The Hall of Lights, the permanent immersive digital art center that has taken over the huge banking room of the former Caisse d’Epargne des Emigrants on the Chambers, has opened its doors to the public. The company behind the high-tech installation is Culturespaces, the European creator of Atelier Des Lumières in Paris, in partnership with IMG, the media organization.
You’ve seen this kind of “experience” before if you’ve been to any of the immersive Van Gogh shows downtown in the last year. (There was one on the East River and one in Battery Park City.) The major difference here is that Culturespaces not only transformed but restored the bank’s lobby, to the point where the tellers are still in place, the clocks ornaments are still on the wall, and the stained glass windows in the mile-high ceilings are now lit with color-changing LEDs. There is a definite Gringotts vibe.
They also use what they call “mapping technology”, so that images are accurately projected onto different architectural elements in the room: columns, floors, corners.
So while nothing really ‘happens’ in these productions – they’re not theatre, concerts, or museums – this one has the distinct advantage of making the most of an old New York space. very cool. There’s a lot to admire, between the technology and the projections and the expanse of marble.
The exhibits here will change every 10 months or so, but right now the main attraction is celebrating the work of Austrian painter Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) in an exhibit called Gold in Motion. The whole space – as well as the lower level, which has a central bar – is illuminated by animated projections of his paintings, which merge and transform into each other. But there are several other films: one exploring the work of Austrian painter and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser; 5 Movements, a 10-minute audiovisual piece that follows five dancers through five musical movements; and a trippy piece of digital art called Recoding Entropia, which is shown in the mirrored vault in the basement. The entire loop takes an hour.
My video didn’t do it justice, but the stills are pretty accurate to the feel you get in the field. I’m curious to see what it’s like when there’s no opening night – a little quieter might be a better experience in some way, more immersive even, as it was loud not only with the DJ music and entertainment, but with the chatter of a few hundred people having a cocktail.
The Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank was established in 1850 to protect the funds of Irish immigrants, who fled Ireland due to famine. Then, between 1909 and 1912, the bank built a 49-room, 187-foot-high (17-story) Beaux-Arts skyscraper with a pioneering H-shaped plan to add natural light, and a bank lobby sumptuously constructed in limestone, marble and bronze.
The building and part of the interior were scarred in 1985 (and more on that later), and the proof of that is part of the show. The bank vault in the basement still has the massive door intact.
Tickets for the shows are around $35 for adults, with discounts for children, students, and seniors, as well as a family discount.
New York Hall of Lights
49 Rooms | Broadway and Church
Sunday to Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Thursday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.