Conjure the concept of a museum, and what surely springs to mind is an image of a white-walled interior with carefully placed frames. When one Florida museum enlisted designer
for a refresh, it was a safe bet there wouldn't be a white wall in sight.
The apologetically maximalist creative became a style sensation with her Memphis-inspired staircase at the Kips Bay show house and went on to design a collection for Versace that also broke the internet (hello, bed inspired by that iconic J.Lo dress). Her newest project doesn't disappoint: This Thursday, the Audubon House & Tropical Gardens will open its new "Audubon Experience," which the museum calls "an interactive, educational and most importantly, Instagrammable experience." And that it is.
In a dazzling, maximalized ode to John Audubon, Bikoff created a space brimming with odes to the birds he famously studied and painted—all inside his historic 1846 home. Walk into the space and you step onto pink astroturf, which pulls from colors featured in a floral wallpaper swathed over every wall. Look up, and you're greeted with an upside-down floral display reminiscent of Florida's mangroves. Nestled in the faux flora are hologram images of some of the birds John Audubon painted.
"My whole idea was that I was going to put the birds back in the wild," says Bikoff, who prepared for the project by visiting some of the same locations in Key West where Audubon studied his specimens in the wild.
To further echo that sense of observing real birds, Bikoff commissioned the famous taxidermists Darwin, Sinke & van Tongeren to create stuffed versions of two of Audubon's most famous subjects: the flamingo and the spoonbill. In a fitting representation of the museum's old-meets-new mentality, the birds are set into Victorian cages which Bikoff cordoned off behind pink plexiglass doors.
Lest you think Bikoff stopped at dazzling just the eyes, "You walk into the room and your eyes are wandering everywhere, but then there's also a signature scent in the room," she reveals. "It smells like Ocean Spray and citrus."
The result is a truly interactive experience—which the museum hopes will draw a younger crowd.
"We wanted to be cutting-edge," says Cori Mizrahi Wolfson, the creative director behind the renovation, who brought Bikoff on. "And we also wanted to make sure that the younger generation is able to appreciate this artwork; to create a room where they are able to understand it and feel connected to it. We live in such a world where it's all about Instagram it's all about, you know, engaging all of our five senses, and we really wanted our audience on every age group really to connect with it."
We have our cameras at the ready.
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