What is Superblue Miami? One of the newest art kids on the block in Miami, Superblue is both compelling but also confusing to understand before visiting. Is it a gallery? A museum? You have to pay to enter (like a museum), but is not made up of a permanent collection. Instead, it’s been created by the powerhouse Pace Gallery and Laurene Powell Jobs’s Emerson Collective. Read on to find out more about Superblue.
Superblue can best be called Miami’s newest immersive art experience, but Superblue is so much more than a simple immersive experience where you stand in front of a touchscreen… this is immersive art on a grand scale: art you can walk under and through.
This is art you can play with and in. It is comprised of rotating exhibitions (every 18 months or so the art should be changed out and sent to other Superblue sites across the US… in principle at least) means that while I’ll describe what I saw, these may not be the same exhibitions that are on view in the future.
Superblue Miami is made up of multiple exhibitions that one walks through in a set pattern. This may feel rigid, but it keeps areas from being overcrowded.
Upon entering, one is immediately met by flowers blooming overhead (Meadow by Studio Drift), immediately setting a tone for the visit. The flowers open and close, lighting up and dimming with their movements. Music plays, and there is a slight thrill as one considers that even more interesting concepts await behind closed doors.
Studio Drift’s kinetic installation, “Meadow”
teamLab’s Every Wall is a Door
TeamLab‘s piece pictured above is a good example of how immersive art often means that you are inside the piece rather than simply looking at it. Every Wall is a Door is both changeable and multi-dimensional. Rather than simply looking at a screen with flowers and designs growing on it, the viewer enters into a series of cavernous darkened rooms (with ceilings 30 feet high!) with screens on multiple sides, and with projections flowing onto the floor. The viewer feels they are inside the piece, with projections on the floor, the walls, and even on themselves!
In addition to being immersive, there is often a time-based element to immersive art. In the case of TeamLab’s Every Wall is a Door this means that when a visitor “interacts” or touches the wall something happens. It makes flowers grow or wither. The scene changes on its own but is also responsive to feedback it receives, creating a unique experience for all.
TeamLab’s Every Wall is a Door is comprised of multiple dynamic pieces including “Universe of Water Particles, Transcending Boundaries” and “Flowers and People, Cannot be Controlled but Live Together.” Both use the visitors as integrated participants in the experience. The New York Times describes “Flowers and People, Cannot be Controlled but Live Together,” as “erupting with huge blossoms that grow and die. The flowers bloom on the ground only in those spaces that have been cleared of the watery image by the visitor’s presence.” This quote sums up the experience: one has the ability to control the flowers, but so does everyone else; the more crowded, the less uniquely interactive the experience can feel.
Nonetheless, it’s an exciting experience unparalleled in the usual art museum or gallery visit. It offers a way for children to interact with art, something that’s often impossible in more traditional museums. It sets an exciting tone for the visit.
James Turrell’s AKHU
While the first interactive work may excite, not all pieces are responsive or interactive. Some are simply time-based encounters where the visitor/viewer receives the intended experience as delineated by the artist. This is the case in James Turrell‘s AKHU attempts to create the Ganzfeld effect where a lack of visual stimulation can give rise to hallucinations.
Turrell’s piece requires donning booties and waiting in line. (We were lucky enough to only wait approximately 5 minutes – or one group – before being let inside). Our group consisted of multiple sets of young children, which while a relief for for fellow travelers with kids, was clearly a disappointment for those hoping to experience the true disorientation of Turrell’s piece without disruption and distraction.
No photographs were allowed inside, and with multiple docents present to discourage misbehavior I couldn’t sneak one. So, here is a photograph of the piece from LACMA.
This piece required climbing approximately 6 steps but all exhibitions are listed as accessible, and thus an elevator must have been hidden nearby. It then required standing and watching a limitless white field change colors for 5 minutes or so, in the presence of children and adults. It was both cool and boring / meditative. It was a respite between two pieces that require movement.
With children trying (yet failing) to stay still and silent, overall it was enjoyable to watch the colors of the walls change, but not the hallucinatory experience sought by the artist.
Es Devlin’s Forest of Us
Es Devlin‘s Forest of Us is the final piece one experiences as part of Superblue. The museum paces visitors with a waiting room and a brief video by the artist before sending them into a two-story brightly lit mirrored maze.
Reminiscent of Yayoi Kusama‘s mirrored rooms (such as Love is Calling at the ICA… with a twist) the maze delighted both children and adults who found themselves wandering, meeting, and losing each other.
Eventually, everyone seems to find their way to a mirrored digital wall. There, standing on a speaker renders a tree-like (or bronchial-like) shadow version of the viewer on the other side of a water feature. The heart of the experience, the viewer may be reminded of the tree and branch structure from the initial video played before entering the maze.
Forest of Us requires the beholder to constantly confront the notion of choice. Left or right? Up or down? Out or stay in? Together with Every Wall is a Door, a curatorial notion of choice and engagement emerges from the natural phenomena on display. Digging deeper, one might consider the intentionality of placing these two shows in the inaugural version of Superblue. Are we being reminded of our own agency? Of our ability to choose our future? (and if so, wouldn’t self-selecting which exhibitions to see in which order have been nice!) Choice and nature together suggest subtle leanings of environmental stewardship – hopefully, with all the crazy weather we’ve been having people will be more open to caring for our planet after this show.
teamLab’s Cloud Room
Speaking of environmental stewardship, the feature “Cloud Room”, also falls into the category of making or remaking the environment; and certainly there is always the theme of choice involved! In this space, in particular, you have to opt-in: the Cloud Room requires advance booking and paying an extra fee of $12 per person. It also requires waiting in another line and wearing booties, a protective poncho and goggles. The clouds are essentially a type of soap bubble. While the experience may be interesting to some, I believe that a visit to Superblue is also enjoyable without it!
How Long is Superblue Miami?
With all these exhibitions to see, one might wonder: how long does it take to see all the exhibitions at Superblue Miami? The answer is that it depends. It depends on the line and the number of visitors, and also how long one decides to spend in each exhibition. With adult tickets north of $30 per adult, there is a compulsion to get one’s money’s worth. At the same time, it’s only three exhibitions. 60 to 90 minutes is probably the approximate time it probably takes (with bathroom breaks and browsing the gift shop adding a bit more), but it could be done in less as well.
Superblue Miami Reviews
Reviews for Superblue range from the New York Times’ Arthur Lubow: “In my discombobulated mood, the trippy, meditative, gorgeous installations of Superblue washed over me as a respite and solace. My resistance melted. My doubts subsided. Like the kids in my hotel, after a year of privation I was ready to be seduced.”
Miami Herald’s Jane Lubow said, “Words can’t possibly convey the near-mystical experience.”
Miami New Times: “As Superblue likes to say to visitors, “You complete the art.” It truly is an immersive experience in every sense of the word, resulting in something memorable, individualized, and powerful.”
Superblue Miami Location
Superblue Miami is located across the street from the recently reopened Rubell Museum in the Allapattah neighborhood, just next to Wynnwood.
Superblue Miami Parking
Valet parking for Superblue Miami is available on-site for $15. There is also on-street parking.
Superblue Miami Practical Information
Superblue’s location is
1101 NW 23rd Street
Miami, FL 33127
Superblue is open Sunday to Wednesday 10 am to 7 pm (last ticket sold), and Thursday to Saturday 10 am to 8 pm (last ticket sold). It is closed Mondays.
Now you know what is Superblue Miami! This article is part of an ongoing series of pieces on Miami art districts. All photographs (except where noted) were taken by Christine O’Donnell for Thoughts on Art.