Can the art of Burning Man be taken out of its playa context and successfully presented in a museum setting? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Using photographs and videos for context, large scale sculpture, material culture and jewelry have been shown to the public beyond Burning Man, spreading our ethos even further out into the world.
Burning Man has presented three art exhibitions since 1998: two featuring art installations, photographs, and video, and one focusing on neon. From a curatorial point of view, showing Burning Man art can be difficult, as many of the installations created on the playa have been burned and are available to us only in photographs. However, there is an increasing trend not to burn one’s art, and we have been able to show actual objects from the playa as well as other work our artists have created.
Our first exhibit was The Art of Burning Man at the San Francisco Art Commission Gallery, July 29 to August 29 1998. The second was an updated version of The Art of Burning Man at Theater Bruka in Reno, July 9 to 31, 1999. Our third exhibit, at the Museum of Neon Art in Los Angeles, took place from December 11, 1999 through March 12, 2000 and was curated by LadyBee.
In addition, three independent arts organizations have staged exhibitions of Burning Man art. In the summer of 2001, the Sonoma Museum of Visual Art showed six large-scale outdoor sculptures, and in 2007, the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno showed A Tribe of Artists: Costumes and Culture of Burning Man, Geoffrey Nelson’s photographs and costumed mannequins. In 2017, Playa Made: Jewelry of Burning Man, guest curated by LadyBee and based on the book of the same name, debuted at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts; this exhibit was shown from February 11 through June 4, 2017. guest curated by LadyBee and based on the book of the same name, debuted at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts; this exhibit was shown from February 11 through June 4, 2017.
Three major museums are developing exhibits on the art of Burning Man; here’s a sneak peek at one of them.