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Jacob Hashimoto

The interactive exhibition Color Factory, known for its photogenic displays and massive ball pits, is opening its third permanent location, inside Chicago’s Willis Tower.

The 25,000-square-foot space—the Color Factory’s biggest to date—will feature artists from around the world, including Camille Walala, Yuri Suzuki, Tomislav Topic (of the artist duo Quintessenz)  Liz West, Anne Patterson, Christine Wong Yap, Harvey and John, and Michele Bernhardt, as well as four artists with ties to Chicago in Edra Soto, Akilah Townsend, Adrian Kay Wong, and Emilie Baltz.

Longtime Color Factory fans can rest assured that their favorites installations, such as Confetti Accumulation, which constantly rains confetti, will appear in new forms.

“There are certain things that we cannot take off the menu—there would be a revolt if we did not have a ball pit!” CEO Tina Malhotra told Artnet News. “There’s going to be familiar rooms, but with a completely new design and color story, and new concepts with new artists. We like to give our artists the freedom to bring their own perspective and color story.”

Putting together the lineup, Malhotra said she was looking for “artists who are eager to step outside the traditional museum and gallery world,” she said. “When we’re picking artists, we want people who believe in our mission of inspiring joy through the combined power of art and color, and making art accessible.”

For Walala, a French artist who lives in London, the idea of making an interactive installation for the Color Factory was instantly appealing. She’s planning a mirrored maze featuring colorful, geometric patterns, similar to a 2017 installation she did at Now Gallery in London, but inspired by architectural details from important Chicago buildings.

“What I would love to do is bring back your inner child. When you go to the Color Factory, that’s exactly what you get—the excitement of being a child again,” Walala said. “A lot of people are quite intimidated going to art spaces. I want people who come not to feel the pressure of expressing what the art means to them. It’s more about emotion.”

The Color Factory has spent the past two-and-a-half years planning the new space, which will join two other large-scale art installations in Willis Tower. Olafur Eliasson’s mosaic of curved metal tiles, Atmospheric Wave Wall, was unveiled on the building’s facade in January 2021, and Jacob Hashimoto’s In the Heart of this Infinite Particle of Galactic Dust, a hanging sculpture of paper kite discs hanging from the lobby ceiling.

The Color Factory also has spaces in New York, which opened in 2018, and Housto which followed in 2019. The original Color Factory was unveiled as a pop-up space in San Francisco in 2017, when the craze for immersive art experiences—or Big Fun Art—was still in its infancy. It was an instant hit, extending its planned one-month run to eight-and-a-half months.

“It blew up,” Malhotra said. “It broke the Eventbrite site we were using. The tickets were $30, and they were going on Craigslist for $300!”

In the five years since, the appetite for engaging art experiences has only grown.

“We stand out,” she said. “We’re different from conventional museums. Our experiences really engage all the senses. Smell, touch, taste, sight, sound—and it’s all connected to the art.”

See more works from the featured artists below.

The Color Factory will be on view at Catalog at Willis Tower, 233 South Wacker Drive, Chicago, beginning in June 2022. 

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