A New Immersive Museum Brings the Northern Lights and Interactive Cartoon Animals to Las Vegas

Art and technology come together on the Strip, and it will be televised.

Beach Aurora
"Beach Aurora" | Photo courtesy of Arte Museum
"Beach Aurora" | Photo courtesy of Arte Museum

Everything falls under the banner of entertainment in Las Vegas—food, sports, gambling, and, to an increasingly noticeable degree, art. While museums and galleries are in relatively short supply compared to other cities, Vegas is welcoming a wave of "immersive" exhibits that repackage art, ingenuity, and creativity into tourist attractions, building a bubble that's bound to burst but, for now, continues to expand rapidly.

With that in mind, Arte Museum is doing its best to earn your attention and maybe even your affection, arriving in the Western Hemisphere for the first time after drawing more than 6 million visitors to five Asian locations. The two-story space spans 30,000 square feet at 63, a new complex on the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue that's already home to yet another immersive attraction (the Museum of Illusions) and the steaks, seafood, and cocktails of Ocean Prime.

The name combines the first two letters of "art" and "technology" (and happens to be the Spanish word for art), adding up to an appropriate summation of what the concept is all about. Arte Museum is a series of interconnected exhibits, 13 to 15 at any time, featuring computer-generated images and animation, projection mapping, and ample use of infinity mirrors with subtle scents and atmospheric music by acclaimed South Korean composer Jang Young-gyu.

The futuristic presentations are balanced with inspiration from nature's beauty in the everyday world. For example, one of the best moments is a digital beach with waves rolling under your feet and the glow of the Northern Lights overhead. For a great photo op, sit on the floor against the rushing waters and point your camera toward the wall-length mirror on the opposite side of the room.

Waterfall Infinite
"Waterfall Infinite" | Photo courtesy of Arte Museum

"The theme of the museum is eternal nature," Arte Museum founder Sean Lee said. "We found that people, regardless of nationality, enjoy and appreciate this kind of content, so we decided to expand globally."

Lee and parent company d'strict launched the first Arte Museum on South Korea's Jeju Island just three years ago, offering an environment of imagination and serenity in a world struggling to overcome a global pandemic. Their success followed another project, WAVE, in Seoul's Coex K-Pop Square. Billed as the largest atmospheric illusion in the world, the outdoor public art piece illustrates a series of crashing 3D-like waves inside what appears to be a 163-foot-long glass tank with videos quickly going viral on social media.

You'll see a more modest, flatter version of WAVE in Las Vegas with water breaking against a digital screen along one side of a darkened room. While Arte Museum is a visual spectacle, it also effectively sets a tone, matching deep colors against low lighting to offer a sense of decompression just steps away from the chaos of the Las Vegas Strip. Walking from room to room, guests will experience imagery and atmospherics based on flowers, forestry, waterfalls, sunsets, and jungles. An area dubbed Night Safari provides the most charming moment of interactivity with cartoon-like animals roaming the surrounding walls with the power of projection mapping. Use a set of crayons to color or write between the outline of a fox, elephant, or zebra on a piece of paper, have it scanned, and watch your creation come to life, entering the frame and walking among the herd.

Lights of Las Vegas
"Lights of Las Vegas" | Photo courtesy of Arte Museum

"The company has about 300 employees and about a third of them, more than 100 people, are creators," Marketing & Communications Manager Jae Kim said. "So all of the content is generated in house."

The good thing about computer-generated content: It can always evolve. Up to 40 percent is customized for Vegas and expected to rotate every six months or so. The Garden is a room that offers the most flexibility, currently alternating between an animated art gallery (featuring works from impressionism to symbolism by the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci, Claude Monet, and Gustav Klimt) and local imagery inspired by the Southwest desert and lights of Las Vegas. An elevated platform in the center is a nice place to soak it all in at one time.

The self-guided tour winds down at the Tea Bar lounge for non-alcoholic drinks like a Caramel Latte, Golden Black Milk Tea, or kid-friendly Strawberry Milk Tea. They're served in interactive cups that generate the image of a plum blossom on your table. Each drink is $7 on the spot or $5 when included in advance with a general admission ticket.

Arte Tea Bar
Arte Tea Bar | Photo courtesy of Arte Museum

Arte Museum already has three locations in South Korea (with a fourth on the way), two in China, and a Middle East debut taking shape in Dubai. Las Vegas marks an aggressive entry into the US market, with expansions in the works for Santa Monica, Chicago, and possibly New York. A touring version has also been discussed. Yet if all goes according to plan, the Arte Museum in Las Vegas will be the busiest and most popular, living up to its promise with a $25 million investment.

However, the competition is incredibly fierce right now. The Sphere changed the game for this kind of stuff and alternatives like Illuminarium at AREA15 and FlyOver at Showcase Mall are stretching the limits of what's possible with ultra-high-definition screens. Can Arte Museum keep up? "We're always going to stay on top of our game in terms of technology and what the general public wants to see in combining art and technology." Kim confirmed.

It's best to bring an open mind and see what the experience is all about for yourself. After operating in soft-opening mode throughout the month, Arte Museum celebrates an official grand opening on November 29. Tickets begin at $55 and are available online with discounts for kids, seniors, and the military.

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Rob Kachelriess is a full-time freelance writer who covers travel, dining, entertainment, and other fun stuff for Thrillist. He's based in Las Vegas but enjoys exploring destinations throughout the world, especially in the Southwest United States. Otherwise, he's happy to hang out at home with his wife Mary and their family of doggies. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.