Put on a virtual-reality headset to transport yourself to a dinner party-turned-alien abduction thriller. Move your body to digitally paint the walls of a room. Write words you wish you could’ve once said, but didn’t, to a wall of thousands of tightly rolled scrolls. Or simply stand in a room with blaring music while more than 8,000 individual points of light change colors around you.
Philly’s newest art gallery invites you to become part of the art. Wonderspaces, opening Friday, Jan. 24, inside Fashion District Philadelphia, features 14 interactive art installations that all play with the idea of perspective.
“The idea is that you don’t need anything to be explained to enjoy these pieces,” says Jason Shin, Wonderspaces’ president and co-founder. “We have a team of guides to go down deep into the rabbit hole of the artists’ intentions, so you can learn as much as you want, but you’re invited to play and engage without needing any historical context to understand what’s going on.”
The artists hail from all around the globe, from Japan to the U.K. to Lithuania to Indianapolis. A few of the art experiences made their debut at special events, like Burning Man, SXSW, and the Sundance Film Festival. In total, the two-level gallery includes $1 million in commissioned artwork.
Wonderspaces launched as a pop-up concept in San Diego; Philadelphia marks its second and largest permanent location. (The first stands in Scottsdale, Ariz.) New installations will take the place of older ones every few months. Shin notes that Wonderspaces aims to collaborate with local artists in the future. The other main goal: to make the experience of viewing art feel “as casual as going to the movies."
“There are some similarities to a museum, but our intention is to create a place of social gathering where you can see world-class artwork and also have a drink as you walk around,” says Shin, noting the bar at the gallery’s entrance. “A lot of the pieces were first shown at events — we want to make them accessible to people who can’t travel all over for festivals, while creating a larger audience for the artist.”
Enjoy a cocktail or Evil Genius beer. Take as many Instagram photos as you want. Invite your dad, a date, or your 10-year-old niece. Wonderspaces isn’t meant to be too highbrow. It’s meant to be fun.