In showings at LACMA and MoMA the interactive piece drew huge lines while being widely dismissed as kitsch. Doubling down on that concept, it briefly became a Purple Rain Room to mark Prince's death.
Jerry Saltz's October 7, 2013, Facebook post is more sympathetic than many critics have been:
The worst single work of art that I saw all this year in a NY museum was "The Rain Room" at MoMA. Really, it's not art. It's just a high-tech amusement-park ride. Cool. Whatever. The museum has to pay the bills. The lines were gargantuan. It wasn't much worse than MoMA's Tim Burton show a few years back.
Then I got a "Make a Wish" request from a beautiful colleague of mine at NYM. Her mother is very sick and dying and wanted to see "The Rain Room." She's in a wheel chair and couldn't wait in the long long MoMA lines to get in.
After working with MoMA another beautiful person there arranged to come in early one morning at 8:30AM. She made sure there were guards there, and other security, safety, and insurance requirements. She had the entire "Rain Room" apparatus turned on and working.
Before going to chemo-therapy this woman and her family showed up and we were allowed into the piece that morning all alone. For a full half-hour. We had an amazing time together.
This woman later wrote to tell me that this was "one of the beautiful things" she'd ever seen and that "it was one of the best days" of her life.
It made me think. Before we are ungenerous about our museums and their current problems we still have to stop and consider how many audiences these museums serve and how selfless are many of the folks who have the privilege of working there (for like no money, like all of us).
Art's house has many mansions.