Next to Interstate 15 and close to Jean Dry Lake lies the Seven Magic Mountains. This art project is known for its bright colors and how it stands out against the desert as visitors pass by. It may originally appear small from the interstate, but it is worth pulling over to explore. It is a beautiful work of art that stands out against the landscape surrounding it.

What Are Nevada's Seven Mountains?

The Seven Magic Mountains is a public art installation by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. This piece is site-specific in the Ivanpah Valley, in the middle of the desert and near a few mountain ranges. The seven stacks look like fluorescent totems against the contrasting desert behind them.

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The art piece consists of seven colorful, stacked boulders standing over thirty feet high. The boulders were locally sourced and then stacked three to six high into the dayglow totems that they are today. This exhibit is one of the largest land-based art installations in the United States within the last 40 years. The piece focuses on the symbolism between the natural and artificial worlds, and the location was picked to also physically represent the symbolism.

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Natural Elements To The Mountain Artwork

These towering boulders are able to be seen across the desert landscape of Interstate 15 and are meant to be an intermediary between the natural and the artificial. The ways that he expresses the natural elements in this piece include:

  • Mountain ranges
  • Desert
  • Jean Dry Lake Backdrop
  • Locally sourced limestone boulders

The art installation is near Las Vegas, Nevada, but still in the desert. This adds an interesting element of juxtaposition between nature and the city, and the ways the two intersect and interact.

Artificial Elements To The Mountains

While these boulders are natural, their context within the installation is not. This was intentionally done by the artist to make people feel like they are both in nature but still connected to the city and other people. Artificial elements in the art piece include:

  • Highway
  • Flow of traffic
  • Las Vegas
  • Painted rocks

While it may not seem like much work, it takes a lot of thought to put something where people can feel connected to the artificial world but also feel connected to nature itself.

Timeline Of The Seven Magic Mountains

The Seven Magic Mountains were first started in December of 2015. From idea to completion, this project took 5 years to put together, and cost $3.5 million. At the beginning of the project, Ugo Rondinone had to:

  • Get permission to build on public land
  • Choose the boulders
  • Cut boulders on site
  • Stack the boulders
  • Paint the boulders

The boulders weigh about 40,000 pounds each and were sourced from a nearby quarry before being transported to the current site. The exhibit was funded by the Nevada Museum of Art and the Art Production Fund and opened in May of 2016.

After the art installation opened, Rondinone realized that it was much more popular than he realized. The installation only had two years in its current position, so Rondinone realized that he needed to get an extension in order for the boulders to stay there longer.

Rondinone was approved for a three-year extension in 2018, and the boulders were set to be removed at the end of 2021. Nevada has accepted this piece as an important part of their culture and is hoping the boulders will stay where they are located. The museum is currently working on acquiring a new extension that will allow the exhibit to stay through the end of 2026.

Symbolism In The Seven Magic Mountains Exhibit

Rondinone wanted visitors to be physically and symbolically between the natural and artificial. He also wanted visitors to go see the surrounding nature of Las Vegas because a lot of tourists do not get to see the beauty of the surrounding area. It has also been said by Rondinone that the exhibit is not an intellectual project, but rather something that visitors have to feel as they approach the massive towers.

This exhibit also takes the opportunity to help people experience land art. Land art, also known as earth art, is the use of natural materials to build structures in the natural landscape. Rondinone says that he was merging both pop and land art in this exhibit.

This art exhibit is a wonderful place to stop while visiting Las Vegas or surrounding areas. It is a short drive out of the city, and it lets tourists see the beautiful nature that surrounds the city with one short stop. For visitors that do choose to stop and look, they will see boulders that tower over them; an amazing reminder to take a step back and think about our place within nature.

Best Time To Visit The Seven Magic Mountains

Since the installation is in the desert, visitors are reminded to be mindful of changing weather patterns and extreme heat. There are times that there is flash flooding or seasonal monsoon, so double check what the weather is predicted to be that day.

  • Open: Sunrise to sunset 365 days a year
  • Cost: Free

Visitors are also reminded to bring extra sunscreen, water, and other protective clothing. Occasionally there are snakes so closed-toe shoes are recommended. There are no restroom facilities at the installation.

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