These Art Installations Could Double as Spooky Haunted Houses

This art will haunt your dreams this Halloween.

Alex Da Corte, Die Hexe (2015).
Courtesy Luxembourg & Dayan

Yes, art history is full of classic scary paintings, from The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch to Edvard Munch’s The Scream. The rise of installation art, however, has also resulted in a comparable rise in very creepy installation art—so creepy, in fact, that some of them would serve just as well as haunted houses. From a psychedelic music festival to the lair of a comic book superhero, here are 10 immersive works that would totally great to experience on Halloween.

Film still from Die Hexe Courtesy Luxembourg & Dayan

Film still from Alex Da Corte’s Die Hexe
Courtesy Luxembourg & Dayan

1. Alex Da Corte, Die Hexe at Luxembourg and Dayan (2015)
This site-specific installation, titled Die Hexe, which literally means “the witch,” transformed Luxembourg and Dayan’s Upper East Side townhouse into a ghostly dollhouse, each room featuring wildly different decor, from gothic velvet-coverings to mod mirrored walls. One particularly unsettling section featured a morgue, replete with cadaver drawers.

Mike Kelley, <em>Exploded Fortress of Solitude</em> (2011). Detail.<br /> Photo: © Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. All Rights Reserved/Licensed by VAGA, New York NY. Courtesy the artist and Hauser &amp; Wirth. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen.

Mike Kelley, Exploded Fortress of Solitude (2011). Detail.
Photo: © Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. All Rights Reserved/Licensed by VAGA, New York NY. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen.

2. Mike KelleyExploded Fortress of Solitude at Hauser & Wirth, New York (2011)
As far as comic book heros go, Superman can be pretty dark and brooding, hiding away in his Fortress of Solitude. Thus, the kinship of the reclusive artist to the Man of Steel is not surprising. His massive sculptural interpretation of the fictional isolated hideout was recently displayed at Hauser & Wirth. The ruptured cave’s creepiness-factor didn’t stop throngs of gallery-goers, including Leonardo DiCaprio, from lining up to explore the fortress, which held one of Kelley’s glowing pink Kandor sculptures, encased in a glass bottle.


Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, “Scenario in the Shade” at Red Bull Studios (2015).
Image: via Red Bull Studios

3. Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, “Scenario in the Shade” at Red Bull Studios, New York (2015)
It could be said that Freeman and Lowe kind of pioneered the current wave of creepy immersive installations with their very disturbing 2008 project “Hello Meth Lab in the Sun.” Their latest effort, “Scenario in the Shade” imagines a massive, slightly dystopian arts festival stretching between San Francisco and San Diego, and is infused throughout with paranoia and fear. (Though the exhibition is currently on hiatus following last week’s fire in an adjacent building, Red Bull Studios expects to reopen soon.)
“Scenario in the Shade” is on view at Red Bull Studios, 220 West 18th Street, New York through December 6, 2015.

Tobia Rehberger, <em>Bar Oppenheimer</em> (2013). Photo: Tobia Rehberger.

Tobia Rehberger, Bar Oppenheimer (2013).
Photo: Tobia Rehberger.

4. Tobias Rehberger, Bar Oppenheimer, Hotel Americano (2013)
Scary doesn’t always have to mean ghouls and goblins. Take Tobias Rehberger‘s Bar Oppenheimer, its walls outfitted with a hectic graphic pattern based on the disorienting “dazzle camouflage” used during World War II. The mind-bending optical illusions took us back to the highly stylized rooms of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. The sculptural installation and functioning bar he created at New York’s Hotel Americano, had guests questioning their sanity á là Shelley Duvall, or at the very least, their sobriety.

Puppies Puppies, "Gollum." Photo: Queer Thoughts.

Puppies Puppies, “Gollum.”
Photo: Queer Thoughts.

5. Puppies PuppiesGollum” at Queer Thoughts, New York (2015) 
Imagine leaving a brightly-lit office building hallway and entering a dark room. Now imagine that the only thing you can see is Gollum from Lord of the Rings, hissing and dancing around in a loincloth holding a scaly fish. Terrified yet? Such a sight greets visitors at the first solo exhibition from Puppies Puppies, where an actor in a Gollum mask is on hand doing his best Andy Serkis impression, effectively turning a high fantasy classic into a horror film.
“Gollum” is on view at Queer Thoughts, 373 Broadway, #C9, New York through October 31, 2015. 


Installation view of Isa Genzken’s 2015 show at David Zwirner.
Image: via Wynnenator

6. Isa Genzken, “Isa Genzken” at David Zwirner, New York (2015)
There’s something about mannequins that’s just vaguely disquieting, in a will-they-come-to-life-and-kill-you kind of way. Genzken‘s “Schauspieler (Actors)” series, which debuted at her 2013 retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, milk the power of the mannequin to skin-crawling effect. Reprised at David Zwirner for Genzken’s most recent show, the dolls—stained with red blood-like paint, bound-and-gagged with silver duct tape, or partly nude in a way that conveys violation—are more chilling than ever. Take away the bright gallery lights and this scene is the stuff of nightmares.
“Isa Genzken” is on view at David Zwirner, 519 West 19th Street, New York, September 16–October 31, 2015. 

Mister Finch, Pink and Orange Dead Birds (2015).Image: Courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery

Mister Finch, Pink and Orange Dead Birds (2015).
Image: Courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery

7. Mister Finch, “Mister Finch’s Handmade Museum” at Stephen Kasher Gallery, New York (2015)
These days, fairy tales have a Rated-G reputation. But the original Brothers Grimm variety were, in fact, quite gruesome and kid-unfriendly. Equal parts enchanting and disconcerting, Finch’s magical art installation this summer at Chelsea’s Steven Kasher Gallery hinted at that dark side. Something about Finch’s delicate toadstools, larger-the-life moths, and hand sewn spiders and birds suggested the lurking presence of a sinister crone, preparing a poisonous brew.

Jordan Wolfson's Female Figure (2014) Photo: artnet News.

Jordan Wolfson’s Female Figure (2014)
Photo: artnet News.

8. Jordan Wolfson, Female Figure, David Zwirner (2014)
This horrifying animatronic robot would clearly be a perfect addition to any haunted house, even without its frightening hag mask, but just imagine that lovely face sneaking up on you in the dark! After making its eerie debut at Zwirner in 2014, an edition of the lifelike robot was purchased by Eli Broad for the new Broad Museum.

Paul McCarthy, "WS" (2013). Photo: Joshua White.

Paul McCarthy, “WS” (2013).
Photo: Joshua White.

9. Paul McCarthy, “WS” at the Park Avenue Armory, New York (2013)
McCarthy‘s twisted take on the classic Snow White fairy tale turned the Park Avenue Armory into a veritable house of horrors back in 2013. The disturbing sculptural installation included a forest full of trees and pornographic video projections featuring the beloved Disney character like you’d (hopefully) never seen her before.

Peter Caine, <em>Overseer</em> (2005). Photo: Peter Caine.

Peter Caine, Overseer (2005).
Photo: Peter Caine.

10. Peter Caine, Overseer at “Greater New York” at MoMA PS1 (2005)
Yes, “Greater New York comes but once every five years, unfortunately, but that just serves to make each edition more memorable. Even a decade later, Caine’s twisted snowscape populated by animatronic yetis with evil glowing eyes is still more than capable of haunting our sleepless nights. Wandering into the hellish scene was a totally surreal experience reminiscent of the classic Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas special on acid.

Check out a video of Peter Caine’s Overseer:

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