Midnight Moment: A Celebration of Digital Art

Few things in the LED display industry are as visually compelling as a dramatic takeover moment. And for artists specializing in video-based media, New York’s Times Square offers the world’s most impressive takeover moment via Midnight Moment, officially the Midnight Moment Program according to Times Square Arts.

For those unaware of this phenomenon, Midnight Moment is the world’s largest, longest-running digital art exhibition. According to the Times Square Alliance, which is the governing body of the Midnight Moment, the goal of this nightly event is to provide a moment of calm, to give ad-weary visitors a respite from the usual bombardment of global branding by showcasing contemporary, public digital art on a monumental scale.

Each month, an artist is chosen to have his or her digital artwork shown on more than 90 digital billboards throughout Times Square every night from 11:57 PM to midnight. Made possible by the dozens of billboard operators who donate their advertising space for these three minutes each night for 364 nights of the year, Midnight Moment boasts an annual viewership of around 1.5 million people. This year marks the program’s 10th anniversary.

Mike Sabia, director of SNA Displays’ Client Service Group and 20-year digital signage veteran, has been involved with the Midnight Moment from the start, ever since various owners, creatives, sign companies, and landlords got together to codify their creative vision and determine the process. Mike has been a member of the Midnight Moment committee for about five years, dating back to when he was a creative director with Clear Channel Outdoor, and has personally loaded artwork on many of the displays during his career. He and others involved in the approval process meet once a month to select new feature artists.

“It’s been amazing to see Midnight Moment grow from 4 or 5 displays to taking over all of Times Square,” he said. “Everyone on the committee has things they like or dislike­, but we are all dedicated to providing an amazing experience every night. Featured artists are usually either people of notoriety or new artists. And all of the artwork is considered public service, so the artists are not paid; they do it for the exposure. Many of them are ecstatic to be able to blanket Times Square for a full month.”

One of Mike’s recent favorite Midnight Moments is Krista Kim’s Continuum. Another favorite is Drifters by the artist duo DRIFT (Dutch artists Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta) with filmmaker Sil van der Woerd.

The Times Square Arts team curates artist submissions and presents them to the committee for final discussion and voting. The Midnight Moment committee comprises 11 members, including sign operators, industry insiders, and representatives for the arts. Often, the committee prioritizes local artists who are cross-promoting artwork in nearby installations.

Jean Cooney, director of Times Square Arts, mentioned a few personal favorite Midnight Moments: Nancy Baker Cahil’s Slipstream Times Square, Sondra Perry’s Flesh Wall, and Jeffrey Gibson’s She Never Dances Alone.

Considerations for evaluating submitted pieces include whether or not the content will work well on such a large scale across so many screens. The committee also reviews each entry to ensure branding is removed and there is no questionable content. Midnight Moment is, after all, a celebration of art.

Zachary Todd Headshot 2022

Zachary Todd is a communications coordinator with SNA Displays and works out of the company’s Dallas office.

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