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. 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.

For more details about Burning Man’s art throughout the years and the artists behind the installations, check out their Culture Historical Archives here.

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


R-Evolution, 2015

"Constructed of steel rod and balls and covered in stainless steel mesh, with LED lighting effects, R-Evolution is a 48-foot tall sculpture of a woman, Deja Solis, standing firmly with both feet on the ground, eyes closed, arms open at her sides, palms forward, a peaceful expression - present." Photo by Ellie Pritts


LOVE, 2015

Love, by Ukrainian artist Alexander Milov, is an expression of conflict between a man and a woman and the internal struggle in human nature in general. When the sun goes down the child-shaped sculptures glow, representing hope in times of darkness. Photo by Gerome Viavant


Crude Awakening, 2007

The main theme of this installation was to envisage the downfall of the US Empire and fossil-fueled civilization. What better way to do that than with 900 gallons of jet fuel and 2,000 gallons of liquid propane? The installation was split into three parts: construction, destruction, and rebirth. In the beginning the constructors erected a 90-foot oil derrick with stairs to the clouds, dominating the Playa’s southern skyline. Nine figurative steel sculptures, weighing 7 tons each and standing 30-foot tall surrounded the derrick. Photo by I Love Trees


The EGO Project, 2012

A small word with big connotations, it's the simpler structures that really speak to me. Perhaps this is because, like me, Laura is dyslexic. This just goes to show the beautiful things people with this frustrating life hiccup can achieve - I may, however, have written "OGE." The EGO Project introduces Laura Kimpton's collaboration with Michael Garlington in the newest addition to Kimpton's Burning Man Word Series. Each letter stands 20-foot tall, 10-foot wide, and 4-foot deep, guilded with 10,000 gold trophies. Simple, clear, poignant. Photo by Bexx Brown-Spinelli


Big Al, 2014

Big Al is a 21.5-foot tall wooden alligator from the New Orleans Burning Man Community. Photo by blmnevada


Pulse Portal, 2016

The portal acts as a gateway to a distant and magical world. Photo by Scott Sporleder


Bliss Dance, 2010

This unique modern steel sculpture reaches 40 feet into the heavens and challenges all past engineering feats and techniques seen in previous years. The dancing lady has been crafted to celebrate humanity, feminine beauty, and the power that can be harnessed when there is balance on our earth. Photo by John Curley


Key Note, 2009

Michael Christian makes the kind of art that resonates with everyone. It's made entirely from locks - all kinds of locks, from bike locks to padlocks. I can only image seeing this eerie man come into sight through the dust storms, dragging the large key behind him. Michael states that the man is in search of another key, the right key, a paradox of life as we know it. Photo by William Neuheisel



Famous for their Big Words series at the festival, Laura Kimpton and Jeff Schomberg's installation yet again drew the crowds with BELIEVE, making it one of the most photographed of the installations. BELIEVE enticed onlookers to contemplate what they believe and how their beliefs affect the lives of others on the planet. Photo by Ross Borden


Embrace, 2014

The Pier Group constructed this 7 story tall wooden cathedral representing two human figures in an embrace. The group stated: "It is a spiritual center dedicated to the moment and our relationships with our loved ones." Photo by Raquel Baranow


Balloon Chain, 2012

This may be my favorite installation over the years. No, it's not breathing fire or reaching tangled metalwork towards the sun, but it has an essence of simplicity about it that I find enduringly calming. The helium-filled balloons wander through the sky, day and night. Photo by Wolfram Burner


Passage, 2006

This display of motherhood and the rite of passage of a child was constructed by Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito. The sculpture represents a figure of a mother (30-foot tall) and a child (20-foot tall) walking side by side. Their journey and energy is symbolized by a trail of burning footprints which fade as they get further from the figures. Photo by Neil Girling


Temple Project, 2016

This temple was hand-built by David Best. It was extremely ornate, with a large interior altar and a large chandelier. Photo by Scott Sporleder


The Man, 2009

I didn’t think it fitting to do this rundown without putting the spotlight on the magnificent Man himself. Photo by Michael Holden


The Temple of Transition, 2011

It took a crew of over 150 people from around the world converging in the Black Rock Desert to build this outstanding structure. Standing as the 5th-tallest wooden construction in the world at 126-foot, the tiered, hexagonal central tower is surrounded by five 58-foot tiered, hexagonal towers. Like the other temple installations featured here, The Temple of Transition offers a peaceful, contemplative, and deeply emotional space. Photo by Michael Holden


Truth is Beauty, 2013

Marco Cochrane gives us another installment in his monumental sculptures inspired by singer and dancer Deja Solis. Since Bliss Dance in 2010, Burners have been treated to Cochrane's expression of womanhood, and the promotion of female rights and humanity. Photo by Meg Lauber


The Man, 2015

Burning Man 2015's theme was Carnival of Mirrors. The theme posed three core questions: "Within our media-saturated world, where products and people, consumption and communion morph into an endlessly diverting spectacle, who is the trickster, who is being tricked, and how might we discover who we really are?" Photo by blmnevada


Charon, 2011

Charon is a life sized three-dimensional fabrication focusing on the last rite of human passage to the afterlife. At first glance this installation may project a morbid tone, but the artist asks rather than dwelling on our ultimate demise that we think about the positive changes you can make to your life to live a fuller, more peaceful existence. Photo by Jeff Canon


The Dreamer, 2005

The Dreamer was commissioned by Burning Man in 2005 as part of the Psyche' theme. It's a bold and enchanting sculpture of a head half submerged in the vast dry lake of the Playa. Inspired by the images of Magritte and other surrealists, this Burning Man art installation was in part created to explore the issues and challenges facing artistic interpretation of the mind. The sculpture was positioned in a prominent place along a lantern-lit promenade that extended from center camp to the Man and beyond. Photo by Waldemar Horwat


The Temple of Whollyness, 2013

The Temple of Whollyness offered space to reflect upon how to become more whole. Its epic central pyramid was designed with sacred mathematical proportions and constructed using innovative building techniques. It was built completely out of geometric interlocking wood pieces that fit together without the use of nails, glue or metal fasteners. Photo by vjhoming


El Pulpo Mecanico, 2011-2013

El Pulpo Mecanico is a kinetic sculpture of grand scale. Approximately 26-foot tall and 23-foot wide, this flame-throwing octopus drives around the playa, guzzling 200 gallons of propane per night. Photo by Jono Kane


Hands, 2013

Dave Gertler, an engineer and artist based in San Francisco, is a devoted Burner, having participated in the creation of installations for the last 8 years. 2013 saw his team create a 12-foot high pair of wooden hands, a symbol of creativity and construction. Photo by BLM Nevada


Medusa Madness, 2016

California artist Kevin Clark's installation is a towering steel statue of Medusa's head. The snake shaped structures spit fire. Photo by sedriks


Aerial view of Black Rock City, 2007

BRC itself is a piece of art. Photo by Wikimedia Commons


Conexus Cathedral, 2006

The Conexus Cathedral resembles a traditional Gothic Cathedral. With its robust columns and overarching beams, the massive ‘skeleton’ structure aptly resembles a physical expression of hope. Photo by Waldermar Horwat


Altered State, 2008

The structure looks like the United States Capitol, but is composed of white steel carved in the style of Pacific Northwest Native-American imagery. Photo by Ryan Swift


Totem of Confessions, 2015

Michael Garlington returned in 2015 with a 5-story temple. Influenced by ancient Khmer and Vedic architecture. Guests where invited to "experience cathartic release as you liberate your secrets, unearth the hidden lives of those around you, and test your fortune and powers for uncovering concealed nooks and hidden compartments holding relics and gifts from the artists’ own hands." Photo by blmnevada


Duel Nature, 2006

The theme for the 2006 event was "Hope and Fear: The Future." Raudenbush responded to the theme with this sculpture. Always one to pose questions with her art, Raudenbush remarked, "My response to both hope and fear was the same thing - the human race. How do you create a sculpture about the dichotomy of human nature? What’s the one thing that bonds us all together?" She answers her own question through this installation - Can you guess what it is? Photo by John Curley


Uchronian, 2006

The Belgian artists who created the massive Uchronia (quickly dubbed “The Belgian Waffle”) installation produced daily videos of their project, which they uploaded to their website as their development unfolded in Black Rock City. Creators remarked Uchronian represents their take on a Utopian life. This depiction of utopia cost around $800,000. I am not sure about you, but I reckon my life would be pretty euphoric if someone blessed me with a ridiculous ton of cash like that. Photo by Splatworld


I.T., 2006

What does I.T. stand for? Interstellar traveler? Interesting tripod? Intergalactic terrorist? Impressive toilet? The artist Michael Christian's creativity has been an integral part of the festival since 1997. Inspiration for this intimidating installation comes from 1950 science-fiction creatures, notably the War of the Worlds' creature with its large red beacon ray vaporizing those in its path. Recently, when questioned on his artistic vision, Christian remarked: "If you ever are in doubt about an idea, just run it by a 14-year-old. They may not have mastered the sophisticated language around ‘art’ and such, but they will break it down for ya pretty quickly." Photo by msr


Brain Child, 2015

Brain Child's creator, Californian artist, Michael Christian comments on his sculpture, "Brainchild embodies two of the elements of creative exploration I love most- celebrating the inquisitive spirit of play and exploring the plurality of forms that can be expressed through biologically inspired shapes and patterns found in nature." Photo by angeldye


The Temple of Forgiveness, 2007

This immense structure comprises four grand entrance halls that converge onto a central altar. The amphitheater above the altar is open, allowing light to be filtered throughout the day and night, casting interesting shadows and establishing a constant flow of energy, turning this wooden structure into a breathing creature. Known for his large-scale temples constructed from scrap plywood and cast off materials, David has been building massive Burning Man art installations since 2000. The temples have become a powerful main attraction, allowing a space for people to hold remembrances, sit and write, mourn, and contemplate. Photo by Perfecto Insecto


Homouroboros, Tantalus, 2013

The Monkeys are back by popular demand, and instead of bikes to make the carousel spin, Burners (with no instructions) had to figure out that they would need to beat the drums beneath the monkeys in unison to make them go. These guys (pictured) are going to need more people! Photo by Bexx Brown-Spinelli


The Temple of Stars, 2004

Temple of Stars arcs a quarter mile across the Playa, inspired by Japanese sculptural landscapes. The 100-foot structure hold a system of paths that connect to smaller temples along the cardinal points, not to mention bridges, fabricated gardens, and benches placed throughout for participants to reflect. Photo by eddy13


The Ichthyosaur Puppet Project or Dr. Camp's Holy Bones, 2013

Part fictional, part scientific, this 50-foot-long puppet replica depicts Nevada's state fossil, the Ichthyosaur. The project was set to explore the phenomenon of faith and the stories we make and learn about the world and its origins. Photo by Bexx Brown-Spinelli


Fire of Fires Temple, 2009

Drawing inspiration from India, the Middle East, Asia, the Americas, and Africa, the Temple centers on the element of fire. Encased in 32 vertical feet of clear Polycarbonate sheeting, 12 gas lamps come alive as a tornado of flame ignites during interaction with the wooden Temple. Photo by Lorenzo Tlacaelel


Like 4 Real by Dadara Amsterdam, 2013

The Golden Like symbol stands on a massive black altar-like structure, a centre of worship for the "Like Tribe," who built this structure as their central totem. The installation poses questions such as: Does social media strengthen our real physical and emotional bonds as human beings, or does it disrupt our social structures, turning us into Like-clicking autistic zombies? Photo by Ross Borden


Home, 2010

"Home" is a 14-foot, interactive, globe-like spinning metal sculpture. The light bulb inside the sphere projects always-changing and infinitely abstract patterns of maps on the ground around it. Photo by John Mosbaugh


Rubber Horses, 2005

Galloping their way across the Playa, these horse skeletons are constructed from reinforced metal and dressed in scraps of rubber from tires found on the New Jersey Turnpike. Photo by Ryan Swift


The He(art) Communi-Tree, 2010

The Heart Communi-Tree is a wooden assemblage sculpture of a tree made with materials salvaged from the trash. The tree has a heart at the base of its branches. Standing nearly 15-foot tall and 12-foot wide, it's a natural metaphor for community. Photo by New Guy


Coyote, 2013

Burners can mount the structure, which stands 25-foot tall and 24-foot wide, while its kinetic head is able to 360 degrees. Photo by dvsross


The Portal (Aeolian Pyrophonic Hall and Whispering Wall), 2010

This interactive art/music project is constructed of a simple hall that has a wind harp at one end, two massive fire organs which make sound with torch flames, and an interactive whispering wall. Taking inspiration from the windy desert, the creator talks of the experience within the hall; “When you come into this space, when you encounter this portal and these still beings, it is like you are immediately transported into a childhood fantasy story, but it's got a weird strange alien twist to it.” Photo by Jennifer Morrow