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Art has become the defining feature of Burning Man, as the festival continues to be a testing ground for a growing circle of artists seeking engaged audiences. Burning Man art installations are guided by the themes chosen by the festival organizers each year. The most compelling works are large-scale constructions that are burned at the end of this extraordinary event.

Whether you’ve missed the boat on a ticket or don’t have the funds for this year’s event, hopefully this gallery will offer you a window into what goes down each year at Black Rock City. However, if you are one of the lucky people reading this in your disco sunnies about to head out to the desert — get inspired, get pumped, and enjoy.

* Note: This post is an expansion of the original, by Matador contributor Robyn Johnson, which was published on August 25, 2008.

Burning Man


 

About The Author

Katie Scott Aiton

Katie has been traveling Asian/Pacific region for 10 years working as an anthropologist and regional analyst. Katie has worked for the United Nations as a translator, negotiator and media liaison in Cambodia, Australia and New York. When she not surfing, chasing summers and eating coconuts, she's writing stories in Brooklyn, New York.

  • Audrey

    Just had to point out that in "Big Rig Jig" those aren't oil rigs, they are Semi tractors, often called Big Rigs. Some may be used to haul oil tanker trailers, but that doesn't make it an "oil rig" If you want to see what an oil rig really looks like here you go: Example Off Shore Oil RigExample Land Based Oil Rigs

    • M@RZ

      These big rigs are used to haul oil, hence them being able to be called oil rigs….
      calm yourself

  • Jesseca

    Several of these installations later ended up at Coachella Fest. Big Rig Jig and the Steampunk Tree House both arrived in April '08 and I.T. was there the year before. I have pictures of all three pieces from when I attended the festival. They really are amazing in person.

  • Insure Direct

    The pictures are fantastic… Really great…

  • Melv

    amazing pieces of arts! the must-see art installations from burning man over the years.

  • Wendy C

    Robyn, I hope you read this. I was so taken aback by your list and profile. I felt like I was reading about a mirror me! Crazy. Anyway, I hope we could connect somewhere in the 'final frontier' and get more inspired. I have taught English in Asia, watch Star Trek, daydream about all the things I could do…'if I had a little money…' la la laa…. Please forgive my horrible English, and let the fun shine through! ;)

  • Tim Patterson

    Wow…just…WOW.

  • erichansa

    this is freaking awesome. loved it, loved it

  • Missy Tishy

    Saw I.T. at Maker Faire, was awesome

  • Almost Scientific

    thanks for the mention! from 1 of the Steampunk Treehouse crew

  • isemism

    Wanted to point out that the picture of Crude awakening does not do justice to the scale of it. At 100 feet tall, its the tallest thing Ive seen on the playa, Uchronia getting the gold for sheer mass. Thanks for the post!

  • Jess

    A better title might be "13 of the Coolest Art Installations in the last 3 years of Burning Man". Honestly this is a rather historically blind list considering the entirety of Burning Man's history, but I suspect this is based on the writers history of attending. Also worth mentioning and historically significant, Helco Tower, Temporal Decomposition, ICP, Draka, The Temple of Rudra, Flock, Plastic Chapel, Lily Pond, The Temple of Gravity, Cleavage In Space, Creature of the Deep, One Tree, The Angel of the Apocalypses, La Contessa, Neverwas Haul, etc. Inclusion of some of these might make a more honest best of list.

  • Dave Matthews Band L

    Loved it!! Ill have to go sometime!

  • Brad Templeton

    I agree, this is missing a whole bunch of important stuff. Others of note include the Kaleidosphere, the Temple of Honour, The brothel chandelier, colossus, thermocracken. And perhaps the less artistic but dramatic Dr. Megavolt, the singularity machine (fire tornado) and others.

  • Melissa

    I totally agree, it is a short list from the recent history of our Black Rock City. The ones you listed were as phenomenal

  • Warren

    Robyn, thank you. You've solidified my desire to get there for 2009. xxx

  • Paul

    awesome man!

  • Anne

    My step daughter's friend has been going to Burning Man for several years and this year my step daughter finally went. I thought it was one big party out in the middle of the dessert. Turns out it dozens of art installations. I love it and I haven't talked to my step daughter since she got back, but I know she loves a party and she loves art…so this is right up her alley!

  • jaysea

    Michael Christian built IT. I noticed you didn't have his name in there. michaelchristian.com

  • Matt

    Since we are getting technical, those aren't oil rigs, they're drilling platforms and drilling rigs.

  • Miguel Angel S2

    Simplemente Grandioso!

  • Quinn the eskimo med

    UPDATE! this years temple should be on here!! and you are so right about the cubitron, AND the new piece from the guy who did the strobe monkeys is epic as well! great page! thanks for the family photos, see you at home i hope!

  • molly

    WAIT! you mention belgian waffle but no picture!? let me know if you need one, ive got a great one! (mooly247@aol.com)

  • Sunnygdr

    Its realy very cool piece of info

  • aannddrreeaa

    questa arte suscita in me la voglia di cambiare vita e vivere su un albero…

  • nick rocks

    Actually, the land based things are neither rigs or drills, they are pumps ment to presurise the oil below.

  • Nick Rocks

    This Robyn Johnson girl posted a short description of herself with the picture and she sounds too good to be true. Baby, the longest distance I traveled to have a cup of coffee with a girl so far is 2400km and you seem to be living somewhere in America; I fear some lucky dude will beat me to you so allow me to sincerely wish you a wonderfull life, as wonderfull as the work you are doing.

  • drew

    wow, impressive! thank's a lot for sharing the photos, Robyn!

  • FURKAN TUNALI

    great ! i wish i could be there

  • John

    you're about 20 years of history short

  • Rasvan

    Impressive!Thanks!

  • bke

    I had the opportunity to see the Serpent Mother in Amsterdam at Robodok 2007!!!!!

  • Awonsaihu

    I'm always surprirised to see what people think are the coolest art installations at Burning Man. I've been creating Portals there since 2004 and most people tell me they are their favorite by far, so if you're interested check out the website: ” target=”_blank”>http://www.transportals.org Too bad you didn't think to include them in your list, although you may have missed them because I locate them remotely to keep the riff raff away.

  • slee

    Oddly, you take great care to credit all the people who took photos but don't do the same for the artists that actually made the pieces. That's pretty shoddy. Stick with the baking niche instead.

  • PdaP

    Is that like "The Fonz" coolest? Or is it "Hella Coolest". Thirteen is definatly the coolest number known to man. Its good to know who won.

  • Guardian

    I adore the art and artists at Burning Man.That is an impressive survey of 3 of the last 22 years in the "history of Burning Man". Great years in art, yes, but I noticed that in all of the 14 sculptures that you posted, you credited only 3 of those artist names!! Lazy journalism! You glorify the Art, yet you fail to give credit where credit is due. C+ for effort, but D- for research. You need to do some more homework. See you on the Playa….

  • hedy

    Here is the artist info that the author should have included! 1. The figure of Belisama was part of an arrangement called "Celtic Forest" by by Laura Kimpton, Bob Hoffman and Jeff Schomberg, Nicasio, CA 2008 2. Uchronia. Ninety artists from Belgium shipped 100 miles of wooden beams to the playa, and nail-gunned them into a free-form cavern 15 stories high. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.uchronians.org 2006 3. Solar powered Steampunk Treehouse by Sean Orlando and Crew 2007 4. TEmple of Hope by Mark Grieve and the Temple Crew 2006 5. Big Rig Jig by Mike Ross 2007 6. Serpent Mother by The Flaming Lotus Girls 2006 7. Homouroboros by Peter Hudson 2007 8. Big Round Cubatron by Mark Lottor 2006 9. Temple of Forgiveness by David Best and Tim Dawson 2007 10. Crude Awakening by Dan Das Mann, Karen Cusolito, Black Rock FX, Pyrokinetics, Nate Smith, Mark Perez and MonkeyBoy 2007 11. Hope Flower by Patrick Shearn, Abundant Sugar and the DoLab 2005-06 12. Duel Nature by Kate Raudenbush 2006 13. I.T. by Michael Christian 2006 14. Temple of Stars by David Best and the Temple Crew 2004

  • brother knee

    yep. ditto. not a representative list of Bruning Man history by any stretch.

  • Gregg Masters

    why do I have this feeling that I'm missing something by not showing up for Burning Man? these are phenomenal pics! I feel my crude awakening calling..

  • Craig L Hodges

    Thank you Robyn. The event is now firmly on my travel wish list!

  • Mirrorman

    I am humbled to have experienced all of these. The daytime photo of Uchronia makes it seem small as opposed to the nighttime experience, which was distinctly like being in the Big Room at Carlsbad Caverns. And what a burn when that one went up! The art of BMan is just so amazing and what a great gift to we the citizens.

  • peter hudson

    thanks for filling in the blanks hedy. Robyn; although i am flattered to be included on your list, you MUST credit all artists and photographers for their work. you incorrectly credited affinity for the homouroboros photo. the actual photographer is tristan savatier ( http://www.playa -dust.com ). i have seen this list pop of on numerous sites without the proper credits. please rectify this

  • John Michael

    thanks! awesome pose! :)

  • dennis leary

    *meant* and *pressurize*

  • http://bayarea-wedding-photography.com/about.htm Amanda

    I want to go to Burning man! I keep saying that every year! I need to PLAN this and just go. ~Amanda

    • SantaFrancisco

      Make it happen, get involved in your local BM community, do it!

  • Sandra

    SImultaneously awed by the human creativity and horrified by the carbon footprint and environmental impact. Some stunning immages.

  • Sandra

    Simultaneously awed by the creativity and horrified by the carbon footprint/environmental impact. Stunning images.

    • dr_bombay

      you know that burning man is one of the largest leave no trace events in the country, right? they set the curve for environmental caretaking as far as events go on government land in nevada.

      • me

        right. What Dr. Bombay said. Because all those fires are actually just video images and don’t pollute at all. And all that propane…and gas burned brining all that shit out to the desert…and all the plastic water bottles….yeah. environmental caretaking. uh huh.

        • Seditious

          Plastic water bottles? You’ve never been to a Burner event, have you?

          • jane

            people do bring plastic bottles. there are conscientious burners and others who are not so conscientious.

  • David

    A great list but incomplete as noted by others. Saddened that “Mother and Child” was not included…..B.M. is first and foremost about people….I thought I had an imagination…then I went to The Burn…whew…some of your list should have been the the People as art…….see you in 09……

    • Seditious

      I was actually thrilled to see focus on art installations here instead of costume. That’s the majority of what makes youtube and every photographer’s blog: girls in tutus, corsets, furry boots and awesome make-up. This was a nice change of pace :).

  • carmen

    Hermosisimas fotos !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • lexie

    All Hail The Burning Man!!!

  • http://ABC.com Dave

    What about “the duck” from 2003 ?!

    DUCK!!!
    Woah that was a close one. ;)

  • http://hotmail nickey

    i saw them they were nothing compeared to the walking on fire in japan

  • http://www.kunstart.freewebspace.com aoulad haddou

    the one that i love more is: Uchronia, 2006
    thak u very much for thos pics ^_^

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/cnbattson/ Niall

    Nice article…..but I feel there were better works from the earlier years. LIke the Desert Flower.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/cnbattson/367821544/in/set-72157594497156110/

  • http://www.elasticfate.com elasticfate

    Great compilation. It’s nice to see some of my favorite pieces from years past included.

  • Tabatha

    Wow the one of the oil derek is awesome it brings back the memories of how incredibly hot that explostion and fire were. The JigRig is by far my favorite one the first time I saw it was at night from across the plya I had to walk right up to it and I just stared like Wow an acident frozen in time for all to see. Love it. The SteamPunk Treehouse was just out side our camp not even 100 yrds and I would hear the whislte everyday that year. It was the sound of home.=0) Anyhow this year was good to only the sound of home was Bass Camp at the end of our street! Rattled me to sleep in the wee hours of the morning. Ahh the good times! Thanks for your collection brings a smile to my face.

    • dr_bombay

      the oil derrick fire STILL is the biggest fire i’ve ever seen on the playa. it was jaw-dropping. i think google had a satellite get a shot of it from space, but i don’t think i’ve ever seen the shot.

  • http://www.tripbase.com/blog Katie, Tripbase

    Amazing shots, love that cherry picker!

    More awesome burning man pics here:

    http://www.tripbase.com/blog/burning-man-festival-photo-story/

  • http://WWW.MYSPACE.COM/CHELLYSHELL CHELLS

    WANT TO SEE SOME TOP NOTCH PHOTOS OF BURNING MAN?

    GOOGLE TRISTA SALVATIER OR WALDEMAR HORWAT.

    NO PICS CAN GIVE YOU EVEN A GLIMPSE OF WHAT IT IS LIKE BUT THESE 2 FELLOWS DO BURNING MAN PHOTOGRAPHY JUSTICE.

  • http://WWW.MYSPACE.COM/CHELLYSHELL CHELLS

    SORRY. TRISTAN SALVATIER. NOW I THINK I HAVE IT RIGHT… (RE. PREVIOUS COMMENT)

  • Cleon Romano

    Great pics! We feel privleged that we witnessed 7 of them at BM 2006.
    Twelve of us came out there all the way from Cape Town, South Africa, and we sometimes wandered around dressed up in giraffe outfits, the response from fellow burners was incredible.

  • Lee Myerhoff

    I am once again overwhelmed with the grandeur and beauty of the installations that we enjoyed at the moment- they really do stand up to time. As we assessed whether we should go back to BRC for the fifth time, these photos reminded us of what we would miss. The 2009 burn was absolutely the best so far and we will watch to see if it surpasses itself again.We will be there for sure.
    Lee and Jackie

  • Vanessa Flaming Lotus

    Really…. in the history of BM?? Isn’t that a bit grandious?
    I only see pictures of art from recent years. When did we start having the best art competition & how were these choosen?
    A Flaming Lotus Girl. Expression people pure expression & gifting.

  • JY

    Nice photos, poor journalism…You should at least try to give the artists and teams some credits for their work here. http://burningman.com/installations/

  • Pingback: 10 of the Most Impressive Mosaics around the World

  • Paul Baker

    That is awesome stuff, one of these days I’ll go to burning man =)

  • Allison

    Grandiose, certainly. As for the temples, I think you picked the two LEAST impressive temples of the past 10 years. Certainly Shrine’s temple from 2009 deserves recognition. It captivated the community in a way I haven’t heard before or since.

    • dr_bombay

      really, the best temple happens every year. i’ve been to all the temples, and the community makes each one better than the last, and yet they are all equal at the same time to me.

  • Artisticidea

    The creativity and acumen displayed in these pieces are impressive. It pains me that such talent and imagination must be devoted to a celebration of waste, vanity, impermanence and consumption. Why cannot the genius of woman and man find its avocation in the cumulative, progressive betterment of the lot of mankind? Only a society based on cooperation and the provision of goods and services for use – and not one oriented around the goal of profit for the entitled and the artificial scarcity which that goal requires -  can orient our imaginations towards more noble ends.

  • Kestutis Kestas

    ;

  • Gaston-Pierre Julien

    The art of the impossible, possible for the right person.

  • Suzanne

    My favorite is still the running horses … made of rebar and rubber tires? They were beautiful running free across the playa.

  • LennyTHEshark

    Wow..so much GREAT art missing from this list: 1997 Temporal Decomposition (Ice Ball) , 1997 Bone Arch 1998 Water Woman, 1999 Pepe’s Opera Stage Stupa, 1999 Bone Tree, 1999 L2K Lights, 2000 The Body Art, 2000 The Goat, 2001 Flock 2001 Monkey Temple Maze, 2002 Larry’s Duck Casino, 2003 Temple of Gravity, 2002 Chandelier, 2002 Contessa, 2003 Iraqi War Memorial, 2004 Colossus, 2004 The Machine (clock)………….

    • Békefi Róbert

      Hello dear Lenny,

      Could you be so kind and share the pictures you have? It would be a great pleasure to see them! I would be really grateful, you would really cheer me up! Thanks, Robert

  • Cole

    Where are the monkeys, or swimmers, or any projects done by that same artist (can’t remember the name)… The interactive element to them was incredible…. Love the stuff on the list, but I can’t believe that artist wasn’t represented with at least one piece.

    • cleveland

      16
      Charon by Peter Hudson, 2011

      • SantaFrancisco

        Charon was done by Pete ( Crossing the river Styx), but I agree the “Monkeys” should be represented here, but then again the real list is our minds right :) through the memories we created through them all, awesome job to everyone on the list and those on our other lists too :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Harrison/585097802 Adam Harrison

    You know Burning Man existed before 2YK, and has had amazing art going far further back that what you detail here. Let’s not forget the old stuff.

    • http://matadornetwork.com/ Carlo Alcos

      i think it’s more a commentary of how ubiquitous digital cameras have become over the last decade or so.

  • bla

    where is the sunken ship ?!

  • me

    what about the monkeys? or that ship from last year? or that drawing i did on the ground with my finger?

  • me

    Would have been nice if some of the older art had been included.

  • Dr Dredlok

    Feelin’ luckier than usual…2006 & 2011 Burns, half the list were/are/forever my favs. This year, the helper beings in charge of my staying above ground have decided the physical body won’t be there. But what in a way of being called Huna informed me of, I know the Aka cords are already in place. Thanks, and feel ya later….peace

  • Veneziano

    A society only valuing the provision of goods and services seems positively soulless. And where is the profit for the entitled in this art?

  • Veneziano

    One writer’s opinion kids, don’t get all offended if your favorites aren’t here. Impossible to rank really – art is far too subjective.

  • Michelle51

    Just a note on two of the featured pieces. Passage and Crude Awakening are both the artistic work of Karen Cusolito so her name should go first before the co-producer and other collaborators. Karen is the sole designer and primary sculptor of the human figure series and subsequent botanical series.

  • Karen Oh

    #12 -Temple of Transition – YOU MISSED VANCOUVER, BC as part of the crew. We had over 20 of us from Vancouver on the Temple Crew and we built the Union Altar in Vancouver and brought it down. Vancouver is a big part of the IAM. Sad to be left off.

    • Katie Scott Aiton

      Be sad no more Karen, sorry about that updating this now, credit shall be given! Good work.

  • Ciaran Olsen

    Great photos, those two trucks in the air are crazy! makes me want to go to burning man even more!

  • Keith Moore

    No mention of Thunderdome? I know they were simply recreating a cheesy 80s movie setpiece, but it was so cool!

  • Jeana C

    Coyote is by Bryan Tedrick

  • Thatgirl

    Hey Katie? In #42, the phrase you were looking for is “tongue-in-cheek.”

  • Lee

    “ART HAS BECOME the defining feature of Burning Man” That’s funny. Art has always been the defining feature of Burning Man.

  • Queen bee

    Aurora by Charlie Gadeken- you totally missed that one! After going for 17 yrs there are just too many favs for me to pick.. But I would have included some older stuff too- maybe 100 best art pieces?

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