Immersive art exhibits are popping up all over the place, so when I first heard of WonderSpaces in Philadelphia, it wasn’t somewhere that was high on my list of places to check out. However, on a visit to the city in the summer of 2023, my wife and kids wanted to check it out, so off we went to the Fashion District to see it.
And, for the sake of not burying the lede, I’ll say that I was surprised at how much fun it was. Sure, a lot of it is designed more for great photos than for thought-provoking and world-class art, but you also interact with the art in a way that you can’t at spots like the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation, or the Rodin Museum.
WonderSpaces first opened in the Fashion District, a multi-story shopping mall in Center City Philadelphia, in early 2020. It is the third location of the same name, with the first two located in Austin, Texas and Scottsdale, Arizona.
This art museum is a permanent location, though the large, often room-size art pieces are changed from time to time, so you should see different exhibits if you visit at a later date, and you are unlikely to see some of the same exhibits that I saw during my visit in early September 2023.
Because of that, I’ll keep my thoughts on the space a bit more general instead of going deeply into all of the art that my family and I saw and enjoyed during our visit.
During my visit, there were four large exhibits on the lower floor and about a dozen on the second floor, with the ones downstairs being the largest of the ones on display. There is also a bar area on the lower floor if you want to get a drink while exploring the museum. (The prices were about what I expected for the type of establishment, though I didn’t try anything myself.)
The large displays downstairs were all designed for interaction and were a ton of fun to check out.
The largest exhibit during my visit was Submergence by Squidsoup. This display isn’t officially permanent, but it was initially installed in the space when it opened at the beginning of 2020 and is still there at the end of 2023.
This display consists of thousands of lights hanging from the ceiling on ropes with a soundtrack changing the lights in various colors and patterns. Not only is it cool to see, but you can also walk through the lights and interact with the art in a fun and unique way.
The purpose of this installation, as with all of the others at WonderSpaces, is to awe and inspire. This also has the effect of many exhibits being quite Instagramable and being great for photos. And while some might see that as a bad thing, it also makes the art much more accessible and fun for the average visitor.
In the upstairs portion of WonderSpaces, the gallery is divided into a series of small galleries with a different art exhibit in each room.
Some of these are rather small pieces that use light and optical illusions to create really unique visuals, while others are quite large. Regardless of size, though, each art piece was really unique and several inspire a lot of play, both from kids and adults.
There was also a virtual reality experience here, and while this might not always be the same, there has so far been a VR experience of some kind throughout the history of the space so that’s something that seems likely to continue.
Overall, WonderSpaces was a surprising amount of fun, both for my kids and for my wife and me, making it a great space for just about anyone. And, even though there were only about 16 art installations in the space, we spent about 90 minutes here having fun and enjoying the space.
I should note that this is definitely the kind of place that could get crowded quickly as many of the art exhibits are best enjoyed by only a small number of people at a time. The museum does require pre-purchased timed tickets, which should help control the number of people in the space, but it’s worth keeping that in mind if you are planning to visit on a weekend.
Ultimately, while the art here might not be the type that is likely to be on display in a more traditional art museum, it’s certainly much more fun and interactive than most of the pieces you’ll find in those spaces, which makes this an excellent spot to visit when exploring Philadelphia.
Hours: Open Wednesday-Monday
Cost: Adults: $25, Children: $15
Address: 27 N 11th St