Story of Burning Man event chronicled at Nevada Museum of Art

Burning Man

Aerial photograph of Black Rock City taken by an unknown photographer, 1996. Collection of Nevada Museum of Art Center for Art + Environment Archive Collections. Gift of Michael Mikel


RENO, Nevada – The remarkable story of how a 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 comes together in “City of Dust: The Evolution of Burning Man,” a major exhibition at the Nevada Museum of Art.

Never-before-seen photographs, artifacts, journals, sketches and notebooks reveal how this temporary experimental desert city came to be, and how it continues to evolve. Organized by the Nevada Museum of Art, many items included are drawn from the archive collections of the Museum’s Center for Art + Environment. “City of Dust: The Evolution of Burning Man” opens July 1 and remains on view through Jan. 7 at the Nevada Museum of Art in downtown Reno. In the spring of 2018, the show will travel to the the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

Borrowing methods from anthropology and archaeology, “City of Dust: The Evolution of Burning Man” relies on primary source materials. These historical items trace the civic growth and development of Burning Man’s temporary city that arises annually in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. The exhibition also acknowledges Burning Man’s global impact and touches on what the future may hold for the recently established Burning Man Project.


Burning Man

‘A-Frame Raising,’ photograph by Stewart Harvey of the first Burning Man held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, 1990. Image courtesy of Stewart Harvey


“City of Dust” spans three galleries at the Nevada Museum of Art, each focusing on a specific era in the convergence’s growth and change. Themes include countercultural roots in the San Francisco Bay Area, spontaneous order in the desert, art on the Playa and beyond, Burning Man’s global reach, and Burning Man into the future.

While some of the materials on view 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, home to the largest publicly held collection of Burning Man archives.