Empire State Building Stages $1 Million Light Show In Call for Endangered Species

The gun lobby keeps wild male lions off the list, but they're endangered.

“Projecting Change: The Empire State Building.” Photo via: Design Boom.
“Projecting Change: The Empire State Building.” Photo via: Design Boom.
“Projecting Change: The Empire State Building.” Photo via: Design Boom.

“Projecting Change: The Empire State Building.”
Photo via: Design Boom.

New York’s most iconic building played host to a stunning art show this past weekend, as the Empire State Building became a canvas for massive images of endangered species.

The Oceanic Preservation Society created the gorgeous light presentation to promote its new documentary, Racing Extinction, for the activist event “Projecting Change: The Empire State Building.” The project is led by the Society’s Louie Psihoyos, a photographer and documentary filmmaker, and Travis Threlkel, of San Francisco’s Obscura Digital. It was conceived with the aim of doing the “the most dramatic thing we could do to get the world to know about what we’re losing,” Psihoyos told the New York Times.

The piece featured what Psihoyos described as a “Noah’s ark”–worth of animals, including the manta ray, the snow leopard, the lemur, and other endangered species.

“Projecting Change: The Empire State Building.” Photo via: Design Boom.

“Projecting Change: The Empire State Building.”
Photo via: Design Boom.

The Empire State Building’s lighting system has become increasingly complex over the years. In 2012, a computerized LED light system that offers a staggering range of 16 million colors was introduced, making complicated light shows possible.

Last fall, Derek Jeter’s number 2 jersey number was squeezed atop the spire, and in honor of the opening of the new Whitney Museum, the building interpreted 12 of the institution’s most iconic artworks in LED form.

The projectors used for “Projecting Change: The Empire State Building.” Photo via: Design Boom.

The projectors used for “Projecting Change: The Empire State Building.”
Photo via: Design Boom.

This illumination over this past weekend took things to the next level, involving the entire upper facade, not just the traditionally-lit upper tiers, and featured high resolution moving images for the first time. (For the Whitney event, the building’s lights featured loose tributes to the artworks, rather than reproductions.)

The three-hour light show, held between 9pm and midnight on Saturday, cost over $1 million, using 40 stacked, 20,000-lumen projectors perched atop the roof of a West 31st Street building. The projection covered the top 33 floors of the building’s southern facade, or an area 375 feet tall and 186 feet wide.

“Projecting Change: The Empire State Building.” Photo: chatkoff, via Instagram.

“Projecting Change: The Empire State Building.”
Photo: chatkoff, via Instagram.

The timing of the event was somewhat fortuitous, given the recent international outrage over the death of Cecil the Lion. The iconic Zimbabwean beast was a last minute addition to the display.

“There’s only 3,500 wild male lions out there. The gun lobby keeps them from being on the list but they are endangered,” Psihoyos told NBC New York 4.

Related Stories:

Guggenheim Museum’s Façade Occupied by Protesters’ Projection

Illuminator Art Collective Arrested for Daring Museum Protest Sues NYPD

Jenny Holzer Illuminates New York Botanical Garden With Political Projection

Guerrilla Artists Demand Return of Edward Snowden Bust from NYPD


Follow artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.

Share