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When the Museum of Ice Cream gatecrashed the artworld in 2016 with sellout pop-ups across New York, Los Angeles, and Miami, it redefined cultural exhibitions. Valued at $200 million three years after launching, it also showed the profitability of creating experiences with social cachet for the Instagram generation.

The immersive exhibition was not without its detractors (haters, in millennial parlance). At $38 a ticket, people, the argument went, could expect more than sprinkle pools and selfies beside giant cones. The art world is answering in the affirmative

Pace, the contemporary art gallery, is launching Superblue, an initiative to present immersive work from celebrated artists in so-called experiential art centers. ARTECHOUSE has been bridging the realms of art, science, and technology across permanent U.S. venues since 2017. And then there’s teamLab, the Japanese art collective of self-described ultra-technologists, which has popped up in Honolulu, Washington D.C. and Palo Alto in the past two years.  

teamLab’s most recent permanent landing was in Shanghai, a city teeming with immersive art experiences catering to experience driven Millennials and Gen Zers. 

One local pioneer is Sinan Mansions, a complex of 1920s European buildings that has become a trendy culture and commercial area. It’s been hosting interactive exhibitions since 2016. 

Sinan Mansions’ Immersive Art Focus 

For the 2020 edition, the Sinan Open-Air Museum installed 10 new media works by both Chinese and international artists across its grounds. Visitors were encouraged to explore “Be The Light” independently, but could scan QR codes located onsite to browse maps and access curator audio material. There were also regular artist led talks and tours. 

Although the exhibition was free to enter, the two-month venture was integrated within wider programming designed to generate revenue. This included a pop-up market featuring independent designer stalls, some selling wenchuang goods, inventive cultural products that have become popular with Chinese millennials. A range of lifestyle workshops and a restaurant inspired by 1920s Shanghai western eateries furthered visitor options. 

“Be the Light” received nearly 200,000 visitors and created more than 1 million impressions across Chinese social media platforms according to the organizer. 

What Sinan Says:

Through a series of exhibitions that combine humanity, art, and technology, Sinan wants the audience to experience the boundaries of art and to reimagine the functional possibilities of the city’s public spaces. Sinan wants to create experiences that encompass exploration, participation, and invention that focus on Shanghai’s future lifestyle.

— Sinan Mansion’s WeChat Account

Sinan outdoor art installations and modern restaurant. Image: Sinan Mansion

Gentle Swirl In The Forest, by Zhuang Zhiwei. Image: Sinan Mansions

Wenchuang market and gift shop. Photo courtesy of Sinan Mansion

Wenchuang market and gift shop. Image: Sinan Mansions

Visitors learning “Feidie”. Image: Sinan Mansion

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