Experiencing art has traditionally been a one-way transaction. Artists would toil away in their studios. Then hopefully they’d be able to place something in a gallery show. Patrons toting designer wallets and black cards would crane their necks while the pieces were explained. Most people could never afford to enjoy them, unless they went to a museum. And even then, really all they could do was look.
But in the same way science and history museums are using technology to become more interactive and accessible, one Miami museum is bringing modern art to the masses. And letting artists in on the action.
Superblue is an immersive, interactive art space set in Miami’s transitioning industrial neighborhood of Allapattah. Across the nearby Metrorail tracks you’ll find rows of warehouses distributing everything from fruit to auto parts. Across the street sits the Rubell Museum, Florida’s largest collection of private art on public display.
Superblue is a semi-permanent collection of art installations that allows people to touch, walk on, breathe and change the art they see by their presence. Visitors can walk through a room full of bath bubbles, experience all four seasons, get lost in a mirror maze, or stand in a stark white chamber and learn how color shapes their perception.
It is, to say the least, a marked departure from the staid world of galleries and museums.
“We’re prioritizing shared experiences between artists and audience,” says Superblue’s Director of Experiential Art Centers Shantelle Rodriguez. “Rather than the traditional practice of artists creating in studios, then maybe seeing them at a show, our goal is to reach a broader audience.”
Visual artists making money like performers do
Reaching a large audience is wonderful for an artist. But monetizing a large-scale, experiential work is tricky — you can’t exactly hang a room of bath bubbles in your foyer. So Superblue is treating its artists like musicians, giving them a cut of the $39.95 ticket price.
“There’s a whole commercial engine needed to support (the artists),” Rodriguez says. “If they’re not making money, they’ll retreat back into their studios. Museum shows don’t pay a residual, so the ground breaking model is creating experiences that give revenue back to the artists.”
What to expect at Superblue Miami
The artist-as-revenue-collector model was appealing enough to draw an impressive crop of artists to Every Wall is a Door, Superblue’s opening exhibition. Most notable among them is James Turell, whose Ganzfeld work is the museum’s biggest name. It’s a stark white room where audiences stand for a few minutes and watch lights change color around them. The idea is to create a meditative space among optical illusions, though whispers of “I don’t get it” can be heard in nearly every group.
Every Wall is a Door has three other experiences for guests, all of which have become mainstays on South Florida Instagram feeds. Es Devlin’s Forest of Us is a two-story mirror maze, tailor-made for provocative pictures and confusing journeys. Its grand staircases and narrow hallways aren’t unlike a cruise ship’s main atrium, with a lot more purpose behind the design.
The two exhibits mentioned above come after visitors experience teamLab’s series of immersive installations. One is designed to place visitors inside the changing seasons. With flower petals giving way to empty branches, which succumb to winter frost before the greens of spring seep in. As people walk through rooms, touching walls and stepping on floors, they affect how and when the weather shifts and the plants bloom. The parallel to human impact on climate isn’t subtle.
For an extra charge, visitors can don goggles and ponchos then stroll through a room of thick clouds titled Massless Clouds Between Sculpture and Life. The disorienting haze of the white bubbles makes for a sometimes-confusing journey. But also makes for some trippy, mad-scientist photo-ops.
Because the way the installations present themselves is never the same twice, visitors can return multiple times and have totally different experiences. And whether you understand any of the art or not, it’s undeniably fun.
Superblue…coming to a city near you?
Beyond the first hand experience, Rodriguez explained Superblue also wanted to create a way for everyone to become a patron of the arts, not just those who could plunk down 120K for a duct-taped banana.
“We want people who feel left out by the art world to have a way to feel included,” she says. “It’s not the only way to experience art, but it’s going to become more common.”
Superblue is opening in its second location this fall (September 29) as part of a collaboration with The Shed and Studio Drift in New York. Rodriguez says the NYC iteration won’t look anything like Miami’s — this one will be much more performing arts focused.
The goal is to make Superblue as common as traditional art museums. Miami is simply the beginning.
“We want to bring this accessible model of art to people all over the world,” Rodriguez says. “We want to open the gates of art to everyone. We want them to believe in the power of art, and that it shouldn’t just be accessible to a small percentage of people.”
Where: Superblue Miami, 1101 NW 23 Street, Miami, FL 33127, US
Hours of operation: Sunday to Wednesday from 10 AM to 7 PM; Thursday to Saturday from 10 AM to 8 PM.
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