James Turrell’s Roden Crater, an Artwork 45 Years in the Making, Set to Open…Sooner

James Turrell’s Roden Crater.

Last month, Kanye West visited James Turrell’s monumental art project, Roden Crater. Turrell bought the extinct volcano, located in Northern Arizona, in 01977. Since then, work at the site has been aimed at creating a naked-eye observatory using principles of light and perception similar to Turrell’s more accessible installations, but cosmic in scale. An ever more prevalent element of the mythos of the project is the question of when it will be done. Few have seen it as it’s come together over the decades. Kanye West was so impressed by what he saw that he pledged a $10 million donation.

In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, who broke the story about the donation, West said that he wants the Roden Crater Project to be “experienced and enjoyed for eternity.” Turrell told The Wall Street Journal that he was “thrilled” by the gift, as it comes “at a critical juncture of the project.”

Along with West’s donation, Turrell is also partnering with Arizona State University and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to help bring the project closer to completion. The coalition hopes to raise $200 million for final additions to the site, including:

A series of water-filled chambers are coming, fed by underground wells. One 8-foot-deep pool will reflect every sunrise. In a light-spa complex, bathers will dive under a barrier, emerging outdoors looking out across the horizon. In the fumarole, the volcano’s secondary vent, Turrell imagines a brass bath where transducers hooked to a radio telescope will broadcast the sounds of passing planets and the Milky Way underwater. In another space a visitor will sometimes be able to see his or her shadow with the light of Venus. An amphitheater is on the drawing boards too, as well as a wine cellar.

There is still no public timetable on when the project will be completed, but there is hope that parts of the Roden Crater will be open to the public in the next few years.

Learn More

  • Read our feature about James Turrell’s Roden Crater and other monuments of deep time.
  • Read Fast Company’s recap of Kanye’s donation and the new partnerships Turrell has secured for the Roden Crater.
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