The Art of Burning Man

While many of my friends were at the real Burning Man in the desert of Black Rock, Nevada I decided to check out the traveling exhibit of some of the art from previous years Burning Man festivals while it was in Cincinnati.

This free exhibit, No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man at the Cincinnati Art Museum, which was organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery, during its April 26-Sept. 2 took viewers on a look inside creative costumes, mutant art vehicles and installations that the Burning Man experience has brought to audiences over the years. Highlights included the art pieces:  “Trocto” by artist duo HYBYCOZO, “Paper Arch” by Michael Garlington and Natalia Bertotti and probably the most recognizable FoldHaus Art Collective’s “Shrumen Lumen” mushrooms that opened up and down when you stepped on interactive floor pads. The exhibit also featured photos of aerial views of the festivals throughout its history as well as participants in their outrageous costumes designed specifically for their yearly pilgrimage to the desert.

The Burning Man installment helped make this the most popular year in the museum’s history. The Cincinnati Art Museum has reported that fiscal year 2018-19, which ended Aug. 31, saw the highest attendance in the institution’s 133-year history. Some 346,000 people visited; 187,630 of them came during the slightly-more-than-four-month stay of the free No Spectators exhibition.

Burning Man itself attracts more than 70,000 active participants from all over the globe who gather in the desert outside Reno, Nevada and is one of the most influential happenings in contemporary American art and culture. The spiritualism is best expressed at Burning Man through its massive temple created new each year, where visitors can address sometimes-difficult past remembrances by leaving notes and offerings, and then watching it all burn on the event’s final night. 

The festival is still on my travel bucket list and this exhibit definitely made the urge to travel to the festival in the desert even stronger.

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