Those who’ve never spent days covered in dust at Burning Man’s temporary metropolis on “The Playa” have likely seen photos from the eccentric event posted to social media around Labor Day each year. But a traveling exhibition called No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man brings various experimental art installations from throughout the festival’s history to an even more accessible location—a museum gallery. After previous stops in U.S. cities such as Washington, D.C., and Cincinnati, the in-depth Burning Man exhibition is celebrating its final hurrah in Oakland, California—not far from where the spectacle originated.
The first Burning Man gathering took place in 1986 when around 35 spectactors joined on San Francisco’s Baker Beach to watch as an eight-foot sculpture of a man made from lumber burned to the ground. A few years later, the blossoming festival relocated to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to accommodate its swelling popularity (and to address fire hazard concerns). In the three decades since its inauguration, the art-focused festival has grown to attract 70,000 attendees, including international travelers, experimental artists, and dedicated ravers—and in recent years even tech executives and celebrities.
The dedicated exhibition will be on view at the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) from October 12, 2019, through February 16, 2020. The OMCA exhibit will feature a collection of works and large-scale installations from the increasingly popular desert event, including various creations by Bay Area artists such as jewelry, costumes, and “mutant” vehicles. Additionally, a special OMCA commission for the exhibition—a 40-foot outdoor temple created by internationally renowned sculptor David Best—will be located in one of the museum’s public spaces for visitors to explore. (OMCA organizers describe the installation as “multi-sensory and immersive.”)
In true Burning Man spirit, OMCA will run special programming associated with the exhibition throughout this fall and winter, including after-hours gallery tours, a free-to-attend “Playa Pop-Up” that emulates the open artmaking opportunities offered in Black Rock City, and a conversation series led by Burning Man’s founding members. About a month after the exhibition opens its final run in Oakland, a “Burning Man Block Party” featuring art cars, dancers, DJs, and fire will take over OMCA’s popular Friday Nights—a weekly event series during which the museum stays open with extra activities until 10 p.m.—on November 8. During that same weekend on Saturday (November 9) and Sunday (November 10), various maker studios across Oakland will participate in “Beyond Burning Man: Bay Area Open Studios,” welcoming visitors into their workshops between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. to see where Burning Man art is created. (More event details will be available soon on OMCA’s website.)
In addition to No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, a companion exhibition called City of Dust: The Evolution of Burning Man will be on view at OMCA from October 2019 through February 2020. The exhibit (produced by the Nevada Museum of Art) will trace Burning Man’s 33-year history, following the festival’s trajectory from its counterculture roots in the Bay Area to its world-famous status in Black Rock City today.
The Oakland Museum of California is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (and until 10 p.m. on Fridays). General admission costs $16 for adults, $11 for seniors (65+) and students with identification, and $7 for youth (between 9 and 17). Children 8 years and under enter for free.