Leo Villareal

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Leo Villareal
Born1967 Edit this on Wikidata (age 53)
Alma mater
Websitehttp://villareal.net/ Edit this on Wikidata

Leo Villareal (born 1967) is an American artist. His work combines LED lights and encoded computer programming to create illuminated displays.[1] He is living and working in New York City.


Leo Villareal was born in 1967 in Albuquerque, New Mexico and raised in El Paso on both sides of the border.[2][3][4][5] He graduated from Portsmouth Abbey School in 1986.[3] He received a BA degree in Sculpture from Yale University in 1990 and a graduate degree from New York University Tisch School of the Arts, in the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP).[6]

The decisive moment that started his career came in Nevada’s Black Rock desert, during the 1997 Burning Man festival when Villareal rigged up a strobe-light array above his tent so that he could find it more easily[7].

On March 5, 2013, Villareal debuted his largest piece to that date, The Bay Lights," a public light installation consisting of 25,000 LEDs strung on the vertical cables of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.[8] The installation cost $8 million to install and was activated nightly through 2015.[9] It was replaced in 2016 with a permanent version.[10]

July 17th 2019, the first stage of his Illuminated River project went live, the project is running in three phases, and first bridges to be added were London Bridge, Southwark Bridge, Millennium Bridge, and Cannon Street Bridge. Phase Two, will add Blackfriars Road Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Lambeth Bridge, and the Golden Jubilee Footbridges, is planned for autumn 2020 and the entire project by 2022.[11]

His piece 'Optical Machine I' was featured in The Miami Beach Edition during Art Basel Miami Beach.[12] His piece 'Liminal Gradient for (RED)' was displayed at the (RED) auction co-founded by Bono. It was described by architect Sir David Adjaye as "an L.E.D. Rothko".[13]


Villareal has permanent installations at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, the Renwick Gallery and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, as well as in the private collections of contemporary art collectors CJ Follini. His work has also been on display at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., Madison Square Park in New York City, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the PS 1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City, New York, The Northpark Mall in Dallas, and Brooklyn Academy of Music.[citation needed]

Instillations by Villareal
Year Project name Location Material Notes
2008 Multiverse National Gallery of Art, East and West Buildings, Washington DC
2010 Sky Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, Florida LED-studded aluminium veil for the Museum
2013 The Bay Lights San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge western section of the 7.1km Bay Bridge linking San Francisco to Oakland
2016 Light Matrix Auckland Theatre Company, Auckland, New Zealand illuminated three-storey facade of the Auckland Theatre Company[7]
2019 Illuminated River London, England creative lighting to eventually cover 15 of the bridges of the River Thames in London[14]



  1. ^ Tan, Lumi. Biesenbach, Klaus, ed. Greater New Jersey, P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, 2005, p338.
  2. ^ "Leo Villareal". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved 2020-09-17.
  3. ^ a b "Portsmouth Abbey School Winter 2020 Alumni Bulletin". Issuu. p. 76. Retrieved 2020-09-17.
  4. ^ "Leo Villareal: Early Light". El Paso Museum of Art. Retrieved 2020-09-17.
  5. ^ Acosta, Dave. "El Paso visual artist awarded Texas Medal of Arts". El Paso Times. Retrieved 2020-09-17.
  6. ^ "Leo Villareal". Rice University, Moody Center for The Arts. 2017-05-25. Retrieved 2020-09-17.
  7. ^ a b "Light artist Leo Villareal on making London's bridges sparkle during Illuminated River - Icon Magazine". iconeye. Retrieved 2019-10-09.
  8. ^ "Palo Alto welcomes renowned Bay Bridge light artist for exclusive new gallery show". The Six Fifty. 2020-09-12. Retrieved 2020-09-17.
  9. ^ Wollan, Malia (March 4, 2013) "Long Stuck in Obscurity, Bay Bridge Will Go From Drab Gray to Glowing". New York Times. nytimes.com. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
  10. ^ Rosato Jr., Joe (January 15, 2016). "25000 Bay Bridge LED Lights to Shine Again Just in Time for Super Bowl 50". NBC Bay Area. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
  11. ^ L, Alex; July, on 18; 2019 (2019-07-18). "Colourful Light Displays Are Now Illuminating London's Bridges". Secret London. Retrieved 2019-10-24.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ Nast, Condé. "The Miami Beach Edition Celebrates Art Basel With Leo Villareal Installation". Architectural Digest. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
  13. ^ Nast, Condé. "An Exclusive Tour of the (RED) Auction at Art Basel". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
  14. ^ L, Alex; July, on 18; 2019 (2019-07-18). "Colourful Light Displays Are Now Illuminating London's Bridges". Secret London. Retrieved 2019-10-09.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)

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