City of Dust: The Evolution of Burning Man

By Nevada Museum of Art

The first Man on Baker Beach, 1986 (Photo by Jerry James)

City of Dust: The Evolution of Burning Man, the recently-opened exhibition at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, explores the story of how the legendary Nevada gathering evolved through collaborative ritual from humble countercultural roots on San Francisco’s Baker Beach into the world-famous desert convergence it is today.

Borrowing methods from anthropology and archaeology, this exhibition relies on primary source materials such as archives, artifacts, journals, sketches and notebooks. These historical items trace the civic growth and development of Burning Man’s temporary city in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. The exhibition also acknowledges Burning Man‘s global impact and touches on what the future may hold for Burning Man Project.

While some of the materials are on loan from private collections, most are drawn from the Archive Collections of the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art. The museum is home to the largest publicly held collection of Burning Man archives anywhere, and researchers travel from around the world to study these materials while seeking to better understand Burning Man’s legacy.

To begin this narrative, the exhibition curators amassed more than 300 objects from the personal collections of Burning Man Project founders, early instigators, artists and global participants. These objects will surely catalyze a cavalcade of memories for visitors. Whether you have been burning since the beginning or have only recently joined the community, it’s worth visiting this show and reveling in this remarkable history.

Aerial photo of BRC 1996 (Photographer unknown, gift of Michael Mikel)

Still, this exhibition is only beginning to unravel the story. Through City of Dust, the Nevada Museum of Art hopes not only to shine a light on this vibrant, participatory community, but also to illustrate how its radically experimental nature connects to the desert and to the region of the Greater West.

City of Dust: The Evolution of Burning Man is on view at the Nevada Museum of Art in downtown Reno, Nevada until January 7, 2018. Over the next several months, the Museum will host numerous engaging talks and special programs that not only shine a light on the myriad stories entwined in this evolution, but that also connect it to a global conversation.

If you are around this week, join us for the First Thursday Burning Man Celebration on  Thursday, July 6, from 5 to 7 pm, at the Museum.

About the author: Nevada Museum of Art

Nevada Museum of Art

Nevada Museum of Art is the only AAM accredited art museum in Nevada. A private, non-profit organization founded in 1931, the Reno-based institution is supported by its membership as well as sponsorships, gifts and grants. Through its permanent collections, original exhibitions and programming, and E.L. Cord Museum School, the Nevada Museum of Art provides meaningful opportunity for people to engage with a range of art and educational experiences. ItsCenter for Art + Environment is an internationally-recognized research center dedicated to supporting the practice, study, and awareness of creative interactions between people and their environments. The Center houses unique archive materials from more than 1,000 artists working on all seven continents, including Cape Farewell, Michael Heizer, Walter de Maria, Lita Albuquerque, Burning Man, Center for Land Interpretation, and Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains. Learn more at

2 Comments on “City of Dust: The Evolution of Burning Man