The Gray Market: What the Craze for Holograms of Dead Pop Stars Could Mean for the Market for Performance Art (and Other Insights) | Artnet News (2023)

Every Monday morning, artnet News brings you The Gray Market. The column decodes important stories from the previous week—and offers unparalleled insight into the inner workings of the art industry in the process.

This week, extending the art business into the afterlife…


On Tuesday, the New York Times Magazine published Mark Binelli’s deep dive into the weird, wildworld of dead music stars “touring” as holograms. And if this same technological (and entrepreneurial) innovation doesn’t cross over into the art market in the coming years, I’ll be so stunned that my own heart just might give out.

For the uninitiated, this surreal new chapter in pop stardom essentially began at the 2012 edition of Coachella, the annual pop-culture-shaping music festival in California’s Indio Valley, when visual-effects studio Digital Domain created a three-dimensional hologram of slain rapper Tupac Shakur that “performed” a pair of of his songs onstage with Snoop Dogg (whose metamorphosis from west-coast-rap firebrand and murder-trial defendant into middle-aged lifestyle guru and Martha Stewart bestie is more mind-blowing than any VFX I’ve ever seen).

Although Digital Domain went bankrupt shortly after the festival, Pac’s digital ghost—along with the good old-fashioned power of the dollar—dynamited the gates to the musical hereafter. A slew of new venture-backed businesses rose up to begin crafting holograms and striking pacts with artist’s estates for the rights to represent late stars onstage, in both senses of the word “represent.”

In the years since, the list of dead pop icons who have re-materialized for adoring fans includes Michael Jackson (at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards), Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Frank Zappa, Ronnie James Dio (who replaced Ozzy Osbourne as Black Sabbath’s frontman and enabled one very metal auction), and even legendary opera singer Maria Callas. And if you think this phantom express is slowing down anytime soon, I would advise you to get the hell off the tracks; a hologram of Whitney Houston will set out on an international tour starting in February.

Although this situation sounds absurd, the most stunning aspect may be that, based on the early returns, it appears to be absurd in the same way that selling milk from an almond once was. Here’s Binelli:

(Video) Gravewalkers: Book Nine - Soup Kitchen - Unabridged Audiobook - closed-captioned

Deborah Speer, a features editor at Pollstar, which covers the live-entertainment industry, told me that based on the numbers she has seen for the Orbison and Zappa tours, “obviously, there’s a market” for hologram shows. According to the trade publication, the solo Orbison tour grossed nearly $1.7 million over 16 shows, selling 71 percent of the seats available, while Zappa sold an average of 973 seats per show, nearly selling out venues in Amsterdam and London.

It turns out that if you’re a famous performer, you don’t need to be drawing breath to draw a paying audience. And that apparent fact is emerging at an especially opportune moment in contemporary art.

The Gray Market: What the Craze for Holograms of Dead Pop Stars Could Mean for the Market for Performance Art (and Other Insights) | Artnet News (1)

Marina Abramović, The Artist is Present (2010). Courtesy of the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery,.


Now, plenty of painters, sculptors, and other makers of discrete objects continue selling briskly even after they’ve died;their corporeal absence creates little to no drag on business (sometimes, it boosts it). But historically, we haven’t been able to say the same for performance artists. And this is especially important given the strong gravitation toward live art by artists, industry insiders, and even the general public over the past decade.

As my colleague Ben Davis argues, the inflection point was Marina Abramović’s “The Artist Is Present,” the zeitgeist-puncturing 2010 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. The show certainly didn’t elevate performance art beyond parody—see Fred Armisen’s mockumentary TV series Documentary Now! or Ruben Östlund’s festival-conquering film The Square—but it did propel the genre to a level of familiarity that made it a justifiable, sometimes loving, touchstone for an audience outside the traditional art world.

For every satire, there also seemed to be at least one earnest celebrity homage that lodged performance art deeper in the popular consciousness. Fans include hip hop mogul Jay-Z, actor/director/artist Shia Labeouf, runway-rap pioneer A$AP Rocky, John Cheever’s favorite indie-rock band, the National… the list goes on.

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Enthusiasm for artists or trends within the art world hasn’t always tracked with enthusiasm outside it. The tired specter of the “sell-out” keeps haunting us. However, the recent trajectory of performance art has avoided this turbulence.

Judges at the last two Venice Biennales awarded top prizes to performance works: Anne Imhof’s Faust won the Golden Lion in 2017, and the Lithuanian Pavilion’s climate-change opera took home the trophy for best national presentation in 2019.

Mega-gallery Pace is making a high-stakes live-performance program a central pillar of its mainstream-targeting future strategy. And although MoMA eventually scrapped the performance-focused “Art Bay” once set to be the nucleus of its latest renovation, New York’s newest (and most controversial) cultural space, the Shed, largely exists to champion the genre.

All of the above (and much more) reinforces that performance has become a major force in contemporary art’s evolution, and will continue to shape its future. Which leads us back to those hologram tours.

The Gray Market: What the Craze for Holograms of Dead Pop Stars Could Mean for the Market for Performance Art (and Other Insights) | Artnet News (2)

A hologram of dead opera star Maria Callas “singing” onstage during a concert at Berlin’s Admiralspalast in 2019. (Photo by Frank Hoensch/Redferns)


Pop-star holograms are exploding out of a chemical reaction between three elements that have been influencing human decision-making for thousands of years: supply, demand, and survival instinct.

Binelli points out in theTimesthat, per Pollstar, “roughly half of the 20 top-grossing North American touring acts of 2019 were led by artists who were at least 60 years old,” including the top three: the Rolling Stones, Elton John, and Bob Seger. His conversation with a member of one major hologram-production company suggests this technology could transform those data points from evidence of an imminent music-industry crisis into evidence of an enduring business opportunity:

“If you’re an estate in the age of streaming and algorithms, you’re thinking: Where is our revenue coming from?” Brian Baumley, who handles publicity for Eyellusion, told me. Some of those estates, Baumley bets, will arrive at a reasonable conclusion about the dead artists whose legacies they hope to extend: “We have to put them back on the road.”

The art industry has just as much of a stake in extending the legacies—and profit windows—of major talents approaching (or past) the ends of their productive lives. By this point in time, the interplay between aesthetic evangelism and financial opportunism has been incentivizing choices within artists’ studios and estates for over a century, with each project finding its ethical level based on weighing those two factors.

Consider that every single plaster, bronze, or marble cast by Auguste Rodin was actually fabricated by another skilled artisan using only Rodin’s small clay models. Or that the Dia Art Foundation and the artist’s estate (with funding from Gagosian) completed Walter De Maria’s installation Truck Trilogy four years after his death. Or that the estates of Roy Lichtenstein and Constantin Brancusi both produced new editions of important sculptures decades past the dates their respective creators beamed up to that big studio in the sky.

Assuming performance art’s popularity surge continues, then, why wouldn’t a major gallery and/or institution be tempted to restage, say, the centerpiece of Abramović’s “The Artist Is Present” via hologram for a paying audience? Abramović herself might—might—be appalled by the idea as she lives and breathes now, but anything can happen when opportunities present themselves to estate executors.

After all, visitors to the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida can already interact with a ghost of its namesake digitally resurrected on flat screens throughout the institution.

The Gray Market: What the Craze for Holograms of Dead Pop Stars Could Mean for the Market for Performance Art (and Other Insights) | Artnet News (3)

Joan Jonas performing Reanimation, still from Art21 “Fiction” (2014). Courtesy of Art21.

The potential here isn’t limited to postmortem programming, either. Holograms could also be used during performance artists’ lifetimes to stage their pieces farther, wider, and more frequently than if they had to physically make the trips themselves.

Precedents already exist for this. Binelli mentions in his piece that Chicago drill-rap standard-bearer Chief Keef performed by hologram at an out-of-state music festival to avoid arrest while he had active warrants looming over him in 2015, and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has campaigned by hologram in multiple locations at once for years.

Obviously, these possibilities are only possibilities right now. But they are made more likely by the music industry’s rush to embrace—and monetize—hologram technology to overcome its biggest stars’ deaths.

Continued public demand for performance works will only increase the pressure on the art industry to follow suit in the future. And if the genre’s most physically punishing works have taught us nothing else, it’s that we should never underestimate humanity’s ability to transcend the seemingly impossible.

[The New York Times]

That’s all for this week. ‘Til next time, remember: whether the result is a hologram, a painting, or a kid, anyone who creates anything is on some level trying to beat the reaper.

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How holograms are used in art? ›

Holograms fascinate us partly because they offer a novel way of sculpting with light and partly because they can reproduce three-dimensional objects in staggering high fidelity so convincing that they seem real.

How are hologram concerts done? ›

The "holograms" that are allowing dead celebrities to perform on stage today are derived from a 200-year-old parlor trick called Pepper's Ghost. Pepper's Ghost technique uses a reflective pane of glass that is angled towards a booth underneath the stage.

What was the first hologram concert? ›

Some of the first innovators in virtual concerts came at the tail end of the 90s. South Korean music company SM Entertainment first experimented with holographic performances for the boy band H.O.T in 1998.

What is holographic art? ›

n. A method of producing a three-dimensional image of an object by recording on a photographic plate or film the pattern of interference formed by a split laser beam and then illuminating the pattern either with a laser or with ordinary light.

What is the importance of holograms? ›

Holograms are key to our technology as they allow the manipulation of light: controlling its flow and direction. We use holographic techniques to create 2D pupil expansion. We use a small projector with a relatively small pupil.

What are the benefits of holograms? ›

It is very cost effective solution to make and to hire. ➨It has higher storage capacity compare to other methods. ➨It delivers enhanced feasibility of objects including depth. ➨They are complex patterns and hence offers security in wide applications as mentioned above.

What does a hologram look like? ›

Seeing it with my own eyes i realized the solid light name makes sense at first it looks like you

How much does it cost to have a hologram made? ›

Estimated costs for these may be anywhere from $18,000 to $100,000. Plenty is involved in making this magical moment happen. From foil, tension, bounce screen, projection, drapes, computer controller, and stage. Then there are also shipping and set up fees and also depends on Projection size.

Can holograms be seen in daylight? ›

Various different types of hologram can be made. One of the more common types is the white-light hologram, which does not require a laser to reconstruct the image and can be viewed in normal daylight.

What does holographic image mean? ›

Holography is a unique method of photography whereby 3D objects are recorded using a laser and then restored as precisely as possible to match the originally recorded object. When illuminated via a laser, holograms are able to form an exact 3D clone of the object and duplicate its features.

What is the most advanced hologram technology? ›

Hologauze® is the latest technology in large scale 3D hologram effects, working with 3D polarized projection systems and as a 2D hologram effect.

Does hologram technology exist? ›

Holograms can now also be entirely computer-generated to show objects or scenes that never existed. Most holograms produced are of static objects but systems for displaying changing scenes on a holographic volumetric display are now being developed. Holography is also used with many other types of waves.

How does a hologram differ from a photograph? ›

Holography is used to generate 3-dimensional images. Photography is used to generate 2-dimensional images. 2. Phenomenon used in holography is interference and diffraction of light.

What is the meaning of holography Why is it so called? ›

holography, means of creating a unique photographic image without the use of a lens.

How do you make a hologram technology? ›

Making a hologram involves recording the interference pattern that occurs when light coming from a stabilized laser meets its own light bouncing back from the object it's illuminating. The key is to set up the laser, the object, and the recording film or plate in a way that captures the interference pattern.

What is a hologram simple explanation? ›

A hologram (pronounced HOL-o-gram ) is a three-dimensional image, created with photographic projection. The term is taken from the Greek words holos (whole) and gramma (message).

What is hologram advertising? ›

A holographic display is produced through light diffraction to create a virtual three-dimensional image. Brands advertise their products using holographic display installations to showcase their offering in 3D view through led light shows.

How are holograms used today? ›

Holograms can be used in healthcare to visualize patient data. Ordinarily, doctors rely on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and ultrasound scans to generate 2D images of internal organs, with which they have to imagine how the organs would look in 3D.

What can we expect from hologram technology in the future? ›

In reality, the use of holograms still seems like a technology reserved for science fiction rather than everyday life. Telecommunications are advancing at a rapid pace: 5G will allow data retransmission to occur even faster than it does now and in real time.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of hologram? ›

➨Holographic technologies can be easily combined with other technologies. ➨It does not require special glasses to view and can be viewed from any angle. ➨It does not require any projection screen. ➨It is difficult to replicate as it is difficult to alter or transpose.

Who is the leader in hologram technology? ›

Musion™ is the global leader in the development, marketing, production and broadcasting of realistic, life-sized, interactive 3D holographic video shows and effects.

How do we see images using hologram? ›

The beam also travels in the same direction as the original object beam, spreading out as it goes. Since the object was on the other side of the holographic plate, the beam travels toward you. Your eyes focus this light, and your brain interprets it as a three-dimensional image located behind the transparent hologram.

What is a hologram and how does it work? ›

Holography, often known as hologram technology, is a type of photography that records the light emitted by an object and then projects it as a three-dimensional (3D) object that can be seen without the use of any extra equipment.

What is hologram statue Meaning? ›

What is a hologram statue? A hologram statue is a projection that appears realistic and is made using projectors and a holographic screen. The virtual 3D image thus created can be viewed from all sides without 3D glasses.

Can you turn your phone into a hologram projector? ›

It's pretty simple but super convincing. So to get this effect for yourself all you need is some

Can I make my own hologram? ›

Every year, thousands of hobbyists, students, and teachers make holograms at home, work, or school. To make a hologram, you'll need some basic holography supplies and household items, a quiet and dark room, and about 30 minutes to process the image.

How much does a life size hologram cost? ›

At the moment, one machine costs $60,000. However, Nussbaum is planning to miniaturize the technology to make it available to everyone.

How far can a hologram be projected? ›

Abstract. Long-range holographic experiments have been performed over distances as large as 12 km. Holograms and images of retroreflector and Scotchlite objects were obtained.

What is the difference between hologram and holograph? ›

Holography is defined as a method of producing a three-dimensional (3D) impression, or photographic image, of an object. The recording and the image it brings to life are each referred to as holograms.

What are the different types of hologram? ›

There are three types of holograms:

Reflection hologram. Transmission hologram. Hybrid hologram.

Why laser is effective in producing holograms? ›

If a Laser source is used instead, then the three emerging beams will be in different directions. This is called 'Off-Line Holography'. It allows us to observe one kind of beam at a time. This is the reason that a laser is needed in holography.

What is the difference between holographic and iridescent? ›

The main difference between holographic and iridescent is that holographic refers to holograms, which are photographic recordings of a light field that is used to display a three-dimensional image, whereas iridescence refers to the gradual change of colors when looking at a surface from different angles.

What is a sentence for hologram? ›

1. Since the photographer wanted the photograph to capture every facet of the tree, he took a hologram with a special camera.

What companies are developing holograms? ›

Top Companies Operating in 3D Holographic Display and Services
  • VividQ.
  • MDH Hologram Ltd.
  • SeeReal Technologies.
  • Nanjing DSeeLab Digital Technology Co.
  • Realfiction Holdings AB.
  • Holoxica.
  • CY Vision.
7 Apr 2022

Are human holograms possible? ›

Human hologram technology is far from perfect, but its potential is unrivalled. Today it is still too early to talk about the possibility of using classic holograms for displaying humans. In most cases, they offer hologram-like 3D images or some optical illusions supported and enhanced with computer technologies.

What are the main requirements for making a hologram? ›

To create a hologram, you need an object (or person) that you want to record; a laser beam to be shined upon the object and the recording medium; a recording medium with the proper materials needed to help clarify the image; and a clear environment to enable the light beams to intersect.

What are holograms made of? ›

Holograms are made by using a single laser beam. The beam is then split into two beams by a special lens. That way, you get two laser beams that are exactly the same. One of those beams is the "reference beam" and is shone directly onto the film.

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How do holographic pictures work? ›

One half of the beam bounces off a mirror, hits the object, and reflects onto the photographic plate inside which the hologram will be created. This is called the object beam. The other half of the beam bounces off another mirror and hits the same photographic plate.

What is the purpose of hologram projector? ›

Holographic projectors essentially provide either a two-dimensional or three-dimensional projection which can be seen without any additional equipment (such as cameras or glasses).

How do I make a holographic image? ›

How to Create a Hologram
  1. Set up a projector from above so it faces the floor.
  2. Place a mirror on a 45 degree angle beneath the projector.*
  3. Place a glass screen or other reflective transparent surface a few feet away from the mirror.
  4. The projection image to be used should be set against a dark background.

How do hologram projectors work? ›

Holographic projectors create a picture via refraction as light passes through the recorded interference pattern. Light shining through a flat interference pattern (recorded on a holographic plate as shown above) produces an image that has three-dimensional qualities but is still flat.

What is the most advanced hologram technology? ›

Hologauze® is the latest technology in large scale 3D hologram effects, working with 3D polarized projection systems and as a 2D hologram effect.

Who is the leader in hologram technology? ›

Musion™ is the global leader in the development, marketing, production and broadcasting of realistic, life-sized, interactive 3D holographic video shows and effects.

What technology is used to make holograms? ›

Laser. In laser holography, the hologram is recorded using a source of laser light, which is very pure in its color and orderly in its composition.

What is hologram short answer? ›

Definition of hologram

: a three-dimensional image reproduced from a pattern of interference produced by a split coherent beam of radiation (such as a laser) also : the pattern of interference itself.

What is the meaning of holography Why is it so called? ›

holography, means of creating a unique photographic image without the use of a lens.

Does hologram technology exist? ›

It's more than just science fiction, these crazy holographic technologies all exist today! Holograms have been a dream of tech and entertainment companies as well as consumers ever since Jules Verne first introduced the idea of the technology back in 1893.

What materials do you need to make a hologram? ›

To make holograms at home or school, you need holographic film plates, hologram developer, and an appropriate laser (not all lasers work). For advanced holography, you'll need optical lenses, mirrors and an anti-vibration set up.

Can you make a hologram at home? ›

Every year, thousands of hobbyists, students, and teachers make holograms at home, work, or school. To make a hologram, you'll need some basic holography supplies and household items, a quiet and dark room, and about 30 minutes to process the image.

How much does it cost to create a hologram? ›

Projections start at 13 x 13 feet, which cost at minimum around $18,113. The largest projection they have full pricing info for is 13 x 32 feet. That would likely cost around $32,453.

How far away is hologram technology? ›

“It's often been said that commercially available holographic displays will be around in 10 years, yet this statement has been around for decades.” Shi believes the new approach, which the team calls “tensor holography,” will finally bring that elusive 10-year goal within reach.

How far can holograms be projected? ›

Long-range holographic experiments have been performed over distances as large as 12 km.

How much does a hologram phone cost? ›

Size-wise, this is one whopper of a smartphone, a hefty aluminum rectangle with a 5.7-inch high-resolution display and ridged sides that make it easier to grip. The phone carries a $1,295 price tag, and that's the first major hurdle right there.

› ... › Optics ›

Holograms are 3-D images that have been projected and captured on a 2-D surface. Find out how holograms work and see how a hologram is produced.

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