Art Meets Technology at This New Space in the Gaslamp Quarter
From animated projections and infinity rooms to NFTs, immersive art experiences are having a moment. And thanks to pop-up-turned-permanent gallery concept WNDR Museum, San Diego now has its own white-hot destination to see cutting-edge work. More than just made-for-Instagram moments—although there are plenty of those—over two dozen interactive exhibits have filled the historic Broker’s Building on Market St. Creative Director David Allen says San Diego’s vibrant art community made the city a perfect fit for WNDR Museum’s second brick-and-mortar location. Here, he dishes on the installations and artists (including several famous names) visitors can expect to see in the new space.
“For ‘Aurora Vortex,’ we hired a photographer to shoot the northern lights in Alaska, so people can experience seeing it in real-time. We also recorded 10 of the world’s best poets reciting short pieces of verse, including the current Poet Laureate,” shares Allen. “From audio to visual, there are so many moments of hidden beauty to discover; no two visits here will be the same.”3/2
An accomplished artist best known for his work as a post-mastectomy tattoo artist, Allen added a little flavor and some touches of his own to several of the exhibits created by the museum’s namesake in-house collective WNDR Museum Studios, one of which was a curated series of projected digital art.3/1
With access to a private collection that includes three mirrored infinity rooms by acclaimed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (each sadly too big for WNDR Museum San Diego’s 19th-century Gaslamp Quarter home), Allen installed a $2.5 million mural by American pop artist Keith Haring and flew German graffiti artist DAIM in from Hamburg to paint a custom mural for the opening exhibition. An award-winning 360-degree visual multimedia piece by Leigh Sachwitz titled “Insideout” made its North American debut—an evocative and mercurial display of light and sound that captures a moment from the artist’s childhood in Scotland.
Intended to disrupt and reimagine the traditional art gallery experience, Allen says that WNDR Museum doesn’t tell people how things are or what to think but simply invites them to be present in the moment. To get hands-on and flip a switch, make a few moves on the motion-sensor LED panel-covered ”Light Floor” or go analog and “write something down they know for sure” for “The Wisdom Project”—and then come to their own conclusions about the experience. “We’ve created a very open and inclusive environment at WNDR Museum because we want art to be accessible to everyone,” he says.3/16
But it’s not all reality-altering installations at WNDR Museum San Diego. Within the 14,000-square-foot building, which occupies a high-profile corner spot where Market meets Fourth Ave, there’s a café and bar, plus a gift shop with coffee-table books and artist merchandise, including skateboards by DAIM and plushies by Atlanta-based artist Oseanworld. Community events, visiting artist talks and panels are also in the works while a curriculum with Jimmy Lovine and Dr. Dre’s USC Academy is currently being developed to provide special programming and STEAM education for underrepresented youths.
Founded in 2018, WNDR Museum was recently voted one of the country’s top-five immersive art experiences by USA Today readers. Ryan Kunkel, president of WNDR Museum Global, says his team built something really special in Chicago and is excited to bring the concept to California. ”We pride ourselves on creating compelling experiences for people that evoke a range of emotions. San Diego’s Gaslamp District is such a dynamic community, and we’re thrilled to become a part of it. We feel our unique blend of art and technology is the perfect fit for the neighborhood.”
Keri Bridgwater is a freelance writer covering travel and lifestyle. Her work has been featured in Fodor’s Travel, Marie Claire, Matador Network and InsideHook, among other outlets and publications.