SNA Displays and Sensory Interactive have helped the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) unveil a new installation by internationally recognized artist JR celebrating the city’s extraordinary and diverse people on a state-of-the-art, 107-foot-long digital canvas. To create the piece, The Chronicles of San Francisco, JR set up a mobile studio in 22 locations around the city, where he filmed, photographed, and interviewed more than 1,200 people from across San Francisco’s multifaceted communities. In the completed work, a digital mural scrolls across the enormous LED display, bringing together the faces and untold stories of everyday people.
The 2.5mm digital display, which contains a total of nearly 26 million pixels, is among the highest-resolution LED displays in the United States and is comparable in size to the largest exterior digital displays in Las Vegas and New York’s Times Square.
Sensory Interactive, a company that evaluates, plans, launches, and operates digital experiences that generate revenue and connect brands to audiences, provided design, technical specification, procurement, and project management services for the display, and it was manufactured and installed by SNA Displays, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of LED products. Both firms view this installation as a milestone for digital art in the museum environment, and as a type of project they expect to see more of in the future.
“The affordability, reliability, and flexibility of large-scale LED surfaces have reached the point where LED is a realistic alternative to projection systems for video art in many museums,” said Sensory Interactive Managing Director Christopher Graefe. “This is giving museums the ability to bring video art out of the traditional darkened room and into wide-open spaces like the Roberts Family Gallery at SFMOMA. We think we’re seeing the beginning of a trend toward more of these types of high-profile installations.”
SNA Displays’ Executive Vice President Jason Helton agrees about the significance of the new SFMOMA display. “We’ve manufactured several digital displays used in the artistic space,” he said, “but this one is the largest and highest-resolution. It’s also a great example of how the latest LED display technology can help an artist realize a creative vision, even for the most ambitious pieces.”
Because of the complexity of executing an installation with such demanding technical requirements and a large, international team, Sensory Interactive got involved in the process early. The company’s architects, motion-graphic designers, and 3D artists worked with the JR team to ensure that every aspect of the display supported the goals for the installation.
“We believe that the artwork and the people whose stories it tells are what is really important and that the technology should fade into the background,” said Sensory Interactive Associate Director Mark Petterson, “Our goal was to help JR find and implement the hardware and software that would create the best experience for people viewing the piece.”
A key part of this effort was finding the right display configuration, size, and placement to create the most inviting and immersive experience for viewers. As part of this effort, Sensory Interactive, SNA Displays, and the JR team worked together to explore a variety of design options, particularly for joining the two planes of the display at their intersection.
Ultimately the team settled on a curved connection and a slightly concave angle for the two planes. This approach draws visitors into the space and maximizes their sense of immersion as they are surrounded by the massive, slowly moving digital image.
The teams from both SNA Displays and Sensory Interactive enjoyed having the opportunity to work on this rewarding project.
“It was a thrill to be a part of an artwork of this caliber,” said Sensory Interactive’s Graefe. “And it was exciting to take the things we have learned from some of the world’s largest LED display projects and use them to elevate this display beyond almost anything that has previously been done in a museum environment.”
SNA Displays Senior Director of Marketing Gerard Shallo agreed. “It’s pretty special to be part of a project that merges art and digital technology in such a bold, beautiful way,” he said. “And this installation really highlights the fact that the right technology can help bring world-class artwork to life.”
Presented in SFMOMA’s soaring Roberts Family Gallery, The Chronicles of San Francisco runs for approximately one year. The exhibition is free and accessible to the public.