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A Light Artist Turns a Jackson Square Office into a Living Lite-Brite

Or maybe the set of “Hotline Bling.”


Colored gels cover the skylights at the offices of NextWorld, creating a rainbow-infused work environment for the investment firm’s 20-plus employees. 

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Light artist Eric Michel’s solo show is on view at the adjacent 836M through June 8.

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“Sometimes it feels like you're in a nightclub,” says Julie Lépinard of the offices of the investment firm NextWorld. Refreshingly, she’s not referring to a spiked watercooler or midday bumping and grinding between employees, but to a mood-altering light installation by the French light artist Eric Michel.

Julie and her husband, NextWorld’s general partner Sébastien Lépinard, invited the artist to produce a solo show at 836M, a nonprofit art gallery that physically fronts the firm’s Jackson Square offices and is the couple’s passion project. As Michel—best known for Les Moulins de Lumière, an ethereal installation that has colored the Paris skyline since 2011—was touring the gallery in preparation for the show, Julie walked him back to the offices and casually mentioned that he was welcome to create something there as well. Michel immediately took notice of the space’s generous skylights and accepted the challenge. Back at his studio in Paris, he spent more than a month selecting the right colors, and when he returned to install his gallery show, La Lumière Parle (The Light Speaks)—which includes works in neon, backlit plastics, and photography and runs through June 8—he also set to work on the office roof, installing colored gels over all eight of its skylights. The result is a cross between the set of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” video and the corporate headquarters of Lite-Brite. Now NextWorld’s 23 employees are seeing their work in a whole new light.

“Because of the different colors, you see where [the light] is coming from and how it’s changing over the course of the day,” says Michel, who believes that we all take light for granted in our daily lives. “What I want to do is make people see again what they didn’t see before.”


Originally published in the May issue of San Francisco

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