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Photograph: Courtesy of Mercer Labs

A first look at the NYC’s new Mercer Labs, Museum of Art and Technology

The new museum will open where Century 21 used to be on February 14.

Anna Rahmanan
Written by
Anna Rahmanan

As some of NYC's most celebrated immersive installation spaces shockingly switch gears (Hall des Lumières recently announced it is moving away from the high-tech art exhibitions it has hosted until now), others debut anew, still banking on the power and allure of all things immersive.

In primis: Mercer Labs, Museum of Art and Technology, a unique new (you guessed it, immersive) museum created by Roy Nachum, the artist behind Rihanna’s famous 2016 “Anti” album cover, and his business partner Michael Cayre, a real estate developer. 

Mercer Labs
Photograph: Courtesy of Mercer Labs

Officially open to the public on February 14, the 36,000-square-foot space is located at 21 Dey Street, inside the bank building that used to be part of the now-nextdoor Century 21.

For the next couple of weeks, the museum is in soft-open mode but we were able to visit and learn a few things about the latest addition to the city's cultural landscape:

Technology is at the forefront of the museum 

Mercer Labs
Photograph: Anna Rahmanan for Time Out New York

Almost immediately, visitors will be amazed by the state-of-the-art technology system that powers each on-site installation.

The first of 15 experiences, for example, will take you through a giant room equipped with 26-foot-high projectors that blast a series of images all around that will have you feel like you've just taken a swim inside the sorts of motifs that Nachum explores throughout his work. You will quite literally land inside his art pieces.

In another room, which is being branded as one of only three 4D sound studios in the world, guests are asked to wear a blindfold and lay on the floor to properly enjoy the sounds blasting out of the 36 speakers that are embedded under the elevated floor.

The museum keeps the visually impaired top of mind

The above-mentioned sound room, which is supposed to be experienced with a blindfold on, is only one of the many aspects of the museum tour that touch upon Nachum’s dedication to inclusivity. You will quickly notice braille text all around the space—next to some of Nachum’s own paintings and across many of the installations.

Each room is cooler than the one before 

Mercer Labs
Photograph: Courtesy of Mercer Labs

There are a total of 15 different rooms to explore, each one attacking all the senses upon entrance.

Some outstanding installations include the one that the staff refers to as "The Dragon," where a total of 500,000 individual LED lights hung on strings adorn a room and are lit up to created 3D videos, including one of a galloping horse, that will catch your attention.

Towards the end of the walkthrough is what can only be described as a cave of beautiful pink flowers (plastic ones), where there will soon be a bar as well. This is perhaps the most Instagrammable space within the museum as a whole, one that will likely come to represent the destination on social media once it officially opens. 

An installation of a robot will also delight. Dubbed Kuka Robot, the machine is found behind a glass in the middle of a bed of sand. The robot makes sand castles, sketches and more while visitors look on wondering how it's all possible. 

It's a Family-Friendly Destination

Taking a tour of the new Mercer Labs is something you might want to consider doing with kids.

Not only are the visual elements striking and entertaining but certain rooms are specifically targeted towards the younger set while appeasing adults as well.

There is the usual ball pit, this one boasting 25,000 balls that you can dive into after taking a ride on the slide on site. 

Once down there, you’ll also get to play inside the interactive chess room or take a turn in a fruit ninja-like game—albeit with asteroids—on one of two giant screens on premises.

Perhaps the truest marriage between technology and "humanity" is a coloring space where kids are encouraged to use crayons to color in images of dinosaurs and all sorts of other fictional characters seen in Nachum's work. Once completed, the design can be fed into a nearby machine that will then recreate a 3D version of the character on a screen that will "forever live" in the digital space of the museum.

Seeing your exact coloring strokes on a 3D bird on a screen after sliding a piece of paper inside a machine is, honestly, super-cool.

That Smell? It’s on purpose

Mercer Labs
Photograph: Courtesy of Mercer Labs

You’ll notice a very pungent and, well, noticeable aroma upon entry. According to Nachum’s wife Maia, who helped on a recent tour of the museum, that’s on purpose: it’s a scent created by the team for the museum in specific that will likely eventually be sold in the “gift store” on-site.

The Museum store is also fun!

Speaking of the museum store: it's filled with, simply put, beautiful NYC-specific toys, household ornaments, kitchen paraphernalia, clothing and jewelry that are part of Nachum's capsule collection (eerily reminiscent of Kanye West's—and that's a good thing in terms of style).

Also available for purchase: delicious mochi ice cream, two types of flavored seltzer-like drinks bottled on-premise and a whole slew of both Japanese and Israeli snacks (as Maia explains, Nachum is originally from Israel and his relationship with Japan has influenced the way he has constructed the space and looks at his work).

It’s a great event space

A mere walk through Mercer Labs makes one thing clear: the immersive space can be much more than that given its size and the clear technological capabilities embedded in each room.

That’s something that wasn’t lost on the founders: folks can rent out different rooms. May we suggest a very unique and technologically avant-garde wedding in a room filled with pink flowers, perhaps?

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