Institute of Intimate Museums

Pasta boxes become microscopic museums

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A collection of dioramas by artist Kenji Sugiyama, “Institute of Intimate Museums” proved to be one of the most engaging displays at Scope Basel 2012. Spanning the artist’s output from 1999 to 2008, the works serve as clever variations on traditional diorama art—cramped consumer boxes containing lilliputian scenes of museum-goers standing in halls of shrunken art. Within the setting of the fair, Sugiyama’s museums forced attendees to reflect on the nature of observance and perspective in the contemporary art scene.


The “Institute of Intimate Museums” filled the entire booth held by Japanese gallery Standing Pine Cube. Sugiyama’s impeccably detailed interiors are head-scratching for their complexity, and his choice of packaging—that of a post-consumer food containers—likewise had viewers guessing. The most visually complex piece involved an angled mirror doubled the miniature world when viewed correctly. The artist went to great lengths when remaking the art world’s hallowed halls, covering them in everything from inlaid wood to dated wallpaper.

Scope Basel 2012 marked one the few times that the full spectrum of Sugiyama’s dioramas has been on display, and the collection provided us the opportunity to see his experimentation over time with voyeurism and the spectator’s role in art.

See more images of the “Institute of Intimate Museums” in our slideshow.

Images by Josh Rubin