A new immersive exhibit will take over the 30,000-square-foot Hall des Lumières in New York City to celebrate 50 years of hip-hop culture with never-before-seen and archival footage of the genre’s most prominent figures.
The exhibit “Hip Hop Til Infinity” was developed to “recontextualize” how people look at culture and music, and to highlight the genre’s development in a nontraditional way, according to Jon Colclough, vice president of creative strategy at Mass Appeal, which is producing the show.
“We wanted to raise the profile around the culture and to place it in a place like Hall des Lumières showcases how far hip-hop has come in 50 years,” Colclough told Artnet News.
Colclough described the experience as a “visual mixtape” in tribute to the genre that will be educational for casual followers, but filled with “easter eggs” for die-hard fans. It will include unreleased images shot by photographers like Joe Conzo, once described by as “the man who took hip-hop’s baby pictures,” as well as unreleased footage from Sony’s archives.
“We hope that this appeals to everyone, not just hip-hop purists. But if you’re just a casual fan, you’ll walk away with some educational knowledge,” he said.
Hip-hop developed as a musical genre and culture after a birthday party DJ Kool Herc threw in the Bronx borough of New York City in August 1973. Mass Appeal has spent the past five years developing a platform called Hip Hop 50 to celebrate the genre’s legacy.
“Hip Hop Til Infinity” is just the first version that Mass Appeal intends to take elsewhere and focuses “more on domestic storytelling around hip-hop in the United States,” said Colclough.
“You wouldn’t expect to see hip-hop in a place like Hall des Lumieres,” he added. “I don’t think people understand that hip-hop is a global phenomenon and not just music.”
Colclough said the visuals in the show last about an hour, while noting that 50 years is a lot to cover in that time. The producers of the exhibition worked with DJ Clark K on the musical score, with physical objects set to complement the visual images.
“We can take them to the West Coast. We can show them the 1970s and what was going on at the birth of hip-hop to how people collaborate now to make music,” he said. “It’s an amazing medium. It’s a little bit of a choose-your-own-adventure. This is not meant to be a historical look back.”
“There is something beautiful and irreplaceable about being able to recreate how a person heard their favorite song for the first time,” said Caitlin Jackson, the marketing director at Hall des Lumières. She added that tickets will be timed every half hour, though guests are welcome to stay as long as they like.
“We hope people are here at 9 a.m. dancing through the space, taking everything in and moving through it,” she said. “If you linger in one area, you’re going to miss the beautiful content and photography throughout the space.”
Mass Appeal has also partnered with Sotheby’s to auction a diamond and ruby ring designed by rap legend Tupac Shakur, which is expected to fetch at least $200,000.
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