Art world astir over mystery monolith found in Utah desert

Is it an artistic installation? A message from an alien life force? Yet more proof that 2020 is set to be one of the strangest years on record?

Whatever it is, the bright, shining monolith spotted in the Utah desert, last week by a helicopter crew has sent conspiracy theorists and art-lovers into an internet frenzy. The rectangular-shaped metal object was first seen by biologists from the Utah Division of Wildlife while completing a routine annual count of bighorn sheep during a helicopter flyover.

Helicopter pilot, Bret Hutchings, of the Utah Department of Public Safety said the gleaming plinth planted in the ground between red rock was “about the strangest thing that I’ve come across out there in all my years of flying.” He set the helicopter down so the crew could get a closer look but found no indication as to who installed it. Hutchings guessed it would measure about 10 to 12ft (3.6m) tall.

The pilot’s theory is that it might have been installed by “some new wave artist” or a fan of the 1968 film Stanley Kubrick film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. In the film, an alien species creates imposing black monoliths that appear to play a key role in man’s evolution from the apes. Speaking to a local news station, Hutchings recalled that as the crew approached the Utah monolith they were “kind of joking around that if one of us suddenly disappears, then I guess the rest of us make a run for it.”

The Utah Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau said authorities would decide whether they needed to investigate the structure further. “It is illegal to install structures or art without authorisation on federally managed public lands, no matter what planet you’re from”, the department confirmed.

The department has deliberately withheld the exact location of the mysterious object for fear that explorers might go in search of it and become stranded in the rugged terrain. Aerial footage released by the department shows the plank located in a red rock canyon, which resembles the distinctive topology of southern Utah.

So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the monolith. Social media is abuzz with conspiracy theories about extraterrestrial visitors. One Twitter user, Dwight Jackson of Calgary, Alberta wrote “Finally someone gets it!… This is the 2020 reset we’ve been waiting for! Where is the mothership…?”.

Others have suggested that it may have been left by the late minimalist artist John McCracken (1934-2011) whose work it is said to resemble. The American artist was best known for his reflective plinth-like ‘Planks’ sculptures. The works were created by coating wooden planks with fiberglass and resin and then applying thin stains of paint. McCracken lived between nearby northern New Mexico and New York until his death.

McCracken’s representative, David Zwirner gallery, originally declined to respond to a request for comment from The Art Newspaper (TAN). In a recent update, a spokesman for the gallery told TAN: “While this is not a work by the late American artist John McCracken, we suspect it is a work by a fellow artist paying homage to McCracken“.

However, Mr. Zwirner went on to tell The New York Times in a statement that it could very well be a McCracken and that the gallery remains divided on it. “I believe this is definitely by John”, he confirmed. “Who would have known that 2020 had yet another surprise for us. Just when we thought we had seen it all”.

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