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28 Photos Showing the Stunning Visual Magic of Life Is Beautiful

Photo by: Zach McKee
by Casey Berg Tue September 26, 2017 | 12:30 PM

From Chance the Rapper to Lorde to Blink-182, there is no doubt that Life is Beautiful (LIB) brings the heat to Sin City year after year with an impeccable music lineup. We saw Matt Shultz, lead singer of Cage the Elephant, strip down to his skivvies for the band’s high-energy rock performance and 2Chainz taking “break a leg” a little too literally as he stole the show in a hot pink wheelchair. While the musical performances get top billing, the festival truly comes to life thanks to its indescribable art program that lines the walls of downtown Las Vegas’s buildings, and dots the entire festival grounds with color and emotion.

Whether you snapped pictures against Felipe Pantone’s revamped 2016 3D mural (now the world’s first 100% solar-powered mural, with neon lights framing the lightning bolt centerpiece), or admired Okuda San Miguel’s colorful bear as it stood tall mirroring patterns from the adjacent mural, the festival prides itself on offering up a feast for your eyes. From massive murals to large installations, Life is Beautiful’s open-air gallery, which spans several blocks of Las Vegas’s historic downtown area and includes many different mediums, easily makes it one of the most Instagrammable festivals in the country.

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A peek at the inside of the Art Motel, created by Meow Wolf. Photo by: Zach McKee

The festival aims to continually refresh its visual art offerings, and a standout this year was the renowned psychedelic art collective Meow Wolf. Meow Wolf made a small but important impact on the Art Motel (an immersive art installation that has transformed two small Vegas motels into surreal wonderlands) at Life is Beautiful 2015; recognizing this, organizers gave the crew free reign over the entire place this past weekend. Meow Wolf left crowds bewildered as they walked from room to room going from one with vibrant, colorful popsicle sculptures lining the walls to a dark space where attendees could play with a harp made of lasers.

Another notable aspect of LIB’s art program is the strong Burning Man influence. From the boisterous art cars Kalliope and Forest House to Tyler FuQua’s "Mechan 9," which made an appearance in Black Rock City in 2015, you could practically feel the playa dust covering your skin. Ryan Doherty, Chief Experience Officer for LIB, told us that featuring art from Burning Man is not so much intentional as practical, thanks to its close physical proximity and the fact that the playa is cleared only a few weeks before LIB begins. Furthermore, it's quite difficult to find art installations that don’t get swallowed up by the immensity of a festival, and Burning Man artists obviously excel at making larger-than-life installations that stand their ground. The personality of the pieces truly add to the overall festival experience by encouraging attendees to sit, touch, and interact with everything.

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Attendees pose in front of colorful wall-mounted popsicles inside the Art Motel. Photo by: Zach McKee

Although Life is Beautiful happens only once a year, the art that’s been featured the last five years has been embraced by the city year-round, and its ethos of bringing the beauty of expression to the streets of Las Vegas has struck a chord. Over the years, more and more businesses have opened their doors to allow artists to beautify their otherwise plain walls. LIB has partnered with hotels like the Wynn, the Plaza, and the Venetian to commission larger art projects and installations that will live on well past the festival weekend. And other art can be seen the remaining 362 days of the year scattered around numerous downtown locations. All the murals are intended to hold a four- or five-year lifespan before being repurposed. Unfortunately, construction and vandalism have led to the demise of some of the artworks before their time is up. However, Life is Beautiful works hard to recreate and refresh the magic annually, and with the fifth year in the books, we can expect lots of new sights coming in 2018.

From the captivating murals splashed across the walls to the gigantic, sparkling “Life is Beautiful” sign dazzling anyone who passes by, all the spectacular art contributes to the unique vibe of this effervescent festival.

Catch a glimpse below of our favorite pieces, captured by photographer Zach McKee, and choose your favorite!

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Photo by: Zach McKee

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The Kalliope art car, which also goes to Burning Man every year. Photo by: Zach McKee

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Attendees laying underneath "Firmament" by Christopher Schardt. Photo by: Zach McKee

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"Firmament" by Christopher Schardt. Photo by: Zach McKee

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"Big Rig Jig" by Mike Ross. Photo by: Zach McKee

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A mural by Broken Fingaz. Photo by: Zach McKee

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A larger view of the works by Broken Fingaz. Photo by: Zach McKee

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Tyler FuQua’s "Mechan 9," also originally from Burning Man. Photo by: Zach McKee

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A mural by Kevin Lyons. Photo by: Zach McKee

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Felipe Pantone's revamped 2016 3D mural, the world’s first 100% solar-powered mural. Photo by: Zach McKee

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Laura Kimpton's "LOVE" sculpture, also from Burning Man. Photo by: Zach McKee

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"Ever After" mural by Lakwena. Photo by: Zach McKee

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"Okuda Bear" by Okuda San Miguel. Photo by: Zach McKee

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A companion mural to Okuda San Miguel's bear sculpture. Photo by: Zach McKee

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Spray can sculpture by Okuda San Miguel. Photo by: Zach McKee

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An installation by Morag Myerscough. Photo by: Zach McKee

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A view of the inside of Meow Wolf's Art Motel. Photo by: Zach McKee

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A sculpture inside Meow Wolf's Art Motel. Photo by: Zach McKee

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A view of the inside of Meow Wolf's Art Motel. Photo by: Zach McKee

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Attendees interact with a light installation inside Meow Wolf's Art Motel. Photo by: Zach McKee

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Attendees interact with a sculpture inside Meow Wolf's Art Motel. Photo by: Zach McKee

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Attendees interact with an installation inside Meow Wolf's Art Motel. Photo by: Zach McKee

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Attendees interact with an installation inside Meow Wolf's Art Motel. Photo by: Zach McKee

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Attendees interact with a harp made of lasers inside Meow Wolf's Art Motel. Photo by: Zach McKee

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The outside of the Art Motel. Photo by: Zach McKee

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The outside of the Art Motel. Photo by: Zach McKee

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Life Is Beautiful

Start Date: September 23, 2016
Las Vegas, Nevada, United States