5 Best Exhibits from Refinery29's 29Rooms in Chicago

Demi Lovato's installation was a little more personal in light of recent news.

July 26, 2018

It's here!

Chicago finally got its hands on Refinery29's immersive fun-house style exhibition this week. 

The concept behind the exhibit is "Be the Spark, Live wih Heart, Turn it into Art," -- emphasis on that last part.

And that's exactly what they did with all 29 rooms, which were carefully curated alongside celebrities, brands, and momentous TV shows.

Disguised as many new Instagram profile pics, the installations touch upon controversial topics and vocal movements like the Women's and LGBTQ and force visitors to tap into their social conscience.

"You'll see us touch on gender identity, reproductive rights, a whole range of topics that are important to our audience now," explained Piera Gelardi, co-founder of Refinery29.

In other words, you're going to leave feeling "woke."

Of course, we made sure to be the first in line to get a look at this social-media-world come to life.

It was a difficult task, but we narrowed it down to our FIVE favorite rooms, some of which blew into the Windy City exclusively.



1. Janelle Monae's "What's Your Frequency?

Janelle Monae's "What's Your Frequency" is a technological feat. It features black and white naked mannequins that are chained together, some with their heads replaced with TV monitors. The exhibit is "a take on mass surveillance, cultural uniformity and the weaponization of technology," Monae told The Hollywood Reporter. Visitors are also surrounded by mirrors and surveillance cameras which are meant to explore the line between technology and surveillance. Much like her new album "Dirty Computer," it makes a statement. 



2. Demi Lovato's Power Parlor 

Stepping into Demi Lovato's installation, "Power Parlor," which originated in New York, was surreal in light of the recent news about her relapse and overdose. But it's for that reason that the installation specifically resonated with not only me but many fans. Guests were able to get faux tattoos just like the ones Demi has airbrushed on. Whether your fighting your own demons or just felt like showing support for the singer, this was probably the best way to do it. My personal favorite was the fearless lion, which singer Kelly Rowland painted on her hand when she attended the opening of the exhibit. She said she was thinking of Demi when she got it. Other available tattoos included birds, a cursive "Strong, and the phrase "Now I'm a Warrior."



3. The Future Is Female

Really, the name of the exhibit is enough to make the list. Women are encouraged to be bold, strong, independent and fearless leaders of the future in Jen Mussari and musician Madame Gandhi's exhibit. Visitors are provided with boxing gloves and bags that boast inspiring words and phrases like "the future is worth fighting for," "words have power" and "fight for each other." Who is ready to kick some butt?


4. Windy City Skyline

This exhibit is exclusive to Chicago and allows you to enter a dark room where you'll find the skyline recreated using only mirrors. As a Chicagoan, I loved this one because it allowed me to see a reflection of myself in my city.  There's also an accompanying recording that explains the hustle of Chicago, all of its attractions and even mentions that we never put ketchup on our hot dogs. Damn straight! 


5. “Rest in Power, Rest in Peace”

Chicago artist Shani Crowe is the mastermind behind "Rest in Power, Rest in Peace," a space that honors those who have died from gun violence in Chicago. There's a throne made of gold that allows folks to "rise to power," but beneath it, you'll find a small room packed with flameless candles. Visitors can write the name of a loved one that they lost to gun violence and if it doesn't apply directly, offer up a positive message. In the midst of all the social media hoopla, an exhibit with a more somber feel was fitting and provided hope that one day we'll see the change necessary to stop all the senseless murders plaguing our streets.

29Rooms located at 1522 W Hubbard St. runs through Sunday.  A portion of ticket sale proceeds will be donated to 29Rooms non-profit partners, including Planned Parenthood Illinois, Erie Neighborhood House, and Art of Elysium.

There are three sessions running from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 3 to 6 p.m., and 7 to 10 p.m.

Unfortunately, tickets are already sold out so if you know someone who was lucky enough to score them, you need to bribe them to take you, ASAP.

Here's hoping we meet again at a future Instagramable exhibit!