Just outside the ghost town of Rhyolite under the searing heat of Nevada’s Mojave Desert stands a strange museum, boasting one of the most mysterious and evocative art installations of the American west. The Last Supper, a collection of giant ghost-like figures garbed in white, are the work of several Belgian artists who travelled to Death Valley in 1984 to escape the confines of Europe and seek inspiration from the desert.
Spearheaded by the late Albert Szukalski, the eerie figures led to the establishment of Goldwell Open Air Museum, which has the added distinction of including an abandoned settlement in its official address – “Near the ghost town of Rhyolite, Nevada”.
According to the website: “Goldwell exists because artists from afar chose the Mojave Desert as a place to make work freely, in contrast with their practice in Europe… There are few other places where such art-making activities could have taken place; the desert is integral to their work.”
Thanks to Szukalski and his team, artists from all over the world seek out this isolated and foreboding destination. The nearby Red Barn Art Center now offers artist residency and workspace programmes, while Goldwell “remains a place for those who seek adventure in their art making in a spectacular and challenging landscape”.
The ghostly figures of The Last Supper bear a striking resemblance to Manfred Kielnhofer’s mystic Guardians of Time – haunting sculptures that have a habit of appearing without warning in public spaces one day and vanishing the next.