A Night at the Museum

VMFA offers unique overnight experience during Edward Hopper and the American Hotel exhibition.

“Western Motel,” 1957, Edward Hopper (American, 1882–1967), oil on canvas.

Image courtesy of Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper/Artists Rights Society

Let’s be honest: who hasn’t thought about what it would be like to spend a night locked inside a museum, exploring like Ben Stiller in the 2007 hit movie Night at the Museum? Richmond’s Virginia Museum of Fine Arts now offers such a rare opportunity, but takes the idea one step further. For the exhibition Edward Hopper and the American Hotel (open through Feb. 23), VMFA has recreated “Western Motel,” one of the realist painter and printmaker’s best-known works, as a three-dimensional simulated motel space, giving visitors the chance to “step inside” his work—and stay the night.

The only East Coast venue for this major loan exhibition, VMFA showcases more than 60 of Hopper’s paintings, drawings, watercolors, and illustrations—mostly images of hotels, motels, and other hospitality settings—plus 35 works by American artists that similarly explore the visual culture of hotels, travel, and mobility from the early 20th century to the present.

Through the Hopper Hotel Experience, guests will have the opportunity to stay at the museum overnight in a room inspired by “Western Motel.” 

“Each of our curators is tasked with creating exhibitions that provide new narratives about the collection and engage visitors with works of art in a unique way,” VMFA director Alex Nyerges says of the experience.

The idea isn’t new. Aquariums, museums, and zoos have held slumber parties since the 1970s, possibly inspired by E.L. Konigsburg’s classic 1968 From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basel E. Frankweiler, about two children who stay the night at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art; the book was the basis of the Night at the Museum film released almost 40 years later. 

For VMFA, the experience is a first. The museum offers four packages ranging from $150 to $500 for two tickets. VMFA.museum

This article originally appeared in our December 2019 issue.

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