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Seven Magic Mountains

a group of people on a beach

Every day travelers from California and Nevada drive past the Seven Magic Mountains on I-15 but not everyone stops to admire it up close! This art installation was created by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone and commissioned by the Nevada Museum of Art and Art Production Fund. The price to create these “gems in the desert” was $3.5 million dollars mostly from private donors. Aria Hotel and Resort was the largest donor but many other resorts and casinos also contributed. Seven Magic Mountains is located near Jean Dry Lake Bed, 26 miles from the Las Vegas Strip. 

This isn’t the first time the area has hosted art installations. The first was in in 1962 when two artists created sculptures from junk and then blew them up for a live NBC broadcast. Opening in May 2016 Seven Magic Mountains was meant to be up for only two years, but its popularity has extended its time and there is discussion of keeping it until 2026. Since its opening, more than two million people have visited the site to marvel at Rondinone’s work. Ugo Rondinone was born in 1964 in Brunnen Switzerland. He studied at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and in 1998 moved to New York City. One of his best-known exhibitions, Human Nature, was unveiled at Rockefeller Center in 2013. You can see the inspiration for Seven Magic Mountains in this work of nine bluestone slabs that imitated totems. Rondinone describes his pieces as influenced by the popular art styles of land art and pop art from the 60’s and 70’s. He wanted Seven Magic Mountains to contrast from its brown, barren landscape and it certainly does! These 33 colored boulders mimic stacked rock cairns that have been left behind by travelers to indicate their presence for centuries. In fact, all over the area, you can see tourists having created their own stacked rocks in imitation.

 Each of Rondinone’s “mountains” is between 30-35 feet high and remains upright with a steel rod holding the boulders in place. How did they create this work of art? One boulder at a time! The 25-ton boulders needed to be cut, cored, stacked, and painted and it took about a year to accomplish all the necessary steps. Planning and executing this megalithic art piece also took much legal preparation and red tape. In fact, a special law was passed specifically for Seven Magic Mountains to reduce the liability of Rondinone and the producers in case the public “does something stupid” such as climbing (and subsequently falling) from the stones. Luckily, no one has found themselves on the wrong side of this law!

With over 150,000 hashtags on Instagram, Seven Magic Mountains is a go-to stop for those wanting their photos taken with Rondinone’s magical work. Much like the Las Vegas Strip’s famous lights, these stones light up Nevada’s desert landscape. Don’t miss out on this colorful creation, they might not be here much longer! Take a combo tour and see Seven Magic Mountains and the Hoover Dam in one day!

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