Each year in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, a city of more than 70,000 people rises out of the dust for a single week. During that time, enormous experimental art installations are erected and many are ritually burned to the ground. The thriving temporary metropolis known as Burning Man is a hotbed of artistic ingenuity, driving innovation through its principles of radical self-expression, decommodification, communal participation, and reverence for the handmade. Both a cultural movement and an annual event, Burning Man remains one of the most influential phenomenons in contemporary American art and culture.
No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man brings the large-scale, participatory work from this desert gathering to the nation’s capital for the first time. The exhibition takes over the entire Renwick Gallery building and surrounding Golden Triangle neighborhood, bringing alive the maker culture and creative spirit of this cultural movement.
Immersive room-sized installations, costumes, jewelry, and ephemera transport visitors to the gathering’s famed “Playa,” while selected photographs and archival materials from the Nevada Museum of Art's show City of Dust: The Evolution of Burning Man trace Burning Man’s growth and its bohemian roots.
Nora Atkinson, the museum’s Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft, organized the exhibition in collaboration with Burning Man Project, the nonprofit organization responsible for producing the annual Burning Man event in Black Rock City. The Burning Man community was instrumental in suggesting artworks for inclusion in the exhibition.
“‘No Spectators’ is a long-standing saying on Playa. You are encouraged to fully participate. It’s all about being there, being fully present, and not just observing. Two of the ten principles of Burning Man are radical participation and radical inclusivity, meaning that there are no outsiders. Everyone is part of the experience.”
– Nora Atkinson, Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft
No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man is traveling to two cities after closing at SAAM’s Renwick Gallery. Learn more about our traveling exhibitions program.
Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC (March 30, 2018–January 21, 2019)
Cincinnati Art Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio (April 26, 2019–September 2, 2019)
Oakland Museum of California in Oakland, California (October 12, 2019–February 16, 2020)
Large-scale installations—the artistic hallmark of Burning Man—form the core of the exhibition. Individual artists and collectives featured in No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man include David Best, Candy Chang, Marco Cochrane, Duane Flatmo, Michael Garlington and Natalia Bertotti, Five Ton Crane Arts Collective, FoldHaus Art Collective, Scott Froschauer, HYBYCOZO (Yelena Filipchuk and Serge Beaulieu), Android Jones, Aaron Taylor Kuffner, Christopher Schardt, Richard Wilks, and Leo Villareal.
Multiple installation sites have been selected throughout the Golden Triangle neighborhood surrounding the museum for No Spectators: Beyond the Renwick, which includes works by Jack Champion, Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson, HYBYCOZO, Laura Kimpton, Mischell Riley, and Kate Raudenbush.
Events and Public Programs
May 3, 6:00 p.m. Artist Talk with David Best
August 18, 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Resin Inlay Workshop: Jewelry Inspired by Burning Man
August 19, 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Metal Texturing Workshop
September 14, 10:00 a.m. Radical Inclusion and Tales from the Playa: Talks on Art, Inspiration, and History of Burning Man
November 14, 5:30 p.m. Handi-Hour
On the Blog
Eye Level, January 18, 2019, “No Spectators: the Art of Burning Man Hits the Road!”
Eye Level, June 7, 2018, “Truth Is Beauty”
Eye Level, April 20, 2018, “The Renwick's (David) Best Temple”
Eye Level, March 27, 2018, “Sneak Peek: Burning Man's Temple at the Renwick”
Eye Level, March 22, 2018, “Who Wore it Better? Burning Man Dresses up the Renwick”
Eye Level, March 20, 2018, “Sneak Peek: Burning Man Unfolds at the Renwick”
Eye Level, March 9, 2018, “Here Be Dragons”
Eye Level, December 6, 2017, “Feel the Burn: The Art of Burning Man comes to the Renwick in March”
Radical Inclusion and Tales from the Playa Symposium
No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man is organized by the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The Renwick Gallery especially thanks colleagues from Burning Man Project, a nonprofit public benefit corporation, for their close collaboration and assistance throughout the preparation of this exhibition.
Intel has provided generous financial and in-kind support as the lead sponsor of the exhibition. Additional financial support has been provided by: the Carolyn Small Alper Exhibitions Fund, Anonymous, Sarah and Richard Barton, the Bently Foundation, the Diane and Norman Bernstein Foundation, The Bronner Family, the Elizabeth Broun Curatorial Endowment, DAWSON Companies, the James F. Dicke Family Endowment, Ed Fries, Ping Fu, the James Renwick Alliance, Nion McEvoy, Debbie Frank Petersen, Bobby Sarnoff, Albert H. Small, Myra and Harold Weiss, and Kelly Williams and Andrew Forsyth.
No Spectators: Beyond the Renwick, an installation of outdoor sculptures and related programming in the Golden Triangle neighborhood, is made possible by a collaboration with the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District and support from Lyft.
City of Dust: The Evolution of Burning Man is organized by the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nevada. Most of the items on view are drawn from the archive collections of the Museum’s Center for Art + Environment. This exhibition was realized thanks to generous gifts from the Bently Foundation, Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority, Maureen Mullarkey and Steve Miller, Eleanor and Robert Preger, the Private Bank by Nevada State Bank, Volunteers in Art of the Nevada Museum of Art, City of Reno, and Jan and David Hardie.