Artechouse Lights Up Washington’s Museum Scene

Artechouse Lights Up Washington’s Museum Scene

It is a hot ticket. Admission costs $15 and there is timed entry to control the influx to 60 people per session and not exceed the gallery’s 400-person capacity. Sessions are typically sold out with a waiting list. An immersive-interactive installation featuring Noirflux celebrating traditional Japanese themes, such as cherry blossoms and Koi, will be presented at the museum starting on March 15 to coincide with the National Cherry Blossom Festival in the city.

Artechouse is open during installations until 10:30 p.m. on weekdays and 11:30 p.m. on weekends. The after-hours appeal is a bar area overlooking the exhibits that teems with millennials taking selfies and posting to Instagram, often holding an augmented reality cocktail — one that superimposes a computer-generated image above the rim of the glass — using their smartphones and the Artechouse app.


The Artechouse app made food appear in the dining room area of an exhibition.

Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

“A lot of museums close up at 5, but we wanted to create an evening environment where you can come on a date, like you would performing arts, or the theater,” Mr. Kereselidze said. “Museums are there to preserve. We are here to present. The exhibit is exactly the same in the evening, only you see the adults acting like kids.”

At Artechouse, art has “no limits and takes all forms,” Ms. Pastukhova said. “We wanted to create an environment where artists can push the limits and are inspired to create new artworks.” This year, there will be a revolving stream of eight major immersive, multimedia installations exhibited for one to two months each, in addition to side-gallery ones.

Artechouse’s space is designed and configured to make it easy for artists to help pull the visitor in. “The magic is what the person experiences interacting with the art,” said Lorne Covington, Noirflux’s creative director and principal. “Most art is an object or a thing. We work with something that is intangible — that direct experience.”

Visitors to Artechouse become part of the display. “If it’s working right, it’s working like a good dance partner,” Mr. Covington said. “You don’t want someone just mimicking your moves, but to respond to you and surprise you back, so you wind up in a give-and-take dance.”


The entrance to Artechouse, where art has “no limits and takes all forms,” said Tatiana Pastukhova, one of its founders.

Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

This kind of activity demands a big space like Artechouse, which provides lighting systems and 17 hanging projectors hidden carefully from the public eye.

The elusive combination of art and technology is enticing in this era of the selfie. “These big, bold, immersive installations are ones that have a sense of wonderment about them and that notion of spectacle, that sense of being overwhelmed by the work, is very conducive to a social media presence,” said Edward Saywell, chief of exhibitions strategy and gallery displays at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

As museums around the world are grappling with what their role is and how to attract new audiences, it comes down to making connections with visitors, he said. “The power of art is to wake us up — it is to change us.”

In recent years, art schools have exploded with a new group of artists who are doing interactive art of a digital nature, said George Fifield, director of Boston Cyberarts, a gallery that regularly includes interactive art in its exhibitions. “At its best, with this art form, the audience never knows about the computer,” he said. “This is not about the computer. The art is interacting with your own body and making magic happen.”

Museums should be “creating a sense of wonder not just conveying information,” Mr. Covington said. “We think that is the future of all museums — not just Artechouse.”

Correction: March 14, 2018

An earlier version of a picture caption with this article misspelled the name of an experience design company that created “IceNeon” at Artechouse in Washington. It is Noirflux, not Noriflex.

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