See the 12 Wildest Art Installations at This Year’s Burning Man, From a Life-Size Flying Whale to a Robot Hand

See what you're missing on the playa this week.

Dave Keane, Folly at Burning Man 2019. Photo by John Curley, courtesy of Burning Man.

The Burning Man gathering, which brings tens of thousands of people to Nevada’s remote Black Rock Desert each year, is officially underway for 2019. As always, the annual event, which looks to foster a unique sense of community on the playa, is home to larger-than-life artworks that make for spectacular photo opportunities against the dramatic backdrop of the desert sands.

Although many Burners take the opportunity to unplug for the week, and cell phone service and internet access is limited on site, the first images of this year’s event are already starting to roll in through social media.

The highlights include, of course, this year’s titular Burning Man, which will be set ablaze at the end of the gathering. (That tradition could be jeopardized by a red flag fire warning currently in place in Western Nevada, including the Burning Man grounds.) And perennial Burner artists, like Laura Kimpton, known for her giant sculptures of uplifting words like “believe” and “magic,” are returning for the occasion.

Photos of some pieces planned for the gathering have been more difficult to track down, such as Pier Group’s Head Maze, a “four-story, 18-room maze of our subconscious and dreams” housed inside a giant sculpture of a person’s head—so we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled as more images of the gathering are shared.

And if experiencing Burning Man through Instagram isn’t good enough, you can also check out the official gathering live stream, which offers a picturesque view of Black Rock City 24/7 throughout the event.

Without further ado, here are some of this year’s most exciting Burning Man artworks.


Tahoe Mack, Luis Varela-Rico, and Dana Albany, Monumental Mammoth

A Las Vegas teen, Tahoe Mack, won the Girl Scout Gold Award for her sculpture of a Woolly Mammoth. To make it a reality and send it to Burning Man, she teamed up with artists Luis Varela-Rico and Dana Albany. The work looks to highlight the importance of preserving Nevada’s Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument. The life-sized steel Colombian mammoth skeleton has been embellished with metal found objects.


Blake Marcus, SkyWhale


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#skywhale #burningman2019 #burningman #SkyWhaleTheNotShyWhale

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This 24-foot-long technicolor parafoil kite creates the stunning illusion of a life-size whale flying up to 500 feet above the dusty playa. “We hope that the juxtaposition of this elegant sea creature, found only in our struggling oceans, will kindle the flames of imagination and wonder within all who see, touch, and listen to the piece as she arrives into the dusty and inhospitable nature of the desert,” wrote creator Blake Marcus on the project’s GoFundMe page.


Dave Keane, The Folly

Dave Keane has been involved in building some major Burning Man art projects over the years, but 2019 marks the first time that he’s designed one of his own. He imagined the whimsical performance venue as a failed fishing village that then turned to mining, only to have that industry die as well. A mishmash of buildings stacked one on top of the other, the piece is primarily built from salvaged wood.


Benjamin Langholz, Stone 27


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27 Stones #benjaminlangholz

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This mind-bending piece by Benjamin Langholz seems to suspend massive, 1,000-pound stones in midair, creating a 20-foot-tall stairway floating above the playa.

Olivia SteeleArt Park


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OK OK , Now the Cats out of the bag. This is the official reveal of my playa surprise. ? . +-+- SOME WOMEN ARE LOST IN THE FIRE ?. . . AND SOME ARE BUILT FROM IT +-+- . I’m always playing with fire, but in lieu of doing another neon truism for a 5th consecutive year, I will be using FIRE ? in a new way, the first of it’s kind. I have chosen to trade mediums, swapping hand blown glass filled with neon gas for hand bent iron filled with propane gas. Instead of illuminated words, my handwritten sentiment will be ignited ! Born of a desire to have words literally burning, but never destroyed, This is a new technique I have pioneered with the help of my amazing fire master @tomj_jordan ✨?✨. I’m so excited to reveal the largest edition from my new fire place series on the Playa. . The headline installation in the Art Park will be a large-scale fireplace reading “I Wish You Were Here.” This handwritten sentiment evokes a universal sense of desire and longing, which we can all relate to. Below the surface, it explores the dichotomy of presence vs. absence, the synergy of life and death, the relevance past and present. This fireplace will not only provide warmth in the cold desert nights, it also engages spectators in an emotionally charged moment of presence and remembrance. . . a Tribute to all those great ones we’ve loved and lost , and the ones who we had to leave behind. . I am sorry to disappoint anyone who was looking forward to another big neon this year , but don’t worry, for that I’ve created a stunning neon complaints box inside the Art Park, where you can submit your complaints and concerns ??? . You might be saying, those are really generic words , but trust me, seeing it live in person is really powerful. ??This render doesn’t do it justice. . So looking forward to all the future memories on the horizon ! Can’t wait to be reunited with my playa family and all the surreal adventures and human experiences . I am so fortunate indeed . . . #artpark #oliviasteele #playingwithfire #iwishyouwerehere #burningman #burningmanart #playaart #fire #fireplace #originalisanunderstatement #newshit #neverbeendonebefore #readytoburn #fireplaceseries

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The past four years, Olivia Steele has brought her signature neon installations to Burning Man. She’s going in a new direction for 2019 with an installation of 11 works that are not just illuminated, but literally ignited, trading handblown glass for hand-bent iron, filled with propane, not neon gas.


Laura KimptonLOVE

Laura Kimpton is beloved for her massive word sculptures, which have become a fixture at Burning Man. This year’s piece reads “love,” Robert Indiana-style, in silver letters that light up at night.


Geordie Van Der Bosch, Temple of Direction


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#templeofdirection #temple2019 #Burningman #sunrise #halfdone

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Each year since 2000, Burning Man pays tribute to those who have left this left this world with a memorial temple honoring the dead. Architect Geordie Van Der Bosch takes over with a 180-foot-long, 37-foot-wide, 36-foot-tall design inspired by Japanese torii gates, seen here during construction.


Dan Mountain, I.L.Y.


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#burningman2019 #disconnectionfromtheworld #creativity

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A 35-foot-tall animatronic hand and forearm, I.L.Y. can be manipulated using a series of springs, cables, and winches, allowing Burners to make larger-than-life gestures. The artist (who has a very Burning Man-appropriate name), Dan Mountain, hopes that people will see the fingers move, be intrigued to investigate, and perhaps operate the piece themselves. If that’s not enough to capture your attention, the metal sculpture also breathes fire.


The Man


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WOW – what a feeling – @burningman your crew nailed it. What an honor. #burningman2019 #burningman #hybycozo

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David Best, known for his many designs for the Temple, starting with The Temple of the Mind in 2000, has stepped up to help out with the gathering’s namesake sculpture following the death of Burning Man founder Larry Harvey in 2018. Best designed the centerpiece under the Man, constructed as always using Harvey’s now-classic design, while Yelena Filipchuck and Serge Beaulieu of HYBYCOZO came up with the elaborate cocoon-like base on which the sculpture rests.


Chris Carnabuci, Mariposita

Inspired by themes of transformation and rebirth, Chris Carnabuci’s Mariposita depicts a 26-foot-tall woman emerging from an egg.


SquidsoupDesert Wave 


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Desert Wave at burning man! . . . . #lightart #installation #burningman #desert #wave #immersive

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This light-up project features 500 LED bulbs suspended at different heights from a metal frame, creating a dynamic wave of color and sound.


Michael Tsaturyan, Slotnik


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#Slonik #burningman #burningman2019

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Despite measuring a massive 75 feet tall, this inflatable elephant sculpture takes its name from the diminutive form of the animal’s Russian name, slon. The artist, Michael Tsaturyan, hopes to call attention to the evils of elephant abuse in Asia and Africa.


Burning Man 2019 takes place in Black Rock City, Nevada, August 25–September 2, 2019. 

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