Dwan Light Sanctuary is a prismatic art installation in Las Vegas, New Mexico conceived by influential arts patron Virginia Dwan.
Dwan Light Sanctuary
“It was a very otherworldly sensation, one that I wanted to keep,” said the influential gallerist Virginia Dwan in a 2014 oral history interview at Columbia University. She was discussing a 1960s exhibition by Yves Klein, known for his minimalistic fixation on a precise shade of ultramarine. “The whole space and myself included were permeated with blue,” she recalled.
In this ethereal vein, the Dwan Light Sanctuary is a temple to the foundational cultural figure who died in 2022 and is little known outside the art world, despite her work with postmodern icons such as Robert Rauschenberg. In the early 1990s, Dwan commissioned the architect Laban Wingert to design a stone rotunda (sans dome) on a forested hillside in Montezuma, New Mexico. She enlisted the land artist Charles Ross to create twenty-four enormous prisms for the windows and skylights of the astronomically aligned structure, transforming its lofty white interior into an ever-shifting spectral universe.
The collaborative piece opened in 1996 as a permanent feature of the United World College campus, which occupies a bona fide castle and other historic digs just down the hill. Entry is free, though visitors must check in at the school’s welcome center to gain access. While inside, take a moment to honor Dwan, who set ego aside to craft innovative vessels for expansive concepts and transcendent experiences. Then, lose yourself in the rainbows.
Hot spring pools lining the nearby Gallinas River (free, suits required) offer a fitting epilogue to a deeply meditative experience.