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

Leo Villareal
Born1967 Edit this on Wikidata
Albuquerque Edit this on Wikidata
Websitehttp://villareal.net/ Edit this on Wikidata


Leo Villareal graduated from Portsmouth Abbey School in 1986.[citation needed] He received a BA in sculpture from Yale University in 1990 and a graduate degree from NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP).[2]

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[3].

Villareal has permanent installations at the Museum of Modern Art 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.

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. The installation cost $8 million to install and was activated nightly through 2015.[4] It was replaced in 2016 with a permanent version.[5]

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[6].

His piece 'Optical Machine I' was featured in The Miami Beach Edition during Art Basel Miami Beach.[7] 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".[8]

Leo Villareal is represented by Gering and Lopez Gallery in New York and by Conner Contemporary Art in Washington, DC.


Project Location Year homepage notes
Multiverse National Gallery of Art 2008
Sky Tampa Museum of Art 2010 LED-studded aluminium veil for the Museum
The Bay Lights San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge 2013 western section of the 7.1km Bay Bridge linking San Francisco to Oakland
Light Matrix New Zealand 2016 illuminated three-storey facade of the Auckland Theatre Company[3]
Illuminated River[9] London 2019 illuminatedriver.london creative lighting to eventually cover 15 of the bridges of the River Thames in London

Photo galleryEdit


  1. ^ Tan, Lumi. Biesenbach, Klaus, ed. Greater New Jersey, P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, 2005, p338.
  2. ^ "BIO". LEO VILLAREAL. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
  3. ^ a b "Light artist Leo Villareal on making London's bridges sparkle during Illuminated River - Icon Magazine". iconeye. Retrieved 2019-10-09.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ L, Alex; July, on 18; 2019 (2019-07-18). "Colourful Light Displays Are Now Illuminating London's Bridges". Secret London. Retrieved 2019-10-24.
  7. ^ Nast, Condé. "The Miami Beach Edition Celebrates Art Basel With Leo Villareal Installation". Architectural Digest. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
  8. ^ Nast, Condé. "An Exclusive Tour of the (RED) Auction at Art Basel". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
  9. ^ L, Alex; July, on 18; 2019 (2019-07-18). "Colourful Light Displays Are Now Illuminating London's Bridges". Secret London. Retrieved 2019-10-09.

External linksEdit