Located on the outskirts of the infamous ghost town of Rhyolite, and just a few short miles from Death Valley National Park, lies the quirky Goldwell Open Air Museum.
The museum’s roots are firmly planted, dating back to its inception in 1984 when Belgian artist Albert Szukalski, installed the first major on-site sculpture, “The Last Supper”. The ghostly depiction of Jesus and his disciples, is based on the Leonardo Da Vinci painting, “The Last Supper”. It was created by Szukalski using live models, he wrapped the models in fabric soaked with plaster. Once the plaster had dried, the models slipped out of their plaster encasements leaving the shell. Fiberglass was coated on the plaster making it weatherproof.
Goldwell is not only the home to Szukalski’s, “Last Supper”, but a number of large pieces of artwork from artist around the globe. Another Belgian artist, Fred Bervoets has contributed a massive sculpture of a miner and his penguin, titled “Tribute to Shorty Harris” (Shorty Harris is a legendary Death Valley Miner). The miner naturally fits in with the environment, after all Rhyolite was home to one of Nevada’s largest mining booms, but the penguin leaves you scratching your head. The museum gives the following explanation for Bervoets’ use of the penguin, “Word has it that Bervoets wanted to include in his sculpture an indication of how “alien” he felt in the Nevada desert. The penguin was the most out-of-place entity the artist could think of to represent his own feelings of displacement under the Mojave sun, a self-portrait then as a penguin in the desert.”
Five additional sculptures are located on the property, as well as an indoor exhibit and gift shop. The outdoor museum can be visited 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The indoor exhibit and gift shop is open Monday – Saturday, from 10am -4pm (2pm in the summer months).
How to get there:
The Gold Well Open Air Museum is located in Nevada near the ghost town of Rhyolite and the mining town of Beatty. It is approximately 4 miles west of Beatty off of State Highway 374, the road that leads to Death Valley, California. Beatty Nevada is 115 miles north of Las Vegas on Highway 95.