From Tidal to Trump University: the museum that remembers major failures

The Museum of Failure covers everything from flopped movies to disastrous food products, celebrating the missteps that many have decided to forget

For your viewing pleasure, downtown LAs new Museum of Failure has gathered together some of historys most ill-conceived ideas.

Theres the Shared Girlfriend, a $45-a-day rental sex doll that the Chinese company Taqu launched in September and recalled just two days later, due to a government backlash which sits right across from a small shrine to some of the current presidents shortest-lived ventures. Theres Success Distilled, AKA a bottle of yellow-tinged Trump Vodka (2006-2011); a box set of Trump: The Game, the only version of Monopoly in which you can actually get fired; and a pair of textbooks from Trump University, including Play to Win in Business and Life and Entrepreneurship 101: How to Turn Your Idea Into a Money Machine.

The Trump exhibit could have been much bigger, says the clinical psychologist and Museum of Failure founder Samuel West. Theres so many more. Whats interesting is that, whatever you think of him, yea or nay, Trump is a phenomenon. Hes stumbled from failure to failure in business not evaded failure, but met it full force. Hes a fantastic example that failure is often in our heads, and you can fail extensively without it having to paralyze you.

Although the presidents no-fail attitude could be attributed to his endless financial cushion, West founded his museum last summer in Helsingborg, Sweden, with this same inspirational spirit of destigmatizing mistakes, no matter how epic. Operating on a shoestring, Swedish government-funded budget, the museum opened with 60 artifacts of marketing missteps and what West calls corporate hubris, which attracted 15,000 visitors in its three-month run, no small feat in a town with a population that hovers just under 125,000 people. The Museum of Failure, ironically, was a runaway success.

Visitors at the Museum of Failure. Photograph: Penguin Vision Photography

The Los Angeles version, open within the A+D Architecture and Design Museum through 4 February, has all the Swedish museum favorites: Blockbuster (a cautionary tale of not adjusting to disruptive technology, says West); the tone-deaf Bic for Her pens; and the unfortunately named Ayds appetite suppressants that started to flounder with the onset of the Aids epidemic in the 80s.

In the American tradition, the exhibition has gotten bigger, with the addition of 40 more familiar brands: a package of Swedish-fish flavored Oreos; a poster for the Christian Slater movie that grossed $264 at the box office; a tablet with Jay-Zs streaming service Tidal (not gone, but on its last breaths, says West), and a monitor playing classic infomercials, including the pervy seatbelt attachment the Tiddy Bear.

The museum posits failure as the essential foil to innovation, an elusive achievement that requires taking a few risks. It also shows that even perfectly good ideas sometimes get defeated. In the loosely thematic display, a few patterns start to emerge.

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