What we love most about art installations is that they have the power to transform–not only the spaces they inhabit, but also our own perceptions of space, color, form, and more. These exhibits remind us that a plain, white-walled room, an empty chapel, and a market filled with bustling crowds can serve as an artist’s canvas. While we saw many installations in 2014, 2015 definitely raised the bar with its immersive, playful, and even thought-provoking exhibits.
To see exactly what we mean, scroll down and take a look at fifteen of our favorite art installations that delighted the world this year. As we take a look back at 2015, let’s also look forward to 2016 with the hope of living in a world filled with another great year of art!
15. When My Father Died It Was Like a Whole Library Had Burned Down by Susanna Hesselberg
Swedish artist Susanna Hesselberg constructed a library that plunges into an infinite abyss. Visible only from above ground, the intriguing installation is inconspicuously marked and, from a distance, looks as though it’s just a square frame laying on the grass. As viewers approach it, however, they can easily see the stacks of books descending into the earth. Its compact structure is reminiscent of a mining shaft or water well with no apparent bottom.
14. Installation Arnhem by Suzan Drummen
Suzan Drummen shows a keen eye for detail with her dazzling kaleidoscopic floor installations that take on a three-dimensional form with their complexity. This Netherlands-based artist works with thousands of individual elements, placed loosely about the floor, or fixed onto walls with pins; occasionally, bedazzled participants aid in forming these lively illusions. Her pieces are constructed from crystal, chrome-plated metal, precious stones, mirrors and optical glass. When combined, these ornamental components certainly enlivened an empty wooden chapel for Drummen’s Installation Arnhem piece.
13. Dear World… Yours, Cambridge by Miguel Chevalier
Artist Miguel Chevalier created a series of immersive projections that added a mesmerizing flair to a University of Cambridge charity event. The fundraising occasion featured Chevalier's designs front and center in the King's College Chapel, as they cloaked the historic interior in a myriad of changing colors, patterns, and textures. It was a striking juxtaposition that fused contemporary imagery with 16th-century Gothic English architecture–a mashup of old and new that brought the building to life.
12. Mirrored Room by Lucas Samaras
New York-based artist Lucas Samaras is known for his wooden chambers covered top to bottom with mirrors that transform the spaces into dazzling, dizzying infinity rooms. Utterly captivating, each room invites viewers to step into a world of endless reflections and refractions. Stretching limitlessly in all directions, the mirrored space gives the viewer the surreal experience of floating weightlessly in an abyss devoid of any sense of time or place. The artist’s most famous infinity room installation, Room No. 2 (a.k.a. Mirrored Room), was on display at NYC’s Pace Gallery in August.
11. Love Mondays by Gemma Cairney and Spark Your City
Commuters in London were treated to a delightfully colorful surprise one June morning, when the London Bridge was turned into a rainbow pathway stretching 300 meters across the Thames River. The cheery installation was the work of BBC 1 presenter Gemma Cairney and Spark Your City, a global movement “dedicated to spark joy in everyday city life.” Cairney and her collaborators were up bright and early to make sure the rainbow road was in place by the time commuters were on their way to work. With the colorful tiles, a multihued outfit, free bouquets of flowers, and a sign inviting people to “Love Mondays,” Cairney was a welcome beam of sunshine to Londoners on that gray, rainy morning.
10. In Infinity by Yayoi Kusama
For years, we've been enamored with the colorfully dazzling work of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Her awe-inspiring installations feature a dizzying amount of dots that engulf the viewer in a fantastical, dreamlike world. In October, she took over the south wing of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark with her first comprehensive, retrospective exhibition. Called In Infinity, it presents multiple works that capture the essence of her artistic language and fascination with cosmological and psychological spaces.
9. Lucent by Wolf Buttress
Artist Wolf Buttress created a sculptural installation that looks like a giant dandelion wafting in the breeze. Its center, surrounded by delicate, tiny florets, mimics the flower's wispy shape and feel. Titled Lucent, this larger-than-life orb is suspended above a darkened, reflecting pool that mirrors the brilliant illuminated tips, doubling its stunning presence. Although it has the soft appearance of a dandelion, Buttress produced Lucent with another, much larger, natural body in mind–the universe. The installation's name (derived from the Latin "to shine") and its 3,115 hand-blown glass spheres represent stars on a map that are visible to the naked eye from the Northern hemisphere.
8. Pexis A1 by Gabriel Dawe
Artist Gabriel Dawe has done it again, this time with a dazzling piece entitled Plexus A1. This mesmerizing rainbow of color appears to be some sort of architectural sculpture, but in reality it’s created from vibrant strands of thread. As part of his ongoing Plexus series, this multicolored optical illusion–composed of over 15 different hues–stretches to the space’s 19-feet-high ceilings and features nearly 60 miles of thread. To create this larger-than-life visual and spatial art piece, the artist used a self-made giant needle formed from an extension rod.
7. Projecting Change: The Empire State Building by Louie Psihoyos and Fisher Steven
Back in August, the iconic Empire State Building in New York City was transformed into a moving tribute to endangered animals around the world. This spectacular light show, called Projecting Change: The Empire State Building, was organized by director Louie Psihoyos and producer Fisher Stevens of the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, a film that explored dolphin hunting in Japan. The duo collaborated with Obscura Digital co-founder Travis Threlkel on the projection, which was illuminated from 9PM to 12AM and featured a looping reel of "Noah's ark" animals.
6. JumpIn! by Pearlfisher
Who says ball pits are only for kids? Creative agency Pearlfisher put together an interactive art installation for adults, which just so happened to be a giant ball pit made of 81,000 white plastic balls! This immersive installation made its way to the U.S. after a successful debut in the United Kingdom. In taking this interactive exhibit around the world, the creative agency hopes to remind visitors that playing around can positively promote creative thinking. While diving into a sea of plastic balls may seem childish, it does allow grown-ups to unwind after a stressful day at work. It gives them a sense of freedom and reinforces the fact that a work-life balance is extremely important.
5. Crystal Universe by teamLab
Japanese tech art studio teamLab invites viewers to step into a galaxy of twinkling lights in Crystal Universe, their fully immersive installation. The Tokyo-based collective positioned 60,000 suspended LEDs in a three-dimensional space, using their original 4D Vision technology to create the dazzling appearance of an infinite number of light particles cascading endlessly in all directions.
4. The Dance by Benjamin Shine
London-based artist Benjamin Shine put his incredible fabric-folding skills to the test for his latest “paintings” crafted from sheets of tulle. The Dance features the amazingly realistic faces and elegant frames of dancers constructed from over 2,000 meters of suspended tulle. Shine painstakingly folded, pleated, ironed, and hand-sewed the gauzy material until lifelike features and graceful limbs began to take shape in the clouds of purple, pink, and blue material. Intricate details are revealed through contrast created by backlights shining through the wispy layers of fabric.
3. Flower House by Lisa Waud and Florist Collaborators
What does it look like when you give florists 48 hours to fill an old, abandoned house with flowers? During the third week of October 2015, talented florists from across the United States revived a dilapidated Detroit home with between 60,000 and 100,000 flowers. After Lisa Waud‘s enthralling Flower House installation came to a close, it was later responsibly deconstructed so its materials could be repurposed. The formerly neglected land is now being converted into a flower farm and design center so its floral legacy can continue on.
2. Heartbeat by Charles Ptillon
From August 27 to September 27, the 19th Century Market Building in London's Covent Garden was home to 100,000 giant white balloons, an installation aptly titled Heartbeat. This awe-inspiring display is the work of French artist Charles Ptillon–his first public art installation–and it stretches 54 meters (177 feet) in length and 12 meters (39 feet) in width. Embedded within the cloud-like mass is a gentle pulsating light, meant to symbolize the beat of a heart and also reflect the Garden district's sense of energy and dynamism. Ptillon hopes that their unexpected presence will encourage passersby to view the locale in a different light.
1. The Key in the Hand by Chiharu Shiota
Within the 2015 Venice Art Biennale’s Japan Pavilion, artist Chiharu Shiota amazed visitors with an extraordinarily immersive presentation. Using two boats, vibrant red yarn, a net of interlaced metal, and more than 50,000 used keys, Shiota created The Key in the Hand, an exhibition meant to inspire viewers to think about the importance of memories and the unknown. The display featured the intertwined keys hanging over the boats on bright red yarn and onlookers were able to walk beneath the maze on a winding path. The tens of thousands of keys were collected from individuals across the globe, helping to unite them in a common project.