With brand museums on the rise, 29Rooms is the latest pop-up for the Instagram generation.

How do you connect with a generation that primarily consumes experiences? For New York Fashion Week, The Innovation Group attended 29Rooms, Refinery29’s Instagram-optimized, political, and heavily-branded funhouse, to get a glimpse at the new brand temples that are the future of experience.

Now in its third year, 29Rooms aims to “combine the interactivity of a funhouse and cultural relevance of a museum,” explained Piera Gelardi, cofounder and executive creative director of Refinery29. In the vein of experiences like the Museum of Ice Cream or San Francisco’s Color Factory, the event seemed designed for Refinery29’s audience to engage emotionally.

Refinery29 Third Annual 29Rooms: Turn It Into Art - Press Preview
Become the Masterpiece, Alexa Meade

Installations interpreted the theme, “Turn It Into Art,” through a range of lenses, including art therapy, sustainability, feminism, transgender rights, and self-love. The space was designed for mobile, with an app, Instagram account, and location tag ready for visitors; sponsor Snap Inc. even provided their first Spectacles rental program for visitors to capture social content on-the-go. Tickets to the event, which sold for $19 each, sold out before the participating artists were even announced.

GENDER NEUTRAL in collaboration with Jill Soloway’s Topple and Xavier Schipani at Refinery29 Third Annual 29Rooms: Turn It Into Art - Press Preview
Gender Neutral, Jill Soloway and Xavier Schipani

As pop-ups like Cheeto’s The Spotted Cheetah restaurant have shown, brands can leverage the immersive experience to build connections. 29Rooms combined branded activations with purely artistic installations, creating a new standard for immersive experience. Below, we round up the highlights.

Brand partnerships

At 29Rooms, branded experiences were front and center. In total, seven installations were made with corporate partners. Some linked back to the leading themes of dreams, self-love, and activism, but others weren’t shy about being promotional. Clarins’ beauty chambers promoted their anti-aging serum and Juicy Couture’s tropical snowglobe celebrated their new fragrance. More surprising partners included Dunkin’ Donuts and Dyson.

Glace Getaway in Collaboration with Juicy Couture at Refinery29 Third Annual 29Rooms: Turn It Into Art - Press Preview
Glacé Getaway, Juicy Couture

Artist collaborations

The event was intended to be a “social media spectacle,” with art installations that were made for Instagram. Refinery29 “wanted to exhibit things that are thought-provoking, but that also elicit childlike joy,” said Gelardi.

Harmony by Chloe x Halle and Benjamin Shine at Refinery29 Third Annual 29Rooms: Turn It Into Art - Press Preview
Harmony, Benjamin Shine and Chloe x Halle
Harmony by Chloe x Halle and Benjamin Shine at Refinery29 Third Annual 29Rooms: Turn It Into Art - Press Preview

A speakeasy called Dreamer’s Den, by artist Juno Calypso and singer-songwriter Kat Cunning, asked visitors to share their dreams, which Cunning would then turn into a song. Symmetry Labs created a motion-sensitive light sculpture for visitors to explore, and artist Benjamin Shine partnered with musical duo Chloe x Halle for a rotating tulle sculpture of two merged faces, reflecting the connection of sisterhood.

Dreamer's Den by Juno Calypso and Katrina Cunningham (Kat Cunning) at at Refinery29 Third Annual 29Rooms: Turn It Into Art - Press Preview
Dreamer's Den, Juno Calypso and Kat Cunning.

Light it Up by Symmetry Labs at Refinery29 Third Annual 29Rooms: Turn It Into Art - Press Preview
Light It Up, Symmetry Labs
Light it Up by Symmetry Labs at Refinery29 Third Annual 29Rooms: Turn It Into Art - Press Preview

The Womb, by Instagram poet Cleo Wade, explored self-love. The installation aimed to recreate the feeling of being inside a mother’s womb, inviting visitors to crawl into a large red tent and “take up space,” while listening to Wade’s poetry over rumbling bass sounds through headphones.

The Womb by Cleo Wadeat Refinery29 Third Annual 29Rooms: Turn It Into Art - Press Preview
The Womb, Cleo Wade.

Nonprofits and activism

29Rooms was unapologetically political, with women’s empowerment, intersectionality, and transgender rights reflected throughout the warehouse. Refinery29 partnered with non-profits that shared their mindset of intersectional feminism.

Bright Future by Planned Parenthoodat Refinery29 Third Annual 29Rooms: Turn It Into Art - Press Preview
Bright Future, Planned Parenthood.

Hear Our Voice by Women's March at Refinery29 Third Annual 29Rooms: Turn It Into Art - Press Preview
Hear Our Voice, Women's March.
Hear Our Voice by Women's Marchat Refinery29 Third Annual 29Rooms: Turn It Into Art - Press Preview

Planned Parenthood sponsored a neon installation, while the organizers behind 2016’s Women’s March created a workspace allowing visitors to write their representatives. Director Jill Soloway and artist Xavier Schipani’s gender neutral bathroom discussed gender identity, and arts nonprofit The Art of Elysium invited visitors to paint on blank lanterns and celebrate the healing power of art.

Art Heals by Art of Elysium at Refinery29 Third Annual 29Rooms: Turn It Into Art - Press Preview
Art Heals, The Art of Elysium

Neurospeculative Afrofeminism by Hyphen-Labs at Refinery29 Third Annual 29Rooms: Turn It Into Art - Press Preview
NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism, Hyphen-Labs.
Neurospeculative Afrofeminism by Hyphen-Labs at Refinery29 Third Annual 29Rooms: Turn It Into Art - Press Preview

The “future of empowerment” was also explored in NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism, an installation that JWT Intelligence covered previously at SXSW 2017. The installation featured futuristic inventions for women of color, from a visor that reflects unfriendly faces back at viewers to a VR experience that transports visitors to a futuristic black salon.