Leo Villareal

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Leo Villareal
Born1967 Edit this on Wikidata
Albuquerque Edit this on Wikidata
Alma mater
OccupationInstallation artist, sculptor, digital artist Edit this on Wikidata
WorksHive (Bleecker Street) Edit this on Wikidata
Styledigital art Edit this on Wikidata
Spouse(s)Yvonne Force Villareal Edit this on Wikidata
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.

Early life and education[edit]

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]

In July 17, 2019, the first stage of his Illuminated River project went live with lighting added to London Bridge, Southwark Bridge, Millennium Bridge, and Cannon Street bridges.[11] Phase Two added Blackfriars Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Lambeth Bridge, and the Golden Jubilee Bridges, and was completed in April 2021.[12][13]

His piece 'Optical Machine I' was featured in The Miami Beach Edition during Art Basel Miami Beach.[14] 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".[15]


Villareal is in the collections of 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]

Installations 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 7.1 km 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 - 2021 Illuminated River London, England creative lighting on 15 of the bridges of the River Thames in central London[16]

Art market[edit]

Villareal has been represented by Pace Gallery since 2016.[17]



  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 September 17, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Portsmouth Abbey School Winter 2020 Alumni Bulletin". Issuu. p. 76. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  4. ^ "Leo Villareal: Early Light". El Paso Museum of Art. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  5. ^ Acosta, Dave. "El Paso visual artist awarded Texas Medal of Arts". El Paso Times. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  6. ^ "Leo Villareal". Rice University, Moody Center for The Arts. May 25, 2017. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  7. ^ a b "Light artist Leo Villareal on making London's bridges sparkle during Illuminated River - Icon Magazine". iconeye. Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  8. ^ "Palo Alto welcomes renowned Bay Bridge light artist for exclusive new gallery show". The Six Fifty. September 12, 2020. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  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 April 8, 2018.
  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 April 8, 2018.
  11. ^ L, Alex (July 18, 2019). "Colourful Light Displays Are Now Illuminating London's Bridges". Secret London. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  12. ^ "The Illuminated River artwork is now complete!". Illuminated River. April 13, 2021. Retrieved April 27, 2023.
  13. ^ "Illuminated River: Final bridges light up for Thames artwork". BBC News. April 14, 2021. Retrieved April 27, 2023.
  14. ^ "The Miami Beach Edition Celebrates Art Basel With Leo Villareal Installation". Architectural Digest. December 8, 2019. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  15. ^ "An Exclusive Tour of the (RED) Auction at Art Basel". Vanity Fair. December 6, 2018. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  16. ^ L, Alex (July 18, 2019). "Colourful Light Displays Are Now Illuminating London's Bridges". Secret London. Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  17. ^ Robin Scher (October 3, 2016), Pace Gallery Now Represents Leo Villareal ARTnews.

External links[edit]