Jan 30, 2024 - News

Exclusive: First look at the WNDR Museum in Boston

As part of an art installation by Yayoi Kusama, the view inside a mirrored box within a mirrored room, both filled with stainless steel, inflatable spheres.

The WNDR Museum includes an installation by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Photo: Steph Solis/Axios

Crews are putting the finishing touches on the WNDR Museum before it opens Thursday in Downtown Crossing.

  • Axios got the first full tour of the Boston museum yesterday.

Why it matters: WNDR brings colorful, perception-bending, interactive art into the 17,000-square-foot space — a starkly different experience than the average art museum tour.

What's happening: Boston is the WNDR Museum's latest city, following openings in Chicago and San Diego.

  • A third location in Seattle closed in December, eight months after opening.
  • Like the other locations, the Boston outpost will host yoga classes, food pop-ups and a poet in residence, says Brian Haines, WNDR's chief experience officer.

Zoom in: The museum includes more than 20 installations from visual artists, in-house designers and other collaborators.

  • The museum features several tactile installations that react to weight and movement.
  • There are also more controversial sections, such as the exhibit where visitors use AI to create new art (generative AI relies on existing art).

If you go: The museum is at 500 Washington St. and runs seven days a week (hours vary).

  • Price: $32, $38 for peak times. Discounts available for students, seniors and military members.
A mirrored hallway with LCD screens on the floor that change colors as you step foot on each panel.
Photo: Steph Solis/Axios

The tour begins in a mirrored hallway, where the LCD screens change color with each step you take.

Several tin cans with electronic devices sit in a circle around a sign that shows how to use the electronic cans (you hold them up to a wire, and it plays a sound).
Photo: Steph Solis/Axios

When the "magnetic symphony" room is complete, attendees will be able to hold up a can to each wire and hear a different voice.

Multiple screens sit on top of each other, with a hologram projector on top, as part of an art exhibit at WNDR Museum in Boston.
Photo: Steph Solis/Axios

San Francisco-based artist Joshua Ellingson created the MPO-1 installation to show videos that explore optical effects.

  • In this case, the image of a sheep cuts through the videos before being projected at the top.
A light and sound show inside a fabric greenhouse recreating Scottish artist Leigh Sachwitz's memory of her grandmmother's garden shed during a storm. Seen in the WNDR Museum in Boston.
Photo: Steph Solis/Axios

"INSIDEOUT" is a 360-degree multimedia installation by Berlin-based artist Leigh Sachwitz.

  • It recreates Sachwitz's childhood memory of being in her grandmother's garden shed in Scotland during a storm.
Computer panels appear as windows showing a field on a partly cloudy day in the "living gallery" of the WNDR Museum in Boston.
Photo: Steph Solis/Axios

The "Living Gallery" includes electronic portraits that come to life when you least expect it.

  • The gallery will include seating so people can admire the portraits and watch them come alive as others enter the hall.
A man walks through a dark room with blue lights projected onto the floor that move whenever someone steps on them/the floor at WNDR Museum.
Photo: Steph Solis/Axios

The immersive theater will project interactive lights on three walls and the floor, Haines says.

  • When complete, the theater will include seating.
  • WNDR plans to host yoga sessions and other events in the theater, per Haines.
The WNDR Museum includes an installation of a white-haired man looking into a crystal ball, next to a sign that says "fortune favors the curious."
Photo: Steph Solis/Axios
A wall full of white notes with messages in sharpie as part of the WNDR Museum's "The Wisdom Project," where people answer "what are they sure that they know" as an interactive exhibit.
One card says, "I am wisdom." Another proclaims, "I'm tired." Photo: Steph Solis/Axios

"The Wisdom Project" by WNDR Studios asks visitors at each museum to answer the question "what do you know for sure?"

  • Boston has the largest wall, which will soon be filled with answers from local visitors, Haines tells Axios.
  • Eventually, the messages from every city will go into a coffee-table book, Haines says.
A wall with dozens of red telephones that hang on the wall, each playing a voice of a different changemaker as part of an exhibit at the WNDR Museum Boston.
Photo: Steph Solis/Axios

The installation of phones designed by WNDR Studios includes the voices of activists and other changemakers.

  • The placard states, "Silence is the easy path. Will you say something? Will you speak up?"
A reporter takes a photograph of a stainless steel ball in a mirrored room filled with them as part of Yayoi Kusama's "Let's Survive Forever" installation, seen at the WNDR Museum in Boston.
It's like the room puked stainless steel polka dots. Photo: Steph Solis/Axios

Kusama's "Let's Survive Forever" installation is a mirrored room filled with inflatable, stainless steel spheres.

The "atrium" inside WNDR Museum Boston, which lets people sit, stand, dance and otherwise take part in multiple art installations.
The atrium. Photo: Steph Solis/Axios

The atrium has multiple interactive installations:

  • A rainbow sight-and-sound exhibit that lights up as you press the buttons on a controller.
  • An art piece that doubles as seating (it's surprisingly comfortable).
  • An LCD wall that changes colors as you move in front of it.
  • A compilation of irises collected by visitors.
Brian Haines, chief experience officer of the WNDR Museum, lets an employee take a close-up photo of his left eye so the image can be uploaded to the WNDR Museum's iris compilation, which appears behind him on a large LCD screen.
Chief Experience Officer Brian Haines gets his eye photographed for the iris installation. Photo: Steph Solis/Axios

The iris exhibit will be set up with a camera and computer so visitors can get photographs of their eyes taken for the compilation on the screen.

A blown up Instagram post by a model, with a comment by artist Richard Prince and a comment meant to portray WNDR Museum founder Brad Keywell. Neon graffiti appears over the post, saying "we are all artists."
Photo: Steph Solis/Axios

Richard Prince, considered the master of appropriation, has long caused controversy by tweaking existing art to make it his own.

  • To him, even a blown up Instagram photo someone else took with a comment from him counts as "his" art.

WNDR took a page out of Prince's book, photoshopping its own comment and adding neon graffiti in founder Brad Keywell's handwriting.

  • The message, "we are all artists" speaks to the mission behind the WNDR Museum, employees say.
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