An ambitious plan to transform the facade of Chicago’s iconic 1930’s Merchandise Mart into a massive canvas for projected art is just weeks away from dazzling residents and tourists alike. Dubbed “Art on theMART”, the public installation will launch Saturday, September 29.
The opening festivities are scheduled to begin around 7:15 p.m. and will feature a live DJ, a procession of lanterns, and a 35-minute-long video program culminating in a pyrotechnic show. Traffic on Wacker Drive will shut down between Wells and Orleans starting at 6:30 p.m.
Once operational, the projections will be visible from Wacker Drive and the adjacent Chicago Riverwalk for up to two hours a night for five days a week (Wednesday through Sunday), ten months out of the year (March through December).
Using 34 individual projectors to illuminate a sprawling 2.5-acre swath of the building’s waterfront facade, “Art on theMART” will be the world’s largest permanent digital projection system. The estimated $8 million project comes from Chicago architecture firm Valerio Dewalt Train Associates in collaboration with San Francisco-based Obscura Digital.
In the past, Obscura brought similar temporary projection displays to some of the globe’s most iconic buildings including the Guggenheim Museum, Sydney Opera House, and the Vatican. The Chicago installation will operate for a much longer period under the terms of a 30-year agreement between the City of Chicago and Merchandise Mart owner Vornado Realty Trust.
Potential artwork and artists are still in the process of being selected by Vornado, a dedicated curatorial advisory board, and the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Per its agreement with City Hall, “Art on theMART” will feature no commercial branding.
The idea to light up the building was first envisioned as part of the conceptual Lighting Framework Plan presented by the Mayor’s Office and Choose Chicago in 2014. “Art on theMART” was officially announced in February of 2018.
- Merchandise Mart will be turned into the world’s largest art display [Curbed Chicago]
- City mulls plan to ‘light up’ Merchandise Mart [Curbed Chicago]
- Art in theMart [official website]