A new generation of artists, curators and gallerists are transforming the world’s leading art spaces with interactive and immersive exhibitions that draw on our need to connect, touch and feel
As our social-media-obsessed mindset turns our creative desires more and more towards interactivity, brands, artists and curators are turning to immersive experiences over the old-fashioned view-from-a-distance approach to experiencing art.
In 2018, interacting with art isn’t the exception, but the rule. Culture lovers and art addicts are looking for their exhibitions to go that extra mile; they’re looking for a unique and immersive cultural experience.
“Curators have really led the way with this,” says Lucy McRae, who describes herself as a “body architect artist”. “We all interact with art in such a different way because of Instagram. There are artists who have made whole careers on Instagram, and I think people like that tech-approach to art.”
Tech is the name of the game for McRae, who toured her one-woman exhibition Swallowable Parfum® Lab, where she consumes a perfume tablet that she’s created herself. McRae has also worked with fashion brands such as Dior, creating an installation performance at London’s Science Museum.
Across the world, fashion brands are increasingly creating interactive art experiences. The Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris and the Aïshti Foundation in Beirut, Lebanon both have dedicated art spaces that are contingent on interactivity. Launched in 2015 and designed by Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye, the Aïshti Foundation presents the luxury brands it carries including Céline, Prada and Dior, showcased alongside the museum-worthy 8,000-piece-strong art collection owned by Tony Salamé, Aïshti’s founder and director.
At the London-founded, internationally located Dover Street Market, tech is at the heart of the brand’s creative outputs. At its Singapore outpost, it commissioned the artist Theseus Chan to create an installation on the ground floor of the concept store—a modern and immersive take on the nationally celebrated Chinese New Year.
In China, the cutting-edge arts enterprise K11 Art Foundation leads the way with interactive art. Founded by Hong-Kong-born entrepreneur Adrian Cheng, the K11 Foundation Art Village should be on every art enthusiast’s agenda. Comprised of a brutalist two-storey building in Wuhan, China, the K11 Art Village is an interactive platform aimed at bringing emerging and established artists together in one space where the public can drop-in and immerse themselves in contemporary art.
“It’s all about creative living,” Cheng says. “Art should be part of life, and like everything we do at K11, we’re trying to show how much positive impact art can have on our daily experience when we don’t just look at it, but get close and really interact. I call it curated living.” The village is home to 11 art studios where a rotating list of artists have three-month residencies, as well as a 1,000-square-meter exhibition hall, all open to the public. “Our artist-in-Residence Program is very important,” says Cheng. “It’s where we really encourage participating artists to enhance and impact the local environment and communities bordering the K11 art village, with KAF presenting artist workshops, exhibitions and creative happenings.”
With no cost to experience public art works, there’s something democratizing and modern about these initiatives. In Palm Springs, California, the art curator Neville Wakefield created an exhibition in the desert, Desert X, which ran alongside Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The artists involved included Ed Ruscha, Hank Willis Thomas and Doug Aitken.
In the Midwest of the US, the exhibition Aurora, just outside of Denver, Colorado, transformed a residential community through installations and nine sculptures along Denver’s new light-rail line. The American installation artist Blessing Hancock created a 20-foot-high sculpture made from fluorescent lights entitled Biota, created to encourage people to double-take on the views and aesthetics we take for granted in our local areas; the initiative was accompanied by its own Snapchat channel.
“Interactive design shapes the way we MOVE,” says Matylda Krzykowski, co-founder of Depot Basel, a design studio that has earned a reputation for being the new Bauhaus: the cult mid-century design school which first practiced the mantra of design and culture shaping the way we live.
One of contemporary art’s most talked about successes, the work of Tokyo’s teamLab, does just that. Its installation People, Resonating Trees and Crystal Fireworks at Grand Mall Park in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan, was one of art’s most hotly anticipated shows. The group uses art to transform the way we move through Resonating Trees, a series of man-made trees that change color when a viewer walks past them, and Crystal Fireworks, a culmination of lights that can be set off by visitors via their iPhones. With contemporary trends at our very fingertips, has art ever been so Instagram-worthy?