Interacting with fuzzy monsters or walking through infinite rooms is normally the stuff of deep-sleep dreams. But at “artainment” exhibits across the country and around the world, artists have conjured their fantastic sights, sounds and sensations and made them real.
Artainment fuses art and technology to create an entertaining experience. The trending art style doesn’t necessitate new art; it can feature classic artworks in engaging ways. Other artainment exhibits feature interactive elements where virtual displays move along with the viewer.
This imaginative art form has drawn a new audience to art museums. The experience goes beyond passively gazing at works in quiet galleries. It blasts the viewer with color, movement and the unexpected.
Already, these installations have drawn sold-out crowds, with many artainment-themed museums popping up across the country and in Europe. At the rate these immersive art installations are continuing to expand, groups can take their pick of artainment exhibits to explore.
After walking into a cosmic gateway, visitors to Artechouse in Washington see the walls and floors melt away into never-ending galaxies. The artainment organization’s Infinite Room plays games with the mind for an extraordinary experience. Part of the museum’s latest exhibit, “Infinite Space” by Refik Anadol, the installation uses sound and virtual reality to push the limits of a viewing experience.
Art, science and technology blend at an attraction that will interest an art lover, an experience seeker and any curious individual. The installations rotate seasonally to encourage repeat customers.
In 2017, Artechouse opened its first permanent home in Washington. The groundbreaking museum quickly opened additional spaces in Miami soon after, with one more set to open in New York City this year.
Each museum offers a different self-guided, multisensory experience. Groups can book packages that include private admission, drinks and food options.
Founded by art advocates Sandro and Tati in 2015, Artechouse encourages movement in their installations. At a previous installation in Washington called “New Nature,” gigantic screens of moving shapes would transform in response to the movement of the observer.
Each installation features a new artist to keep the exhibits fresh.
Meow Wolf Art Complex
Santa Fe, New Mexico
At first it looks like visitors are standing in a kitchen of a normal Victorian home. Then a wormhole opens in the kitchen’s refrigerator. From there, guests enter a bizarre world of multidimensions, trapeze shows and skeleton marimbas at the Meow Wolf Art Complex in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Meow Wolf, an artainment group that transports audiences into fantastic realms with story, music and interactive experiences, opened the Santa Fe venue in 2016. The art groups were started in 2008 by artists who felt shut out of the city’s art scene. Meow Wolf installations appeared at various places intermittently until “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin decided to invest in the group and leased a vacant bowling alley for a permanent Meow Wolf facility.
The site’s interactive, nonlinear storytelling experience, “The House of Eternal Return,” resulted from the investment. The art venue drew 400,000 visitors its first year, nearly six times the population of Santa Fe.
The digital art collective announced in 2018 that it plans to open two new art complexes, in Las Vegas and Denver. The Las Vegas art park will open in 2020 inside a 90,000-square-foot shopping mall for a psychedelic art bazaar called “Area 15.”
Denver’s “Kaleidoscape” complex will conceptualize a trip inside a piece of contemporary art. The absurdist ride will run as part of Denver’s Elitch Gardens Theme Park in 2021.
Meow Wolf’s latest announcements include plans to open immersive experiences inside a fully operational hotel in Phoenix and a permanent installation in Washington.
Groups can lose themselves in 32,000 square feet of pure whimsy at Otherworld, an immersive art installation in Columbus, Ohio. Friendly monsters appear periodically, simulations of paint pour down the walls, and trees flash bright colors through hanging bulbs at some of the themed rooms.
Guests can interact with the surreal world that blends science fiction and fantasy using interactive technology, large-scale props, sets and engaging narrative. Artists with backgrounds in programming, metalworking, animals, sculpting and other mediums worked together to create the attraction.
Over 40 rooms invite participants to touch the art, with experiences like solving a puzzle to activate light displays and zapping vintage video game characters with blasters.
Visitors act like characters in a choose-your-own-adventure narrative by exploring the tactile walls, secret passageways and restricted laboratories full of experiments gone wrong. Bioluminescent creatures, alien flora and expanses of abstract light and geometry complete visitors’ journeys into an alternate realm.
Though the artists in charge of the project had background experience in haunted houses, the experience stays eccentric without any scary elements so that all ages can enjoy the attraction.
Artists began designs for the project in 2017. Otherworld opened in May to rave reviews.
When the CEO of Wisdome, known as Swami, first came across Android Jones’ work, he created a film using Jones’ visuals with a soundtrack in a 360-degree immersive space. When Jones posted the video on social media, it reached 100,000 views by the next morning. The video started a partnership that led to the opening of Wisdome in Los Angeles.
The 35,000-square-foot venue creates artainment on a massive scale. The 2018 attraction includes five domes each with 360-degree, surround sound experiences.
The virtual reality experience hosts various rotating art installations that feature vibrant colors, textures and visuals. The showcase piece called “Samskara” takes viewers on a multisensory experience inspired from the path to meditative transcendence. Visitors feel transported to other dimensions with color creatures, lush CGI forests and kaleidoscope abstractions. The 90-foot domes have also hosted live performances, spherical movie theaters, digital canvases and a Pink Floyd-themed exhibit called “Beyond the Wall.”
Wisdome works to re-create the excitement of a pop-up artainment experience. These types of shows convert industrial buildings and vacant lots across the country into temporary interactive environments.
Groups can arrange to walk through with a tour guide to listen to more in-depth descriptions of the art.
Atelier des Lumieres
Most people learned about Vincent van Gogh’s artistic genius in school. This informative understanding of his artistic ability can’t compare to virtually entering the artist’s paintings. The “Van Gogh: Starry Night” show at the Atelier des Lumieres in Paris originated from Culturespaces, a French museum foundation that specializes in immersive art displays.
The digital art museum rotates exhibits on classic painters. Past exhibits highlighted paintings by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. The museum projects the art onto 32-foot-tall walls in a 10,000-square-foot space that once served as a 19th-century foundry in the eastern part of the city.
An estimated 120 video projectors, 50 speakers and a 3D visual experience help a younger generation appreciate artistic masters. Audio tracks from classical musicians accompany the sensory-immersive experience.
More than 1.2 million visitors flocked to Atelier des Lumieres between its opening in April 2018 and January 2019. Already, Culturespaces plans to open venues in South Korea and Bordeaux, France.
The building’s bare walls light up in a mesmerizing digital display as 360-degree views of various artworks flash around the room. The shows also delve into artists’ lives. The van Gogh exhibit details not only the artist’s expressive brushstrokes and bold colors but also his highly emotional and chaotic inner world. Guests can watch as his paintings evolve from the grim realism of “The Potato Eaters” in 1885 to the impressionistic “Bedroom at Arles” in 1889.
In conjunction with the van Gogh exhibit, “Dreamed Japan, Images of the Floating World” imagines living inside a world made of Japanese art. Geishas, samurai warriors and spirits move to the music of Claude Debussy.
Michelangelo and the Secrets of the Sistine Chapel
When visitors enter the Sistine Chapel, they must crane their necks upward to view the majesty of Michelangelo’s most impressive feat of art. To more fully appreciate and examine the world-famous ceiling paintings, guests can watch “Michelangelo and the Secrets of the Sistine Chapel” by Giudizio Universale.
The show uses a high-tech blend of cinema and live theater for a one-hour show on a stage and a giant 270-degree projector screen. The Vatican provided high-resolution images of the paintings and oversaw the design to ensure historical accuracy.
Dancers perform, actors gesture, and audiences listen to audio that tells the story of the Italian artist’s life and works. The show is available in nine different languages.
The story starts in the 16th century in the quarries of Carrara as Michelangelo searches for the perfect piece of marble to craft his masterpiece, “David.” The show then follows his journey to complete the ceiling fresco.
Michelangelo’s previous works mostly consisted of sculptures; he had no experience in fresco painting. He eventually covered the 10,000 square feet of ceiling in jaw-dropping paintings in just 500 days.
During the show, audiences can admire the finished works, such as the iconic image of God’s outreached finger about to give life to Adam, at close range.