New York • It’s both the hottest art exhibit in New York right now, and the coolest.
Even as the temperature has climbed close to 100 degrees, people have been waiting in line for hours outside The Museum of Modern Art to get into the cool dampness of the "Rain Room," where water pours from the ceiling, but halts as if by magic wherever visitors step or swing their limbs.
The effect, made possible by sophisticated motion detectors, is that people get the sensation of walking in a downpour without getting wet.
A work of the Random International studio, the installation made its debut at the Barbican Centre in London last year and opened in New York in May. Waits to get inside often exceed five hours — an ordeal that has taken on a punishing new dimension as temperatures on the sidewalk have soared.
Still, people keep coming, and to many the wait is worth it.
"Oh, I got a kick out of this!" said Deborah Otts, 63, who traveled by paratransit bus from a remote section of Queens to see the exhibit Friday. "I came all the way from Far Rockaway at 7 o’clock this morning just to walk in this rain, and it is so pretty."
New Yorkers are known for their impatience, and one of the cardinal rules of city life is that slow moving lines of any type are simply not tolerated.
Yet, New Yorkers also like being present for cultural phenomena, especially when they get to participate, and that’s part of the idea behind the "Rain Room." Visitors are encouraged to make photographs and video recordings during their time in the room and post them on a Twitter feed. Every movement they make in the exhibit creates new patterns in the streams of water.
"It is art. I think art is a process," said one visitor, physicist Andres Cardenas. "If there is no one in the water, there is no art, right? We create it ourselves by coming in and making space within the water."
To others, the juxtaposition of the bright, baking heat on the sidewalk and the dark, cool relief inside was part of the attraction.
"It’s so fun to come out of the outside and into the rain. It’s refreshing. It’s cooling. Even though the wait is long, it’s a lot of fun to do," said visitor Sandra Yencho, who waited three hours Friday to get inside.
The exhibit runs at MoMA until July 28. For people who only wish to view the room, but not step between the drops, there is a separate and much shorter line.
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