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Oakland Museum of California Announces Major Exhibition Opening October 2019—No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man


(OAKLAND, CA) July 16, 2019—In October 2019, the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) will bring cutting-edge artwork, sculpture, and interactive installations from Burning Man, one of the most widely-celebrated and influential cultural events, to its galleries. No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man will illuminate the event’s origins, and its culture of experimentation, collaboration, and creativity, which draws over 70,000 people to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert each year.


An adaptation of the original exhibition organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in collaboration with Burning Man Project, No Spectators will take over OMCA’s Great Hall and beyond, going outside of the walls of the gallery with outdoor sculpture throughout the Museum’s public spaces, including an OMCA-commissioned 40-foot-tall outdoor temple by internationally-acclaimed sculptor David Best. A companion exhibition within the gallery, City of Dust: The Evolution of Burning Man, organized by the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, will trace Burning Man’s origins from its countercultural roots in the San Francisco Bay Area to the world-famous city in the desert it is today.


Burning Man is deeply rooted in California and the Bay Area—the first “burn” took place on San Francisco’s Baker Beach in 1986. Today, the event attracts thousands of makers, artists, and innovators, who together create a temporary city in the desert filled with theme camps, impromptu performances, and experimental art installations, many of which are then ritually burned to the ground. After traveling from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery to the Cincinnati Art Museum, No Spectators will make its West Coast debut and final stop in Oakland, home to many of the artists and collaborators featured in the exhibition. 


In addition to the local connections to Oakland and California, OMCA’s own core values and community engagement are closely aligned with the 10 Principles of Burning Man: Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-Reliance, Radical Self-Expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, and Immediacy. These themes will be explored in the exhibition and in a variety of public programs and events created in partnership with collaborating community artists, makers, and volunteers.


“Over the past 30 years, Burning Man has grown to become one of the most innovative and awe-inspiring cultural events in the country, hosting more than 300 art installations in the harsh desert environment each year,” said Lori Fogarty, OMCA Director and CEO. “We couldn’t be more excited to showcase some of the spectacular works—many made right here in Oakland—that were once shown on the Playa, bringing our visitors a taste of the creativity and radical self-expression of this community. Burning Man’s principles have many similarities to OMCA’s own mission to inspire all Californians to create a more vibrant future for themselves and their community.


No Spectators will also feature commissioned works, jewelry, gifts, costumes, “mutant” vehicles, photography, ephemera, paintings, artifacts, and other items. Many of the featured artworks will invite visitor interaction and touch—a unique element of the exhibition experience. During the weekend of Saturday, November 9 and Sunday, November 10, various maker studios in Oakland will open their doors for Beyond Burning Man: Bay Area Open Studios where visitors can go behind the scenes and discover local sites where Burning Man art is created. Over the course of the exhibition, volunteers from the Burning Man community will help guide visitors in hands-on craft activities inside the gallery. The exhibition will explore how creating for others, or with others—whether it’s a craft, artwork, structure, or performance—is a meaningful way to create and participate in community.


No Spectators will also come to life through special programming and in-depth conversations. On Sunday, November 17 and Sunday, January 19, OMCA will host free Playa Pop-Ups, including campus-wide activities led by Burning Man volunteers and artists that encourage visitor engagement, such as the creation of whimsical miniatures, explorations in playa-wear worn at Burning Man, and other workshops where visitors can experiment with dance, music, and radical self-expression. During three Thursday nights—November 14, December 5, and January 9—experience No Spectators After Dark from 6–10 pm, including special late-night access to the exhibition, artist activations with special appearances by Burning Man artists, and light bites and drinks inside the gallery.


On Friday, November 8, a special Burning Man Block Party will take over OMCA’s popular Friday Nights at OMCA, closing down the surrounding 10th and Oak Streets with interactive art cars from the Playa, fire dancing and flame demonstrations by The Crucible, a mass of marching bands and music, Off the Grid food trucks, and more, expanding across OMCA’s gardens and entire campus.


Beyond interactive activities, visitors will have the opportunity to hear from artists and founders of Burning Man as part of OMCA’s In Conversation speaker series, including a discussion on Saturday, December 7 about the art and creativity of Burning Man and what it takes to build a city in the dust.


No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man will be on view October 12, 2019–February 16, 2020.


No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man is organized by the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

City of Dust: The Evolution of Burning Man is organized by the Nevada Museum of Art.

The museums especially thank colleagues from Burning Man Project, a nonprofit public benefit corporation, for their close collaboration and assistance throughout the preparation of this exhibition and tour. 


Lead support for the exhibition was provided by Intel and Bently Foundation. Support for the exhibition’s tour is provided by the C. F. Foundation, Atlanta, Georgia and the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment Fund. 




¡El Movimiento Vivo! Chicano Roots of Days of the Dead

Gallery of California Art

October 16, 2019–February 16, 2020

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of OMCA’s beloved Días de los Muertos celebration with an exhibition inspired by the Chicano activists who introduced Días de los Muertos traditions to the United States in the 1970s. ¡El Movimiento Vivo! Chicano Roots of Days of the Dead will honor and explore the lesser-known origins of Days of the Dead, and the ways these traditions continue to inspire social and political change today.

Visitors will encounter altars, artworks, and interactive elements that show how Chicano activists used Days of the Dead traditions to foster pride in their indigenous heritage and unify their communities. Experience a Oaxacan style ofrenda and hear first-hand stories of the Chicanos who went to Oaxaca to gather Days of the Dead traditions from elders. Honor members of the first Chicano generation and their enduring legacy through a series of colorful ofrendas created by contemporary artists, interactive features, and intergenerational conversations captured on film. Other elements—from historical objects, a mural, and a sculpture that sparked the first Days of the Dead celebrations at OMCA—will immerse viewers in the evolving identities, traditions, and artistic expressions of the Chicano community, both then and now.


You Are Here: California Stories on the Map

Gallery of California Natural Sciences

On view February 2, 2020

We all use maps in our everyday lives—to navigate public transportation, find places to eat, and visualize big data like weather patterns or political opinions. But have you ever considered the deeper stories maps tell us? In You Are Here: California Stories on the Map, you’ll discover there’s more to maps than meets the eye. Showcasing a diverse range of maps from Oakland, the Bay Area, and California—from environmental surroundings and health conditions to community perspectives and creative artworks—experience how maps can be a powerful tool to share unique points of view and imagine a better future. Explore new perspectives of familiar places through maps made by the community, and mark your own stories on the community map inside the exhibition.


Edith Heath: A Life in Clay

Gallery of California Art

June 27, 2020 – November 29, 2020

Trailblazer. Rebel. Revolutionary. Discover the story of Edith Heath, founder and designer of Heath Ceramics. Heath transformed the ceramics industry, creating dinnerware from California clay for “Sunday best” and everyday use. Driven by the power of good design, and a commitment to her craft, Heath’s vision continues to live on through her stoneware and tile over 70 years later. Durable, not delicate, simple, yet stylish, Heath Ceramics is an icon of American design.



Queer California: Untold Stories
Great Hall

Through August 11, 2019
In Spring 2019, the Oakland Museum of California will present a major exhibition exploring California’s LGBTQ+ history and culture. Going beyond mainstream narratives, Queer California: Untold Stories will deepen and expand our understanding of this history through a multifaceted exhibition. Visitors will experience powerful examples of social activism through contemporary artwork and historical materials and view rarely-seen artifacts, archival documents, photographs, costumes, and ephemera such as zines, stickers, and flyers. The exhibition aligns important milestones in LGBTQ+ culture with lesser-known stories, focusing on a diversity of queer identities, civil rights, and resistance to oppression.
Visitors themselves can share the events and places in California that have impacted their personal experiences, thereby creating a participatory in-gallery display that maps queer sites and reflects the range of the state’s queer history and expression. Queer California presents a future of possibility; through themes of memory, mourning, anger, desire, and hope, this exhibition draws on histories of struggle for self-determination to help us imagine a more inclusive future. There is a $5 charge for this special exhibition in addition to regular Museum admission.


Black Power

Gallery of California History


Uncover the history of the Black Power movements in California with a compelling addition to the Gallery of California History. In response to the widely-popular 2016 exhibition All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50, this new installation will illustrate the creative ways black anti-racist activists in California supported their communities and challenged the U.S. government. Focusing on the example of the Black Panther Party, Black Power will bring to light the tensions between a culturally and socially progressive California and examples of economic racism and oppression in the state. This moment in California history will be represented through historic photographs, provocative objects, iconic posters, paintings and interactive prompts that encourage visitors to take action out in the world. Learn more about the Bay Area role in this national story, and the impacts this history continues to have today.


Mildred Howard’s TAP: Investigation of Memory

Gallery of California Art

Through September 1, 2019

Discover Mildred Howard’s TAP: Investigation of Memory, a powerful multimedia installation that examines themes of identity, church culture, gentrification, dance, activism, and more. Born to activist parents, Howard’s family lineage and community inform much of her work. Part of OMCA’s Collection, this major artwork incorporates an antique shoe-shine stand from Oakland’s historic California Hotel, once a cultural center for the Black community, as the altar-like centerpiece, alongside white shoes and metal shoe taps arranged in a pattern covering the gallery floor. Symbolizing memories from her past and tap dance’s influence on her life, learn how Howard’s work has helped shape the narrative of activism in the Bay Area and continues to inspire artists today.


Take Root: Oakland Grows Food
Gallery of California Natural Sciences

Through November 2019

Unearth Oakland’s multi-layered world of food in Take Root: Oakland Grows Food, an exhibition exploring aspects of growing food in Oakland. Enjoy this hands-on exhibition with the entire family to understand what factors determine where, how, why, and what is grown throughout the city. Hear personal stories from farmers and growers within the community, see compelling illustrations and maps, and meet the diverse flavors of Oakland. Learn what motivations Oaklanders have for growing food—including access to healthy and delicious ingredients, environmental and social justice values, or simply the joy of tending a garden. Visitors will be invited to share personal stories, explore interactive activities, and gain a deeper understanding of Oakland’s agriculture.


Question Bridge: Black Males

Gallery of California Art


Hailed as one of the Bay Area’s Top Exhibitions by the San Francisco ChronicleQuestion Bridge: Black Males returns to the Oakland Museum of California’s Gallery of California Art. Immerse yourself in intimate videos—woven together and arranged to simulate face-to-face conversations between participants—among a diverse group of over 160 Black men across the United States. Hear these men answer each other’s questions with exceptional honesty and vulnerability, and share stories, beliefs, and values in a personal portrayal of their lives. Encompassing themes of family, love, interracial relationships, community, education, and wisdom, Question Bridge: Black Males presents nuanced portraits of past, present, and future of Black men in American society. Listen, watch, learn, and start your own conversations with this profoundly moving installation.


A recent acquisition to the Oakland Museum of California’s permanent collection, Question Bridge is an innovative and widely exhibited video installation from artists Chris Johnson and Hank Willis Thomas in collaboration with Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair. Joining the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Brooklyn Museum, OMCA is proud to acquire this groundbreaking and poignant work for its collection.


Burning Man Project, a nonprofit organization, produces the annual Burning Man event in Black Rock City, and works year-round to extend and facilitate the culture that has grown from the event into the larger world. Burning Man Project provides inspiration, connection, education, and grants to a creative ecosystem of builders, makers, artists, and community leaders. Its work spans six interconnected program areas: Art, Education, Civic Involvement, Culture, Philosophical Center, and Social Enterprise. An ever-growing global network supports and furthers these efforts in 44 U.S. states and 39 countries around the world. Visit for more information.



Nevada Museum of Art is the only art museum in Nevada accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). A private, non-profit organization founded in 1931, the Reno-based, statewide 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 opportunities for people to engage with a range of art and educational experiences. Its Center 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 Burning Man, Cape Farewell, Michael Heizer, Walter de Maria, Lita Albuquerque, Center for Land Use Interpretation, Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains, and Trevor Paglen’s Orbital Reflector. Learn more at


The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) tells the many stories that comprise California, creating the space and context for greater connection, trust, and understanding between people. Through its inclusive exhibitions, public programs, educational initiatives, and cultural events, OMCA brings Californians together and inspires greater understanding about what our state’s art, history, and natural surroundings teach us about ourselves and each other. With more than 1.9 million objects, OMCA brings together its multi-disciplinary collections of art, history, and natural science with the first-person accounts and often untold narratives of California, all within its 110,000 square feet of gallery space and seven-acre campus. The Museum will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019 as a leading cultural institution of the Bay Area and a resource for the research and understanding of California’s dynamic cultural and environmental heritage for visitors from the region, the state, and around the world.


The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is at 1000 Oak Street, at 10th Street, in Oakland. Museum admission is $16 general; $11 seniors and students with valid ID, $7 youth ages 9 to 17, and free for Members and children 8 and under. There is a $5 charge in addition to general admission pricing for special exhibitions. OMCA offers onsite underground parking and is conveniently located one block from the Lake Merritt BART station, on the corner of 10th Street and Oak Street. The accessibility ramp is located at the 1000 Oak Street main entrance to the Museum.


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