Santa Fe art collective Meow Wolf, whose creative contributor and sponsor is Game of Thrones writer George RR Martin, makes its debut on February 18 at AREA15 in Las Vegas, an experimental retail and entertainment complex, with Omega Mart.
Omega Mart is an immersive, theatrical, immersive art experience that encompasses 250 unique, open-discovery projects featuring contributions from more than 325 art, music and digital artists, including artists Alex and Allyson Gray, who worked for the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors are known. Musician Brian Eno; Beach House pop group; and singer Santigold.
“This is the culmination of 13 years of working as a group and a generation leap in our work from our first project on,” says Corvas Brinkerhoff, co-founder and Executive Creative Director of Meow Wolf Las Vegas.
Meow Wolf is a multidisciplinary group of artists and creatives – writers, painters, sculptors, actors, lighting designers, musicians, and others – whose first permanent exhibition, House of Eternal Return, opened in 2016 in a former Martin bowling alley in Santa Fe and has attracted over 2 million visitors.
“By developing our work together, we were able to make these things bigger and more exciting than anything we could do ourselves,” says Brinkerhoff.
What is Omega Mart?
Calling itself “America’s Most Extraordinary Grocery Store,” Omega Mart stocks hundreds of bespoke surrealistic products, all for sale – like pigeon-mousse-flavored cats “Lil Meow” Gruel, mammoth chunks, and organic moth milk and camels Dream of mushroom soup. It took three and a half years to create the 52,000 square meter space – more than twice the size of the Santa Fe site.
“Omega Mart is the name of the room that opens the exhibition, and it is also the name of the entire exhibition, but there are more things outside of this room,” says Brinkerhoff. “On the other side is a different world. And this is where all these different artists from around the world are featured. “
Via various “portals” in this maximalist and psychedelic grocery store – such as a chilled beverage crate and a camping display – the audience enters a dimension that the creators call a parallel dimension with four huge rooms and 60 additional unique environments.
“We have a core team that we work with on every project. But the other half are local Las Vegas artists and artists from around the world, all of whom are curated in this exhibition, ”says Brinkerhoff. “When we come to a city, we feel like we have to work really hard to get in touch with this local artist community.”
Viewers are guided through a transformative narrative guided by interactive visual, acoustic, cinematic and digital content, all embedded in multidimensional art. Video content – the length of three feature films – is embedded throughout.
What exactly is going on at Omega Mart?
The plot of the new art experience centers on a mythical energy called The Source. The Omega Mart grocery store found a way to use and incorporate The Source into their products, and they are selling them to America, explains Brinkerhoff.
Guests can follow the storylines of DramCorp, the corporate giant behind Omega Mart who moved into this parallel dimension and took over parts of the desert, as well as those of three sisters leading a resistance to this infiltration. Look for clues as to what is going on in the exhibits, in the installation-filled rooms, and on the grounds, or choose your own adventure – anything is possible.
“There are all these different characters who live in the desert and you can learn their backstory about colonialism and environmental protection,” he says. “We’re trying to create that experience floor, basically a kind of quality and depth of experience that everyone gets, no matter how deeply they delve into the narrative. Our north star is always “interesting”. Will this inspire and captivate people? Here we start and then there is something you can find if you want to dive deeper into the subject. But if you don’t, it’s still beautiful, inspiring, and makes a really powerful impression on you. “
The authenticity and accessibility of a Meow Wolf experience is a response to the cynicism and gatekeeping of the contemporary art world, which, according to Brinkerhoff, wants to tear down the collective. “This is a bridge to an audience that doesn’t necessarily spend a lot of time going to galleries or museums,” he says. “We believe there is a fundamental human drive and desire for visual art experiences. And right now, the state of the contemporary art world is very alienating to most people. We are trying to create a bridge on which more people can engage with art. “
Why Las Vegas?
The late former Zappos boss Tony Hsieh originally courted Meow Wolf for downtown Las Vegas. “For a good year we were pretty sure that we would do something there, and then it went wrong,” says Brinkerhoff.
But the seeds were already planted, and the collective fell in love with the possibility of the city. “We felt like there was a really cool opportunity here to create something that can help catalyze an existing art scene that is underserved. And it’s super lively, ”he says. “There are so many super capable creators in town. And we felt like there was something really interesting and exciting about getting in touch with the international audience of people who come to Las Vegas. “
George RR Martin’s role
Game of Thrones creator consults on story creation and vision for the world of Meow Wolf.
“Think of it like the Marvel universe,” says Brinkerhoff. “There are different characters and legends, but they all exist in this common universe that is the connective tissue between all of the different shows we develop.”
Omega Mart is expected to have around 1 million visitors a year after the pandemic. From now on, participation is limited according to state guidelines. “If you count the vertical space, it is actually more than seven times larger [than Santa Fe] – As a designer, it is an incredible experience to design on this scale, ”says Brinkerhoff, noting plans for a possible expansion. “In fact, we have another 12,000 square feet that have not yet been opened.” In addition, Meow Wolf will open another permanent installation in Denver this year.
This story first appeared in the February 17th issue of Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to login.