Just opened: Omega Mart at AREA15
WHAT: Omega Mart
IT’S: An interactive art installation modeled after a grocery store and the mysterious company behind it.
OPENED: February 18, 2021
WHO’S BEHIND IT: Meow Wolf (Chief Creative Officer Ali Rubinstein, Chief Financial Officer Carl Christensen, Chief Content Officer Jim Ward, Executive Creative Director of Meow Wolf Las Vegas Corvas Brinkerhoff, Creative Director of Omega Mart Emily Montoya, Las Vegas Senior Creative Producer Marsi Gray, Las Vegas Art Director Spencer Olsen and Senior Story Creative Director Joanna Garner)
FUN FACT: A Meow Wolf hotel in Phoenix was in the works with True North Studio, but is now on hold. However, a new Meow Wolf attraction is scheduled to open later this year in Denver.
LOCATION: AREA15 (3215 S. Rancho Drive)
HOURS: Monday to Thursday | 3 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday | 3 p.m. to midnight; Saturday | 10 a.m. to midnight; Sunday | 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
INSTAGRAM: Is it a store or an interactive art installation?
A Different Kind of Grocery Store
It’s hard to talk about Omega Mart without giving too much away. The second permanent art installation by Meow Wolf (an independent Santa Fe art collective that grew into a full-scale entertainment company) is a fascinating spoof on a classic American grocery store — plus so much more.
The “store” itself doubles as a gift shop and it’s sometimes hard to tell what’s for sale and what’s just decoration. (If you need a gag item before heading to a party, this is your place.) Walk the aisles and you’ll see “tattooed chicken” in the meat display, scented spray bottles of “Who Told You This Was Butter?” and “Whale Song” antiperspirant/antidepressant. Nothing is quite what it seems. Even bags of chips are really pillows.
52,000 Square Feet of Corporate Commentary
The Omega Mart grocery store is merely a jumping off point for the journey. You never know what lies at the end of a walk-in freezer or inside a circular rack of t-shirts. Pathways and “portals” lead to unexpected destinations (divided into four themed spaces), including the offices and factory belonging to Dramcorp, the fictional family-owned company behind Omega Mart.
From there, much of the experience is up to you. Casually soak it all in or analyze every detail when rummaging through desks, reading newspaper clippings or clicking on emails that pop up on computer screens. (RFID cards are sporadically handed out to unlock certain elements.) Along the way, you’ll scoot down three slides (including one that’s actually part of a locally produced art piece), exchange on-screen dialogue with a robot in the “human resources department” and just marvel at the spectacle around every corner or crawlspace.
The Art of Subtle Storytelling
Meow Wolf’s first permanent installation, the House of Eternal Return (built inside an old bowling alley in Santa Fe) is a twisted take on Americana through the lens of the traditional nuclear family household. Omega Mart, meanwhile, explores themes of comfort and manipulation associated with branding, commerce and convenience.
Both concepts take full advantage of non-linear storytelling and immersive world-building. There’s no exact beginning, middle or end. Guests are encouraged to follow their own instincts with visuals generated through lights, projection mapping and other effects. Omega Mart has three feature films worth of video content, although you’ll just see glimpses here and there. Music is a vital part of the experience, featuring previously unreleased compositions by Brian Eno and Beach House.
There’s also a bar (almost hidden speakeasy-style around the corner from the Omega Mart store), where you can unwind afterwards and discuss whatever the heck it was you just saw.
Tickets are $45 (or $35 for children, seniors and military). Nevada residents are $35 (or $30 for children, seniors and military).
Omega Mart works best when entering without expectations, since it’s more art than entertainment, at least in the traditional Vegas sense. Yet there’s plenty of humor within the corporate satire. You can tell the Meow Wolf team had a lot of fun putting this together. Between Meow Wolf, Emporium, Wink World and Art Island, AREA15 is helping fill a void in a city without an accredited major art museum.
It should be noted the pandemic changed very little in the design of Omega Mart. Much of it is touchy-feely with guests encouraged to pick up objects and listen in on telephones. However, sanitation protocols are being followed extensively with frequent wipedowns by the staff and hand sanitizer stations present throughout.