Ask the leaders of any large business or robust art organization these days, and they’ll tell you that they’re focusing on “experiences.” That is, they’re focusing on creating immersive worlds for their potential customers and patrons to get lost in; escapist environments that suggest anything other than the dull and the mundane. On Thursday evening, a limited exhibition commissioned by Mastercard called the “Taste of Priceless” that will run from October 4–6 debuted at Spring Studios in Manhattan, and the space conveyed an energy that one might describe as “peak experience.” The main gallery area tinkled with some of Mastercard’s new “sonic identity” music, and the room was intermittently filled with puffs of artificial smoke. The exhibition features work by a multifaceted group of artists—Monika Bravo, Daniel Lismore, Marilyn Minter and Jennifer Rubell—and the whole project revolves around the unveiling of two Mastercard disc-colored “bespoke macarons” created by the artist Raphaël Castoriano.
“As a strategy, what we have started doing is very different than how it was in the past,” said Raja Rajamannar, the chief marketing and communications officer of Mastercard. “We were a big advertiser in the past, but consumers hate ads because it’s an interruption to their experience. But as a brand marketer, I have a responsibility to tell them about our product, interest them, inspire them. So, we said the way to do that is through creating and curating experiences that you can get only if you have a Mastercard.”
In the darkened gallery proper, a sinuous paper wall twisted across the floor. On both sides of the wall, monitors projected the video work of the artists so that the footage, and brightly colored animated shapes, floated and wriggled elegantly before the viewers’ eyes. Multidisciplinary artist Monika Bravo created the animations to correspond conceptually with the flavors of the macarons, which are “Passion” (custard apple) and “Optimism” (yuzu). “There are a lot of natural elements, but you have to really be looking very attentively to find a reference to them,” Bravo said of her animations. “It all depends on the way you perceive things.” It almost goes without saying that Marilyn Minter’s Green Pink Caviar (2009) works quite well in this space with its wet, sticky insinuations.
Jennifer Rubell, a conceptual artist known for her work in participatory sculpture and immersive performance, created a video called Happy Birthday (2019) that features the artist herself blowing out candles on a huge white birthday cake over and over again. “I wanted to, above all, explore a sense of the feeling you get inside of a certain atmosphere,” Rubell said. “It began with the idea of smoke inside of an atmosphere. That’s a 50th birthday cake and 50 candles. Every time you blow out a birthday candle, you’re blowing out every birthday candle you’ve ever blown out. And all the more so the more there are on the cake, and you can feel the deep effort of making it happen. It’s simultaneously joyous and heavy.”
Daniel Lismore, whose practice takes the form of living sculpture, was clad in a suit of armor and double-tiered quasi-space helmet in the signature Mastercard colors: red and burnt orange. And in the corners, Castoriano’s artistic entity Kreëmart had stationed pine wood boxes of sliced fruit that gave off the not-unpleasant scent of rapid decay. All in all, the evening felt like a cross between an open-air market, a high school reunion and a Berlin nightclub; in other words, a success.