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New Museum and Onassis USA will launch a mixed reality lab in Leong Leong–designed space

A render of the new ONX Studio being created in a collaboration between NEW INC and Onassis USA and designed by Leong Leong, featuring a simulation of art inspired by VR studio Sensorium. (Leong Leong)

The New Museum’s NEW INC and Onassis USA, the American outpost of the Greek arts organization, have announced a new joint venture focused on mixed reality projects. Called ONX Studio (for Onassis, NEW INC eXtended Reality Studio), the project will begin as a two-year pilot program and will function as an accelerator, workspace, and gallery located in a 4,000-square-foot space in Midtown’s Olympic Tower, in a space being redesigned by Leong Leong

ONX Studio has in part grown out of projects by NEW INC members and the challenges they’ve posed. “One of the thrilling things around NEW INC is that mixed reality has organically become a huge area of focus for the members,” explained Karen Wong, deputy director of the New Museum and cofounder of NEW INC, noting that many past residents, working with AR and VR, have found success at forums such as Sundance, South by Southwest, and the Tribeca Film Festival. However, mixed reality is new, and festivals, museums, and galleries are still exploring how to best incorporate it into their programming

“Mixed reality is an area that’s growing by leaps and bounds but there’s no bespoke spaces in New York for this artist working with it,” said Wong. The new Leong Leong–designed space is being built specifically for year-long residents to experiment and create in, as well as to provide a platform to exhibit and share their work.

Christopher Leong described ONX Studio as a “hybrid space,” one that blends its roles as both workspace and exhibition space. It will be focused around a large room that acts as an “immersive toolbox.” Secondary spaces, such as an acoustically-isolated exhibition space, as well as basics like kitchens and conference space will flank the center room, which is lined by an acoustic curtain. Furniture will be flexible, creating a kind of “cast of characters,” that can be relocated throughout the studio. A theatrical grid of outlets, tracks, lighting, and other technological infrastructure will be built-in into the space, allowing for a flexible use of the studio, which could also be further subdivided or opened up. “The hope is that it’s open-ended in the way that it can be used,” explained Leong, “whether it’s for recording bodies in space with volumetric capture, as an artist’s studio, or as a place to exhibit projections or sound pieces or mixed reality live performances. Our goal was to create an infrastructure that could support artists in many ways. We wanted to create a sense that the space could be transformational.” 

People moving about a room in VR headsets with a colorful projection on one end.

Leong Leong has designed a studio that can be used to both create and exhibit mixed reality art. This render features a simulation of art inspired by Rachel Rossin. (Leong Leong)

Wong noted that she saw the partnership with Onassis as especially compelling given the international organization’s penchant for commissioning radical theatrical works, and for their underway development of a program in Greece that shares sympathies with NEW INC, the Onassis Lab.

ONX Studio plans to announce its initial dozen residents and open this spring. The artists—including previous NEW INC alumni—will spend a year developing mixed reality projects to be exhibited during a month-long showcase next winter. The program is being overseen by Wong along with NEW INC director Stephanie Pereira, Onassis USA artistic and executive director Vallejo Gantner, and the Onassis Foundation’s head of digital and innovation Prodromos Tsiavos.

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