Myths and Monuments

Myths and Monuments

The spirit of Burning Man is arriving in rural England this spring with a groundbreaking exhibition at Chatsworth House
The spirit of Burning Man is arriving in rural England this spring with a groundbreaking exhibition at Chatsworth House

C hatsworth House has a rich and well-known connection to art – with everything from artist residencies to regular talks programmes, and a collection spanning ancient sculpture to contemporary painting – but this year a particularly extraordinary exhibition on a huge scale is taking place in its thousand-acre park. The country estate in Derbyshire is the first UK venue to host an exhibition of huge sculptures from the famed Nevada event Burning Man, which sees a temporary “city” emerge each year in the Black Rock Desert.

Chatsworth House
Courtesy: Chatsworth House Trust INDIA HOBSON/HAARKON

Radical Horizons: The Art of Burning Man at Chatsworth came about after Sotheby’s made the introduction between the two organisations in 2021. The auction house was already a long-time collaborator with Chatsworth House, and had just worked with Burning Man Project on a charity auction, Boundless Space… The Possibilities of Burning Man. The Chatsworth exhibition will be free to enter, giving visitors the chance to be among the artworks at their leisure. These works – four of which will be built on site with the support of local schools and the community – have been selected to be in harmony with the landscape, the ethos of Burning Man and Chatsworth and the history of the land. Together they tap into English mythology and the openness and spiritual creativity of Burning Man to bring a taste of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to the countryside.

Randy Polumbo, Lodestar, 2018
Courtesy: Randy Polumbo and Espresso Buzz

“As organisations, Chatsworth and Burning Man Project are similar, which seems implausible on the surface,” says Sarah Owen, director of development at Chatsworth and the Devonshire Group. “But we’re both charities, we both work with communities and we’re both experienced in presenting extraordinary art in the landscape. This felt like a bold, brave initiative.”

“We would love this project to result in a legacy of working with new audiences through art and events in the landscape. You could call it a statement of intent”

Works by artists who have participated in Burning Man will be placed around the park, including Adrian Landon’s Wings of Glory, a kinetic galloping horse, and Rebekah Waites’ tribute to a stone circle in Stanton Moor in the Peak District. Legend states that the nine parts of this circle represent women who were turned to stone for dancing. Waites’ work will be burned, in the tradition of Burning Man, releasing these women from their fate.

Adrian Landon, Wings of Glory, 2019
Courtesy: Adrian Landon

Kim Cook, director, creative initiatives at Burning Man, says many of the sculptures tap into English folklore. “The iconography of the works we have is very mythic, raising questions about the [connection between] mythology and human consciousness,” she says. “How do we all make up the narratives we use to interpret our own lives? And how might people who come to this exhibit avoid being constrained by existing mythologies, and instead create new stories in relation to these things?”

Christina Sporrong, The Flybrary, 2019 (in the foreground is Charles Gadeken, Murder Inc, 2019)
Photo: Tex Allen. Courtesy: Christina Sporrong and Charles Gadeken

Community and visitor events, ranging from dances to school visits, will take place throughout the summer, as part of an engagement programme celebrating the works and the landscape. Owen sees this kind of co-operation as symbolic of Chatsworth House’s vision.

Benjamin Langholz, Stone 27, 2019
Dan Adams

“We want to ensure as many people as possible are able to experience this project, so it will be free to enter,” she says. “Chatsworth would love this project to result in a legacy of working with new audiences through art and events in the landscape – you could call it a statement of intent. This is what we would like to develop. One of our charitable objectives is to ensure as many people can come and experience everything here.”

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