The era of ‘artainment’ unfolds

4 min read

We are looking at an audience that has spent more than 12-months in isolation. An isolation that has seen an explosion in online support attempting to create alternatives to previous physical activities, ranging from visits to the restaurant to trips to the cinema. Streaming has exploded on the consumer front.

We are seeing a surge in interest for social entertainment, live events and general out-of-home activities. While vacations, cruises and air travel may not be a factor in this, no amount of speculation can avoid the reality that a "super staycation" atmosphere is gripping the general populous. Investment is turning to projects that mark the next phase of out-of-home entertainment to address the needs of a highly sophisticated audience, which has access from home to the widest possible selection of streamed content than ever before.

The question must be what the 2021 facility guest is looking for from their entertainment, what is still a proven perennial, but also what has usurped the traditional applications, driving the new trends that must wow and attract this highly sophisticated audience.

Immersion's artistic period

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about the deployment of digital art installations in various venues in what has been dubbed "artainment." Questions are asked regarding the marriage of an art installation to the entertainment space, or the gamification of an installation within a museum or gallery venue. It is, however, important to make the clear separation between what is an "exhibit" and what is an "attraction" regarding the understanding of both aspects.

The mixing of the achievements of an art installation, especially to be deployed as a revenue stream within a site, needs to be compared to an attraction, which is dedicated to be used as a pay-to-play experience.

"The Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience" has become one of the premier examples of a digital exhibition in a travelling format. The latest incarnation coming to London covers 15,000 square feet and comprises a multitude of projectors offering an immersive experience — best described as "stepping into the paintings" of the Dutch artist. This approach has inspired other digital installations, marrying the immersive environment with interactive displays, experience areas and an extensive merchandise store.

The digital art installation was first seen to be more immersive in presenting the work of artists, and follows the style of a travelling art exhibit. However, this has grown into a dedicated medium. The museum and gallery sector is now seeing other attempts to create such experiences as standalone attractions.

These digital experiences have seen the entry of corporations such as Illuminarium in Atlanta. The immersive entertainment project covers some 30,000 square feet, uses the latest 4K projection systems from Panasonic and offers an immersive experience.

There are also the Madison Square Garden Sphere projects, with London, Las Vegas and New York venues opened, with the offering based on this vast music, movie and experiential projection environment.

The U.K. also figures in the launch of the new "Outernet London" project that will see the installation of the world's largest LED screen, a facility that will accommodate 2,000 guests.

Art, cinema and live event

These projects blur the line between art exhibit, cinema experience and live event. They hope to be all things to all people and incorporate a repeat visitation model that will draw a regular audience, the same way that a cinema, theater or music event draws their customers. But they also now see themselves as being able to include the museum and gallery audience to this engagement.

The ability to offer a completely compelling and immersive art experience has been driven not only by the latest 4K projection platforms, but also by advancements in the new generation of LED displays. This is illustrated by the "Antoni Gaudi Exhibition" held at the Casa Batllo museum in Barcelona.

This exhibition takes the massive leap in immersion by deploying the world's first six-sided LED cube, a complete immersive display environment. The cube environment measures 10 meters long by 9.5 meters wide and 2.75 meters high, presenting almost 70 million pixels generated by panels from Alfalite, with a system integrated by Vitelsa which is presenting the work from the artist. The first of its kind presentation uses LED, offering an amazing experience, and it has opened the door on the way that digital art can be represented — pushing the boundaries between an immersive attraction and installation.

It is this blurring of the line that has seen the appearance of Meow Wolf and the success the company has achieved with recent immersive art installations. Originated from an anarchic art collective in Santa Fe, their live music and alternative art exhibitions gained a following and soon the collective formed into a company that developed these pieces and consulted on immersive installations.

Some have likened it to a fusion of "funhouse meets escape room." Most recently the company has received critical acclaim for its installation at the Las Vegas Area 15 entertainment hub. The exhibit, "Omega Mart," is a critique on modern consumerism as well as a fun scavenger hunt through hidden spaces, finding all the secret messages, including immersive displays.

All these examples of "artainment" chart the true clash between the art venue and the entertainment space, as ticket sales, rather than just the message, will play a major factor in defining their success and longevity.

(Editor's note: Extracts from this blog are from recent coverage in The Stinger Report, published by KWP and its director, Kevin Williams, the leading interactive out-of-home entertainment news service covering the immersive frontier and beyond.)


This article was written by Kevin Williams from Kiosk Marketplace. News Features and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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Kevin Williams