Why we can’t have nice things: The disregard and vandalism of ‘Seven Magic Mountains’

Seven Magic Mountains
Photo: Mikayla Whitmore

When Ugo Rondinone’s “Seven Magic Mountains” art installation was vandalized this month, the word on the ground and the webs was: Of course this was going to happen. Didn’t they know this?

Yes, the project’s co-producers knew this. We’re barbarians. We destroy things others create and think it’s hilarious. Someone ruined a Maryland Parkway Zap! box created by Lance Smith, and Chris Bauder’s installation at Decatur and Flamingo was stolen and vandalized last month.

The $3-million budget for the “Seven Magic Mountains” project includes damage mitigation and repairs. But the bigger story is that installing it on public land near Jean Dry Lake Bed required miles of county, state and federal red tape and more than 6,000 hours of labor, with 99 percent of the project’s construction costs going into the Las Vegas economy, said Amanda Horn, spokeswoman for the Nevada Museum of Art. The museum co-produced the two-year installation with New York’s Art Production Fund. That budget also includes education, outreach and programming, and other costs such as installing a turn lane, providing parking and trash bins and installing informational text for those pulling off the freeway to get a closer look at the colorful totems in the desert.

Basically, “Seven Magic Mountains” was handed to Las Vegas and the Mojave whether either wanted it or not, with funding from private donors rather than public dollars. And while some people hated it, many more loved it. The community took it viral. Locals and tourists filled up Instagram feeds. Artists debated its merits or lack thereof. Families and children went to see it.

So when vandals spray-painted the totems with hatred towards women, genitalia, numeric references to sexual positions and “Hella Spiders,” it was a big f*ck you to those who invested time, energy and money, and to locals who loved the piece. It wasn’t surprising. Nor is it over. The museum is exploring additional security measures that could require more funding. Regardless, the installation will stay up for its duration. Nevada Museum of Art representatives are looking to expand its resources and have met with Clark County School District officials regarding discussions of the Rondinone work with students.

Tags: News, Fine Art
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