhibits change. Some while you're standing in them (in small ways), but more broadly, they change rooms up, so you can keep going back and see something wholly new, not just take time to appreciate new details you missed before, or trying to crack the mystery of the missing family.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:37 AM on May 3 [3 favorites]


As a cynical cranky grump, I can say without any hesitation that Meow Wolf is one of the coolest things I have ever done. It really blew my mind.
posted by TheCoug at 9:38 AM on May 3 [5 favorites]


What a great article! I love that it captures the tension between business and art project, or maybe the lack of tension. The article quotes Erin Joyce about "a supreme act of late-stage capitalism disguised through the collective’s mantra of the underdog as art savior". I think that was intended as a criticism but maybe it's Meow Wolf's great virtue, that it's both. More mundanely, I think it's amazing that an anarchist art collective has survived not one but two corporate stages and is now literally looking at "a nine figure valuation". Like wah?

There's precedent though. Andy Warhol's Factory, in its way. On another axis the St. Louis City Museum also paved the way for quirky experience art space with a dubious business story and yet a very large space.

Personally I'm still kinda mad about Meow Wolf, because I used to live in Santa Fe and always tried to hang out with the cool kids. But I was about 10 years too early for this crop. It was clear something like this could happen in Santa Fe, I'm just delighted it did.
posted by Nelson at 9:49 AM on May 3 [7 favorites]


I know about Meow Wolf from its St. John's College connections, with the biggest being that co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Sean Di Ianni moved to Santa Fe after finishing his RISD degree to do the MA in Liberal Arts at SJC. Now, a bunch of alumni work there. It's like how UCLA and USC grads all work in Hollywood only it's a weird ass experiential arts collective turned business full of Great Books nerds.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:55 AM on May 3 [2 favorites]


Oh, man! This is just some of the ... well, NEATEST stuff I've seen in a long time. It's much more interesting than a lot of the "Instagram-ready" pop-up spaces I've seen. We have a "Happy Place Boston" that is installed in a building near where I work and it seems cynical and not fun at all, and this seems the opposite of that.
posted by xingcat at 10:59 AM on May 3 [2 favorites]


I’m listening to the soundtrack of the Meow Wolf documentary right now! I saw most of it on a plane recently, but hadn’t got to the massive massive success part yet.
posted by 41swans at 11:03 AM on May 3


Right as I was leaving Santa Fe, my friend who'd been showing me around said, "Oh, we probably should have gone to the House of Eternal Ruin." So bummed I missed it.
posted by es_de_bah at 11:26 AM on May 3


Not only has Meow Wolf added a ride at Elitch Gardens, but they are opening a Denver Campus in 2020
posted by jazon at 11:46 AM on May 3 [1 favorite]


Welcome to the Instagram economy.
posted by Middlemarch at 1:50 PM on May 3


(article by Metafilter's own me...!)
posted by attentionplease at 1:52 PM on May 3 [34 favorites]


The most perfectly eponysterical comment ever?
posted by hototogisu at 2:02 PM on May 3 [17 favorites]


"In Santa Fe, sunsets are psychedelic, income inequality is rampant and basically nothing is open after 8 p.m."

My favorite line of the article. It's pretty on the nose.

Meow Wolf is occasionally accused of gentrifying the neighborhood (I guess people liked having an abandoned bowling alley sitting there for almost a decade). But, I think they are pretty supportive of the community that they are in and aware of the inequality in their neighborhood and Santa Fe in general. They have community days with discounted admission and their kid's art/play space is free and they give back to the community in various ways.

Some people are upset that by Meow Wolf building other ventures, they are taking away from the House of Eternal Return which quickly became New Mexico's number one tourist attraction. I've seen the lines there 4 people deep and down the block - it truly brings people in.

I'm interested to see where it goes nationally. I also want the exhibit in Santa Fe to get some upgrades to be more interactive based on the 2-D touch sensor talk in the article.
posted by BooneTheCowboyToy at 3:10 PM on May 3 [4 favorites]


I went to Meow Wolf just last week! It was the only thing I absolutely insisted on doing during our Santa Fe trip and it was even better than I expected it to be. The amount of detail involved in the House of Eternal Return was amazing — in one room I found a coded alphabet, then noticed it could be used to decode a picture frame containing a website URL, and when my husband visited the site he encountered a blog by one of the family members that could easily have taken us 30+ minutes to get through.

I would gladly return (ha!) just to spend an entire day giving the house a closer look. I can't wait for the one in Las Vegas to open.
posted by phatkitten at 3:11 PM on May 3 [5 favorites]


A decades-old friend of mine does laser and other light installations at MW on a regular basis. He also apparently just did a laser show at Kennedy Space Center for Yuri Day. You can see some of his stuff in action here, if you're interested.
posted by hippybear at 6:05 PM on May 3 [3 favorites]


Love Meow Wolf! I take no small amount of pride in knowing that I inspired one of the art pieces there and that my enthusiasm has helped pitch it over half a million times.
posted by joedan at 6:41 PM on May 3 [2 favorites]


They are rapidly expanding the franchise - there's a DC iteration in the works now as well.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:47 AM on May 5


We loved the place when we visited last summer, for my part not least because the day ended with a show by Dirtwire, who I had never heard of before and was blown away by.
posted by chazlarson at 11:54 AM on May 7


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