Burning Man founder Larry Harvey dies aged 70

file photo of Larry HarveyImage copyrightScott London
Image caption Larry Harvey was “never one for labels”, the Burning Man CEO said

Larry Harvey, founder of the Burning Man arts festival, has died in San Francisco aged 70.

He suffered a stroke earlier this month and passed away at home on Saturday morning, a statement on the organisation’s website said.

The annual counterculture festival sees up to 70,000 people gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

Burning Man founder Larry Harvey dies aged 70
Burning Man founder Larry Harvey dies aged 70

It features giant interactive art installations and a huge wooden man that is burnt at the end of the event.

“Larry was never one for labels. He didn’t fit a mould; he broke it with the way he lived his life,” Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell wrote.

“He was a landscape gardener, a philosopher, a visionary, a wit, a writer, an inspiration, an instigator, a mentor, and at one point a taxi driver and a bike messenger.”

“The loss of his presence in our daily lives will be felt for years, but because of the spirit of who he is, we will never truly be without him,” she added.

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Burning Man was founded in June 1986 when Mr Harvey and his friend Jerry Goodell burned a wooden man on Baker Beach in San Francisco to mark the summer solstice.

This then grew into the festival, which in 1990 was held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for the first time.

It quickly became one of America’s most well-known cultural events, attracting famous faces such as singer Katy Perry and the actor Will Smith.

By 2015 the Burning Man Project reported annual revenues of $37.5m (£27.2m), of which $30.4m was ploughed back into running the event.

Image copyrightReuters
Image caption The art installation Embrace burns during the 2014 event

Mr Harvey, who had the title Chief Philosophical Officer, spoke to the BBC in 2016 about how the festival came to be.

“It happened to be the anniversary of a broken love affair,” he said.

“That story has been inflated forever. I was burning my girlfriend, you hear that, I was burning my girlfriend’s lawyer, I made that one up just to make it interesting! Where the man came from I don’t know.”

“The spirit of the (event) is alive and well,” he said.

“We tend to tell people, when they ask what it’s all about: I don’t know, that’s for you to find out.”

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