Wildest Monolith Theories, From Artists to Aliens

Since the mysterious monolith was found in a remote part of the Utah desert last month, theories about who put it there have been swirling. From concept artists to even aliens, the strange structure has sparked some wild ideas.

We know now based on satellite images that Utah monolith had been placed in the desert sometime between 2015 and 2016, though it was found in November 2020. It was only by chance that the object was spotted from a helicopter last month, as it had gone unnoticed four around four years.

Since the first monolith's discovery, similar sculptures have been appearing—and sometimes disappearing—all over the world, from California to England, Colombia to Romania.

The found monoliths are not identical—some are reflective, others dull, and most are silver, but one was gold—suggesting that they have been created by a series of copycats inspired by the Utah object.

The origins of many of the recent monoliths are still unknown, though a candy store in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, made the most of the hype around the strange sculptures and installed one on its own front door.

The candy store fits into one theory that was circulating online, which suggested that the monoliths were part of a worldwide marketing stunt—though the product they were selling was unknown.

The first monolith was discovered in Utah, before two similar structures were found in Romania and California in the following weeks. Utah Department of Public Safety

However, other theories were much more far-fetched. The Utah sculpture was initially compared to the monolith in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, based on Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey novels, in which a group of apes encounters a curious structure that accelerates their evolution.

The alien nature of the sculpture had some questioning whether this was a sign or a gift from extraterrestrial life. With the way 2020 is going and the recent news of an alleged "Galactic Federation," perhaps alien life wouldn't be so surprising.

Nevertheless, one of the most plausible theories is that the Utah monolith was placed by an artist, while the sculptures that have been appearing across the world have been created by copycats. But if this is the case, who is the artist behind the Utah monolith? There are a few theories.

The Most Famous Artist

One artist linked to the sculpture is The Most Famous Artist. Shortly after the monolith made headlines, the artist collective revealed that they were creating and selling similar sculptures.

In an interview with Heidi Zuckerman, The Most Famous Artist founder Matty Mo said that the monolith, as a piece of art, is replicable and therefore "meme-able", and that he knew that when he saw the first monolithic sculpture that it would be duplicated.

The Most Famous Artist has not claimed credit for the monoliths, though has remained purposely vague. Mo told Zuckerman: "The original author, whether that's my community, John McCracken, aliens, whatever, is likely not going to take credit because of the illegal nature of the first monolith."

However, rather than take credit for creating the object, Mo said he has inserted himself into the conversation and said he wanted to assert his authority by selling three monoliths for $45,000. The artist revealed that one monolith has been acquired so far.

The artist will soon be selling 333 mini monoliths for $3,333 each—the price is intended to play into the idea of the monoliths being placed by aliens.

A passerby walks by a monolith outside of Grandpa Joes Candy Shop in the Strip District area of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on December 6, 2020. The candy store is one of the businesses installing their own monoliths as a marketing stunt amid the mystery of the strange objects appearing in remote locations across the world. Maranie R Staab/Getty

Multiple news outlets have reported that The Most Famous Artist took credit for the monolith, but Mo says that he simply created a narrative that the press wanted.

Mo told Zuckerman: "I'm here to say I didn't do the monolith, but I didn't not do the monolith," and also said: "I am both the originator and the guy that's just capitalizing on it, as a result of the artifacts that were created to feed the story that propagated the myth."

John McCracken

When the monolith first appeared in Utah, there was speculation that it was by John McCracken. The late artist, who died in 2011, was known for his minimalist sculptures, like his work "Fair" which is almost identical to the mysterious monolith and is currently installed at the David Zwirner gallery in Chelsea, New York City.

The artist's son, Patrick McCracken, even told the New York Times that he recalls his father saying he'd like to leave his artwork in remote locations to be discovered later.

Additionally, McCracken was interested in science fiction, and once described his works by saying: "They're like aliens; in a way, separate beings," according to Art News.

The art dealer who represents McCracken's estate, David Zwirner, initially said that he believed the Utah monolith was an authentic McCracken piece, but after studying photographs of the monolith, Zwirner said he no longer knows who created it and thinks it may be someone paying homage to McCracken.

Petecia Le Fawnhawk

The Utah monolith had also been attributed to artist Petecia Le Fawnhawk, who used to live and work in Utah, where she would install sculptures in desert landscapes.

However, Le Fawnhawk told Artnet that even though she "did have the thought to plant secret monuments in the desert," she "cannot claim this one."

The artist also contributed more theories on the origin of the monolith, telling Artnet: "My first thought and hope was maybe it was a long lost piece by Richard Serra or Ellsworth Kelly, or perhaps the tombstone of Edward Abbey."

Artnet also said that some have speculated that artist Max Siendentopf, who is known for placing a solar-powered MP3 player playing Toto's song "Africa" on repeat somewhere in the Namib desert, may be behind the monolith.

For now, there is no way of knowing for sure who installed the Utah monolith—and unless the true artist comes forward, we may never know.