The Empire State Building will launch into a full light show tonight at 8 p.m. in collaboration with the Whitney Museum. The event will honor both the Empire State Building’s 84th anniversary and the Whitney’s new downtown museum, which opens to the public today.
The Empire State building frequently varies its lights for a wide range of occasions and causes—recognizing everything from Nigeria’s missing girls to The Simpsons movie. Here's what the stellar Andy Warhol tribute looked like from Williamsburg:
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Tonight’s show is unique in that the colors will mimic real paintings, each selected from the Whitney’s American collection. Confirmed works include Elizabeth Murray’s “Children Meeting,” Jasper John’s “Three Flags,” and Mark Rothko’s “Untitled (Blue, Yellow, Green on Red).” Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, and Peter Halley are among the other artists whose work will be evoked tonight.
Marc Brickman, who interpreted the artwork, will direct the show remotely from a nearby hotel, enjoying his lighting design from outside of a control room. Brickman is well known for his work with Pink Floyd, and designed the lights on their Division Bell tour (you can watch a clip from the show here). Brickman has also worked with Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen, on both the 1992 and 1998 Olympics, and on Cirque Du Soleil. And this isn't his first time lighting the Empire State Building—he also did last year’s Christmas and Halloween shows.
While a piece like “Four Darks On Red” might be easier to envision cast onto the 1,454 foot limestone canvas than “A Woman In The Sun,” Anthony Malkin, of the Empire State Realty Trust, assured the New York Times: “this is not meant to be a reproduction; it’s meant to be representational.” He and Brickman both stressed that the focus was to be placed on the color and feeling of the paintings, with Malkin adding: “this is performance art.”
In addition to riding the world’s most beautiful freight elevator, visitors to the new Whitney Museum can view many of the original paintings from tonight’s light show in person, as part of the debut exhibit America Is Hard to See. Inspired by both a Robert Frost poem and an Emile de Antonio documentary, the exhibit “seeks to celebrate the ever-changing perspectives of artists and their capacity to develop visual forms that respond to the culture of the United States.”
The Empire State Building light show will last until 2 a.m., with 30 minutes set aside for each of the twelve LED paintings. Tickets to America Is Hard to See and to the Whitney are $22, but go on a Friday and pay-as-you-wish between 7 and 10pm. The inaugural exhibit runs until September 27th.