Seven Magic Mountains: Art, graffiti, garbage on display

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Seven Magic Mountains appears to have a little less magic these days, now partially covered in graffiti and with trash littering the ground and desert plants surrounding the neon art installation that appears to grow out of the barren Mojave Desert about 15 miles south of Las Vegas along Interstate 15.

The massive locally-sourced boulder stacks were created by internationally-renowned Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. According to the Nevada Museum of Art, it evokes the art of meditative rock balancing. The project was supported by New York’s Art Production Fund and the Nevada Museum of Art, and completed in May 2016.

Seven Magic Mountains was originally slated to be removed in 2018 but has been extended through May 2027.

Now in mid-2022, a visitor to the site is greeted by trash in the dirt parking lot. During the short walk through the desert to the installation, the real ugliness comes into focus. Every one of the ground-level boulders on each of the seven brightly colored stacks of boulders is covered in graffiti.

There is not a trash can to be seen outside of the parking area and only one small sign asking people to “Pack it in – Pack it out.” But even this sign is difficult to see because it has been covered in graffiti and stickers.

Visitors have always been welcome to wander through the neon forest of rocks, touch them, and pose for pictures next to them. But it seems more people are deciding to deface the art with crude graffiti scribbles usually with their own name and the date of when it happened.

The damage to the artwork has not gone unnoticed by the Nevada Museum of Art. “We are aware of the severity of the vandalism and are working on a timeline of repair and restoration,” Nevada Museum of Art spokesperson Rebecca Eckland told 8 News Now. “The Museum is working with the artist, Ugo Rondinone, as well as Clark County Parks and Recreation – who are new partners with the Nevada Museum of Art on this project  — and others to restore the site to its original state.  The considerations for the repair and restoration are many; Seven Magic Mountains is a renowned contemporary artwork and requires specialized conservation and care. We must also be attentive to the delicate nature of the environmental and ecological demands of the surrounding landscape as we plan to repair and restore the site.”

Eckland added the museum should have a timeline set in the next two weeks outlining plans to restore the site.

8 News Now has also reached out to the artist, Ugo Rondinone’s New York-based office, and has not received any comment yet.

There is also some vulgar graffiti spray-painted on some of the rocks leaving tourists, especially families with children, struggling to find a suitable backdrop for a perfect family picture.

Seven Magic Mountains art installation vandalized with graffiti. (Photo: Duncan Phenix, KLAS)

The land where the installation sits is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) but according to the Nevada office of the BLM, Seven Magic Mountains, LLC holds the right-of-way for the site and is responsible for maintaining the area including graffiti removal. 8 News Now has also reached out to this group and has not received a comment.

For now, Seven Magic Mountains remains open to the public, graffiti included. “Seven Magic Mountains elicits continuities and solidarities between human and nature, artificial and natural, then and now,” Rondinone is quoted as saying by the Nevada Museum of Art.

It’s a thought that might have been more future-telling than the artist ever imagined, or maybe not.