Goldwell Open Air Museum

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Rhyolite Historic Townsite, Rhyolite, NV, USA
(702) 870-9946

Goldwell Open Air Museum Rhyolite Reviews

vances vances
575 reviews
The Last Sculpture Dec 27, 2016
I suspect the Goldwell Open Air Museum would not have made an impression on me were it not for the location. But the setting for the small collection of funky sculptures is a vast desert landscape with the only signs of humanity being a few decaying buildings from the adjacent ghost town of Rhyolite. In the middle of nowhere, the gathering of intriguing sculptures becomes whimsical and delightful.

The most intriguing of the pieces here is the genesis of the museum. “The Last Supper” is a ghostly recreation of da Vinci’s masterpiece, but with a literal twist. The figures are represented as white shrouds absent a body, lined up single file without the benefit of a table for Christ’s final feast. The art was created by Albert Szukalski in 1984 by wrapping fabric drenched in plaster around models striking appropriate poses. Because the local environment reminded Szukalski of Palestine, the setting was indeed the inspiration and the artist subsequently coated everything in fiberglass to endure the harsh climate. While Szukalski only expected the pieces to last a few years, they proved remarkably durable, though several have been damaged (and replaced) over time – the suspects being vandals or perhaps the wild donkeys roaming the Mojave Desert.

This fascinating rendering drew others to add their own creations, and Szukalski added several more works before passing away around 2000. After his death the site was converted into a charitable organization and today survives as a brilliantly remote artistic installation. The “Last Supper” tops my list of Goldwell sculptures, but among my favorites are:

Sit Here! - a splendid mosaic couch by Sofie Siegmann, whose vibrant colors scream for attention amidst the muted browns of the barren desert landscape

Tribute to Shorty - most visible from afar, this sculpture (by Fred Bervoets) oddly pairs a rendering of Shorty Harris, who was apparently the miner who first struck gold here, standing beside a penguin? I found inserting a penguin into the desert surroundings charmingly playful and is apparently a self-portrait to illustrate how out of place the native Belgian artist felt working here.

There are several more fun exhibits and for no charge it is well worth the visit. An interesting small building sits in the middle of the sculptures and seemed to be a mini-museum/gift shop, but was closed during our visit.
Goldwell Open Air Museum - let's c…
"The Last Supper" was the beginnin…
Icara - a female personification o…
Stepping back to view Icara in its…
4 / 4 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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cotton_foam cotton_f…
316 reviews
its oddity makes it worth checking out if you are in the Death Valley area Jan 03, 2015
Besides the Bottle House, in Rhyolite Townsite, another unlikely attraction we stumbled upon is an outdoor museum called; the Goldwell Open Air Museum. I thought it was “unlikely” because of its location. Of all places why the remote upper portion of the vast Mojave Desert? It seemed out of place!

Goldwell Open Air Museum was founded in the 1980s by a group of Belgian artists led by the late Albert Szukalski (Poland-born, but grew up and lived in Belgium.) However, there are no accounts how he got into this place. I am just assuming he probably has visited the nearby Death Valley National Park and came to visit Rhyolite Ghost Town. And maybe (just maybe) seeing this vast landscape, the serenity of the desert, and the abundance of sunshine drawn him it was a perfect place for his sculpture artworks.

Some of the sculptures to enjoy are:

A ghostly life-size version of the Last Supper

A 25-foot pink woman made from cinder blocks

A 24-foot steel prospector and a penguin

A curved winged woman reaching for the sun from atop a wooden pillar

A colorful mosaic couch and;

Stones labyrinth where visitors may enjoy walking and perhaps meditating on it.

Goldwell Open Air Museum is open to the public all day, every day with no admission fee. There is an onsite visitor center, but was closed at the time of our visit. Everyone is welcome to walk around this sculpture park, whether the visitor center is open or not. Free parking is available as well.

The Goldwell Open Air Museum is located at the Rhyolite Townsite, and near the southern entrance to the ghost town.

While it may not be the kind of art museum worth a special trip because, first; it is in the middle of a desert, and second; the number of exhibits is rather small. And yet, Goldwell Open Air Museum is a unique place to experience art. Its oddity alone makes it worth checking out especially when already in the area.
The Last Supper by Albert Szukalsk…
A curved winged woman reaching for…
11 / 11 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
hanleyscot says:
Congrats on your featured review!
Posted on: Feb 15, 2015
cotton_foam says:
Thank you, dear friends for your congrats greetings! You are the reason, why! (wink wink)
Posted on: Feb 14, 2015
Paulovic says:
Well done, May! Congrats on your featured review of the day!
Posted on: Feb 14, 2015

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