Step into the Light: James Turrell at Louis Vuitton
Seeing Akhob by James Turrell at Louis Vuitton in Las Vegas is sensory distortion at its finest. In a city of constant bells, clanging, clapping, laughing, and perpetual video, this light installation is a curative counterpoint. I say “seeing,” but I should actually say “experiencing.” Because you are immersed in the artwork, you step into it and it envelopes you. And did I mention it’s in a mall?
Akhob by James Turrell, an art installation at the Louis Vuitton store, Las Vegas City Center.
Transportation: $42 for gas for the 4 hour drive to Las Vegas and back.
Cost of Lodging: Zero. I stayed with my inlaws.
After being greeted and offered Evian water, our lovely guide Johana took us first to see other artwork in the store. I learned that Louis Vuitton stores all have different works created by acclaimed artists, but they don’t go out of their way to publicize this fact. Turrell has created other installations for Vuitton stores.
There is an installation by Xavier Veilhan that I managed to take a shot of before being told photos were not allowed. His work is also in their Fifth Avenue store.
We were taken to one of the posh private dressing rooms, where there are photos of Monument Valley. Then you are taken to an elevator that will take you to Akhob. It feels very exclusive.
The elevator opened to a dimly-lit room where we were met by two women in white. You need to sign a release before entering the chamber itself, which we did. Strange to sign a release to view artwork, but I understood that Ganzfeld chambers can create vertigo in some people. We were then led into the Pyramid Room where we took off our shoes and put on booties. After ascending a steep staircase, you enter the first chamber. The walls and ceiling were clean and white. It looked brand new — I’m guessing because it is such a secret and the groups are kept so small. Very 2001.
One of the white-clad women stood at the end of the next chamber. You can’t pass her as there is a 6 foot drop off. As the lighting changed, the edges of the chamber disappeared and reappeared. You are dunked in pink, orange, blue. When white and gray, it reminded me of a skiing white-out. Even though boundaries vanish and bearings are lost, it’s incredibly calming. Looking back toward the Pyramid Room, we noticed the wall color had changed to a kelly green. The attendant said it wasn’t lighting changing there, it was our eyes doing the color correction. Looking back a few moments later, the wall was now brown. The sound is an unintentional part of the experience — a light HVAC hum which complements the art. And the fact that there were only two of us (plus the attendants) allowed for a quiet, otherworldly encounter with Turrell’s art. Our guides suggested that the mood you possessed when entering the chamber was amplified by the artwork. I believe it — we entered happy and came out happier.
After about 20 minutes, our time was up. We left the chambers, put on our shoes, signed the guest book and went back to the real world — out into the mall into a different kind of light. But we remained astounded.
That’s nice. Sooo, should I go? Yes. You’ll feel fancy. And unless you commission James Turrell to set up one of these chambers in your house, you will not have a more private viewing of his artwork. If you have vertigo or balance issues, you might want to pass, though. It’s really not for small kids.
I’m smitten. Tell me more. You need an appointment. Make one by calling (702) 730-3150. The chamber is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Six in a group is the maximum that can visit at one time.
Location Louis Vuitton City Center, 3720 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas
Cost Free. Plus you get water.
Tip Take someone that can be still and silent for awhile. Your session will be enhanced without a jabbering companion.