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See How a Group of Millennials Built an Egg-Theme Pop-Up Exhibit From Scratch

The latest Instagrammable exhibit to open in New York is all about eggs—and it was created by a group of recent art school graduates.

By Ian Zelaya April 16, 2018, 7:01 AM EDT

One of the most popular photo ops at the pop-up is a life-size egg carton. Guests can pose with giant "eggs" in the carton, both of which were made with foam covered in layers of hard coating.

Photo: Dear Abigail Photo

The Egg House
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Whether they’re themed around ice cream, selfies, or dreams, Instagrammable pop-ups are an event industry trend that shows no signs of slowing down. One of the latest is giving New Yorkers a chance to brighten up their Instagram feeds—with eggs. The Egg House, which opened April 7 and runs through June 27, showcases made-for-Instagram, surrealist art installations inspired by eggs, sells egg-theme merchandise, and offers treats from local vendors including brunch spot the Egg Shop and dessert shop Eggloo.

While notable pop-ups such as Refinery29's 29Rooms, the Dream Machine, and the Museum of Ice Cream were created by people with backgrounds in experiential marketing and event production, the Egg House is the passion project of a group of recent graduates from New York schools including Parsons, School of Visual Arts, the Pratt Institute, Baruch College, and New York University. They have backgrounds in art, interior design, and accounting.

BiuBiu Xu, the founder of the Egg House, is a recent graduate of Baruch College with a degree in accounting. Xu, 25, said she simply came up with the idea of an egg-theme pop-up because eggs are her favorite food—and she believes that eggs have a universal appeal. “Almost every culture has eggs. They have their own way of cooking it and the food itself is very versatile,” said Xu. “I wanted to create a space just for a momentary escape, and the egg theme popped into my head.”

Xu partnered with interior designers Anji Liu and Defu Kong (both 24-year-old Pratt graduates) of 3T Studio to begin creating the project, and then brought on Vivian Cai, who served as the exhibit's curator, and Kathy Wang, who was in charge of technology elements. Xu said the name of her team is Sense Studio—which focuses on creating immersive pop-up spaces—and that the Egg House is collectively their first pop-up. The five-person team began preparing for the exhibit last November and recruited additional people for onsite staff and partnered with local food and drink vendors that were appropriate for the theme. Once they got the keys to a two-story, 3,300-square-foot vacant space on the Lower East Side, the build-out of the exhibit took about three weeks.

The exhibit is open to the public and offers 21 half-hour time slots per day for guests who purchase an $18 ticket online in advance. The family-friendly exhibit features installations including a giant egg carton created with foam against a pink-painted wall with kitchen illustrations; a cracked egg swing set in a dimly lit green room; and a ball pit filled with yellow and white balls.

One of the more peculiar installations is a bedroom that houses a giant white egg that opens and closes its eyes with the help of projection technology—an egg that represents Ellis the Egg, a fictional character of which the pop-up is based. The narrative of the exhibit is inspired by a typical story of a young adult immigrant trying to make a life in New York. In this case, the young adult is Ellis (named after Ellis Island), and the installations are inspired by both the egg’s experience living in a small New York apartment and the egg’s surreal dreams. The core members of the creative team all are originally from China, which also served as inspiration for the story.

Xu wouldn’t reveal how much the project cost—although she noted that organizers used their own money to fund the venture—and explained that the pop-up is a bare-bones concept that is still ongoing. The exhibit doesn’t have sponsors and almost all the materials used to create the installations were sourced from various stores in New York and China.

“We are very ambitious, but we’re also trying to stay very humble,” said Xu. “For the New York pop-up, we’re trying to make our guests as happy as possible, and make adjustments and improvements based on their feedback.” Xu’s team is monitoring guest engagement on Instagram daily, and they expect to have a better sense of the pop-up’s success on social media once it closes in the end of June.

Organizers hope to bring an expanded version of the Egg House to Los Angeles later this year, and they’ve already started to scout West Coast venues. Xu explained that the plan for the Los Angeles pop-up is to expand on the story of the Ellis the Egg character—which she also said is what distinguishes the Egg House from other Instagram-friendly pop-up exhibits.

“Our rooms are connected seamlessly by the character Ellis the Egg. The character is one of our most important assets in terms of storytelling and expanding the story,” said Xu. “Because we have this character, we can add more characteristics to him, integrate other characters, and continue the story when we bring it to other cities.” 

She continued: “In New York, we’re telling the story of how Ellis the Egg traveled to New York from the other side of the world. Like many New Yorkers, he makes money cooking in restaurants, he goes to museums—he’s a character that many people can relate to,” she said. “When we take him to L.A., we can put him in an L.A. context. That space will look very different, but the story will have its own integrity.”

While the Egg House and its expansion will remain Xu’s primary project this year, she’s already started thinking about another food-related concept for her team’s next pop-up. “We’re thinking about fruits, but we’re not sure yet,” she said. “It’s just a thought.”

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