Hall des Lumières opens on Chambers Street

Hall des Lumières, the permanent immersive digital art center that has taken over the enormous banking hall of the old Emigrant Savings Bank on Chambers, has opened to the public. The company behind the high-tech installation is Culturespaces, the European creator of Atelier Des Lumières in Paris, in partnership with IMG, the media organization.

You have seen this sort of “experience” before if you went to either of the immersive Van Gogh shows downtown over the past year. (There was one on the East River and one in Battery Park City.) The major difference here is that Culturespaces has not only transformed but restored the bank’s lobby, to the point where the teller windows are still in place, the ornate clocks are still on the wall, and the stained glass windows in the mile-high ceilings are now illuminated with color-shifting LEDs. There’s a definite Gringotts vibe.

They also use what they call “mapping technology,” so that the images are precisely projected on different architectural elements in the room: columns, floors, corners.

So while nothing really “happens” at these productions — they are neither theater nor concerts nor museums — this one has the distinct benefit of making the most of a very cool, old New York space. There’s plenty to gawk at, between the tech and the projections and the expanse of marble.

The exhibits here will change every 10 months or so, but right now the main attraction celebrates the work of the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) in a show called Gold in Motion. The entire space — along with the lower level, which has a central bar — is illuminated with animated projections of his paintings, which melt and morph into each other. But there are several other films: one that explores the work of Austrian painter and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser; 5 Movements, a 10-minute audiovisual piece that follows five dancers across five musical movements; and a trippy piece of digital art called Recoding Entropia, that is shown in the mirrored bank vault in the basement. The entire loop takes an hour.

My video did not do it justice, but the stills are pretty accurate to the impression you get on the ground. I am curious to see what it’s like when there is not an opening night party going on — a bit more quiet might be a better experience in a way, more immersive even, since this was loud not just with the music of the DJ and the shows, but with the chatter of a few hundred folks having cocktails.

The Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank was established in 1850 to protect the funds of Irish immigrants, who were fleeing Ireland from the famine. Then between 1909 and 1912, the bank built a Beaux-Arts skyscraper at 49 Chambers, 187 feet tall (17 stories) with a pioneering H-shaped plan to add natural light, and a bank lobby lavishly constructed out of in limestone, marble and bronze.

The building and a section of the interior were landmarked in 1985 (and more on that later), and evidence of that is a part of the show. The bank’s vault in the basement still has the massive door intact.

Tickets for the shows are about $35 for adults, with discounts for children, college students and seniors, plus a family discount.

Hall des Lumières New York
49 Chambers | Broadway and Church
Sunday to Wednesday, 10a – 7p
Thursday to Saturday, 10a to 10p



  1. another exploitation of public domain art. it’s so tiring to see projection art. we need real live theater. storytelling not wallet stuffing projections. hope it falters!!

  2. That sounds great! We need more cultural venues in Tribeca not just a lot of overpriced restaurants

    • Agreed. I am thankful for our several excellent jazz venues at least (like Roxy upstairs and the Django), and all the art galleries. Wish we had more variety of affordable restaurants, though.

      This looks intriguing and I am looking forward to checking it out. Hope it does well.

  3. This sounds fabulous. Looking forward to seeing it!