A Blue Christmas

ARTECHOUSE brings Pantone’s color of the year to life

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COURTESY OF ARTECHOUSE

In a truly timeless exhibit (sans literal clocks), the exhibit encourages participants to embrace the feeling and color of the year: Classic Blue.

By ALYSSA DAUGHDRILL

Stepping into Chelsea Market’s ARTECHOUSE gallery washes the world in luminescent blue. As a color that symbolizes peace, tranquility and stability, the shifting currents of blue designs contrast the tumultuous tides of change outside the boiler room walls. The twisting and pulsing designs of the exhibit encompass the entirety of the room and project over the visitors, uniting them under cool blue tones. 

ARTECHOUSE is a digital art installation space in the Chelsea Market boiler room. It first opened in September 2019, and artists like Shohei Fujimoto and Refik Anadol have showcased their work there in the past year. “Celestial,” the current installation, was produced in collaboration with Pantone and was inspired by the Pantone color of the year — Classic Blue. It is part of the ongoing Submerge series that began in February 2020. The Submerge installations in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Miami will continue into 2021.

“Celestial” first opened on Oct. 22, 2020, with COVID-19-safe guidelines and restrictions in place. Masks are required, visitation is by appointment and ARTECHOUSE has set up hand sanitizer stations inside. Visitors’ arrival at ARTECHOUSE is accompanied by temperature checks at the ticket counter before guests are shown an introductory video on the space. Once the video is completed and guidelines have been explained, guests are welcomed into the two-story immersive exhibit. The current installation will be up until Jan. 3, 2021. Tickets are $24 for adults and $20 for students.

Two people stand in the ARTECHOUSE exhibit
The exhibit aims to fully immerse participants in the Pantone classic blue. (COURTESY OF ARTECHOUSE)

The ARTECHOUSE founders, Tati Pastukhova and Sandro Kereselidze, created the space to be an immersive experience that utilizes digital projection technology and accompanying music to transform the space and intrigue visitors. 

Though Pantone’s color of the year was chosen before the pandemic began, the sentiment it was meant to convey is especially applicable to the unrest and uncertainty that the pandemic and political events of the year inspired. According to the press release, Kereselidze said that Classic Blue was intended “to sustain us during a time of change” as it evokes feelings of peace and rejuvenation.

Entering the “Celestial” exhibit is like stepping into another world. The ever-changing display moves around visitors, fully integrating them into the projected designs. Music is synced with each sequence to build a unique story and experience.

Photograph of Nighthawk recreation at ARTECHOUSE
The mocktail bar has been replaced with a recreation of Edward Hopper’s famous painting, “Nighthawks.” (COURTESY OF ARTECHOUSE)

The street-level entrance usually opens into a balcony space containing a sitting area, mocktail bar, and mini exhibit explaining how the installation was developed and how it works in the space. Now, in light of COVID-19 restrictions, the mocktail bar has been replaced by a dynamic, shifting version of the diner from Edward Hopper’s painting “Nighthawks.” This, and the distance between visiting groups, are the only noticeable changes the pandemic has brought to the space. Down the stairs, every surface of the boiler room except the ceiling is fully integrated into the exhibit. Guests spread throughout the room, taking pictures and sitting on the floor and benches as they admire the looping sequences of moving parts that make up the installation. The deep reverb of the discordant music and the pixelated, fluid images encapture audiences as the walls and floor appear to swell, twist and rotate along with the installation’s movements. The exhibit creates a liminal space where the passage of time seems less obvious and relevant. 

This installation is a combination of brief visual sequences composed of different shapes and structures that are united by the use of Classic Blue and played in a looping cycle. Each series has a set range and style of motion that is carried out by tides of vibrant lines, shapes or a combination of the two. They blend together so that the room is rarely bare, and the dizzying movements keep the cycle from feeling repetitive.

Though appointment slots are typically only for an hourlong visit, ARTECHOUSE allows guests to stay as long as they like, and there are no windows or clocks in the room to help keep track of the time. The exhibit’s shifting cast of bobbing lights transform from shoal-like swirls of quickly flashing rectangles to iridescent scales to lively pulses of curling lines and dots. At times, standing in the exhibit looks more like standing inside van Gogh’s “Starry Night” than a converted boiler room before the images shift into a glowing depiction of planets and supernovas in space. 

ARTECHOUSE’s dedication to creating a fully immersive experience has led to a space that combines technology and art in such a way that visitors can briefly step away from their lives when they experience the dynamic installation. “Celestial” is a refreshing and engaging use of imagery and Pantone’s Classic Blue, and it offers a fun respite from the struggles 2020 has brought.

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  • COURTESY OF ARTECHOUSE

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