Ephemeral Experiences: 5 Landmark Installations

Since its rise in popularity in the 1960s, installation art has continued to find new ways to connect with and immerse viewers. Art is always pushing the boundaries of technological advancements, and the 2020s has seen more interactive exhibitions appearing than ever before. Their persevering popularity speaks to a desire for shared experience in a digital age, offering visitors an opportunity not only to observe and appreciate a work, but to become a part of it. Some of the most popular, like those by teamLab and Yayoi Kusama, are unique in their ephemerality; they are fleeting and ever changing – with lighting, sound and reflections shifting and morphing. Every visit is different. Here are five new landmark works led by pioneering artists such as Jenny Holzer, Steve McQueen and Larry Bell. They expertly demonstrate how art can be made more powerful by inviting and encouraging people to step inside it. 

Jenny Holzer: Light Line | The Guggenheim Museum, New York | Until 29 September  

Almost 35 years after the landmark display, Installation for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Jenny Holzer (b. 1950) returns to reimagine the exhibition. This new incarnation of the classic LED sign, first shown in 1989, includes updated writing and will realise the artist’s vision of expanding up the entirety of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed rotunda. Known for her text-based work, the artist harnesses the power of language to explore the pressing issues of our time. Holzer showcases much of her work in public spaces, including projections on buildings, billboards and electronic displays. She treats the entire museum as an installation, placing pieces in unexpected spaces like outdoor planters. It is an approach that echoes the chance encounters people often have with her work on city streets.  

Barbara Kasten: Site Lines | De La Warr Pavilion, Sussex | Until 1 September  

Site Lines offers visitors a cinematic experience, building upon Barbara Kasten’s (b. 1936) decades long exploration of light and perception. The artist is known for her architectural “props” – such as metal, mirrors or wood – arranged in front of the camera to create photo projections. This time, Kasten reimagines the building’s distinctive features and reinvents the gallery’s windows as a proscenium – the part of a theatrical stage in front of the curtain. A combination of lighting and gradual weather changes will see the “movie screens” create a choreography of colour, light and shadow. Here, Kasten invites you to enter into an ever-changing space, offering a kaleidoscopic new perspective on an iconic building.

Steve McQueen: Bass | Dia Beacon, New York | Until 14 April 2025 

Renowned artist and director Steve McQueen (b. 1969) brings together the fundamental elements of film – light and sound – to create an all-encompassing sensory experience. Bass uses jazz as its starting point and features a score produced by an intergenerational group of Afro-diasporic musicians, focusing solely on the titular instrument. The result is a composition that reflects the music borne out of the transatlantic slave trade and reminds us of McQueen’s commitment to foregrounding power structures and racial politics. The sounds are accompanied by slowly shifting light, both of which reverberate off the gallery’s concrete surfaces. Here, people are encouraged to not only see the installation, but feel it. 

Jaume Plensa: The House of Light and Love | Fubon Art Museum, Taipei  

Jaume Plensa’s (b. 1955) latest stainless steel figure celebrates tolerance and diversity in today’s multi-cultural world. The House of Light and Love is comprised of global languages, and the installation’s title is repeated in Chinese characters embedded throughout the structure. The work builds upon the artist’s established commitment to sculpture in shared spaces. He believes that public art has the ability to create an inclusive experience for a wide range of audience and his work often explores ideas of collective memory. Plensa intends the figure to “become a poetical shelter that embraces us with its chorus of voices”. More than anything, he creates a lasting connection between art and everyday life.   

 Larry Bell: Reds and Whites | Phoenix Museum of Art, Phoenix 

Best known for his explorations of light, reflection and shadow through a refined treatment of glass, Larry Bell (b. 1939) has pioneered work that addresses the relationship between art and environment. In his largest outdoor commission to date, Bell explodes the traditional cube – a form he is famed for working with – and shatters it into right-angle corners. The result is a captivating exploration of light and reflection, which sees the viewer’s image constantly appear, disappear and multiply. Reds and Whites invites the observer to not only experience Bell’s artwork, but becomes implicated and activated by it.  

Words: Emma Jacob

Image Credits:

  1. Steve McQueen, Bass, 2024. Installation view, Dia Beacon, New York, May 12, 2024–April 14, 2025. © Steve McQueen. Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio, New York. Courtesy Dia Art Foundation.
  2. Installation view, Jenny Holzer: Light Line, May 17–September 29, 2024, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. © 2024 Jenny Holzer, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Ariel Ione Williams © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York.
  3. Barbara Kasten, Crown Hall 2, 2018-2019, Digital chromogenic Print. Courtesy of Bortolami, NY; Thomas Dane Gallery, London; Kadel Willborn Gallery, Düsseldorf.
  4. Steve McQueen, Bass (detail), 2024. Installation view, Dia Beacon, New York, May 12, 2024–April 14, 2025. © Steve McQueen. Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio, New York. Courtesy Dia Art Foundation.
  5. Jaume Plensa, The House of Light and Love, 2024. Fubon Art Museum, Taipei, Taiwan. Courtesy the artist.
  6. Larry Bell: Reds and Whites. Courtesy of the artist and Anthony Meier, Mill Valley Photography by Matthew Millman, San Francisco.