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New York museum harnessing technology to spotlight art

The Mercer Labs: Museum of Art and Technology features works by artist Roy Nachum (ANGELA WEISS)
The Mercer Labs: Museum of Art and Technology features works by artist Roy Nachum (ANGELA WEISS)

Billed as the place where art meets technology,  New York's latest museum is promising to reinvent the format with an "immersive and sensory" experience.

The Mercer Labs Museum of Art and Technology features works by Roy Nachum, a painter, sculptor and sound and light designer.

Open since January in Manhattan's financial district, Nachum and investor Michael Cayre told AFP they hope to turn a profit from the $35 million they spent on the space, a former shopping mall that has its formal grand opening on March 28.

Even for a city as expensive as the US financial capital, which overflows with cultural and entertainment attractions, the prices are steep.

Adults pay $52, while retirees and youngsters pay $46.

But entrepreneur and real estate developer Cayre insists that represents value for an hour of the "ultimate experience."

Mercer Labs is perfectly positioned to be Instagram and TikTok catnip, like many of the New York sites opened in recent years including the panoramic views from the Vanderbilt Tower's "Summit One," as well as the One World Trade Center and The Edge skyscrapers.

- 'Touch the work' -

Nachum has been based in New York for 20 years, and is perhaps best known for designing the art for megastar Rihanna's 2015 album "Anti."

The cover features a blindfolded child wearing a golden crown with braille lettering, an homage to Nachum's visually impaired grandmother.

Mercer says the collection of installations "redefines the museum experience through 15 interactive exhibition spaces, unique listening encounters and immersive installations where the relationship between art and technology is challenged."

As established museums seek to attract younger audiences and remain relevant, Nachum said Mercer had taken a new approach.

"Every museum, every gallery you have, you cannot touch the work. We want people here to touch the work, to interact with the work," he told AFP.

Visitors are invited into a darkened room where Nachum's videos, photos and holograms are projected onto the walls, floor and ceiling, lending the space a nightclub atmosphere complete with smoke machine and DJ beats.

In a "dragon's lair", 500,000 LED lamps flicker in time to convince visitors they are in the presence of mythical creatures.

"(Technology is) another pen, it's another brush, but we are using that and we tried to break the limits and we tried to create new technologies, we're mixing so many different technologies at the same time to try to create something new," Nachum said.

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