A mysterious steel monolith was found in Utah's remote red rock canyons (images Courtesy the Utah Department of Public Safety)

Officials in Utah are baffled by an unusual steel monolith that was discovered in the state’s remote red rock canyons.

Officers from the Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS) detected the monolith from a helicopter while they were counting bighorn sheep in southeastern Utah for the state’s Division of Wildlife Resources.

The crew said there was “no obvious indication of who might have put the monolith there.”

“I’m assuming it’s some new-wave artist or something or, you know, somebody that was a big 2001: A Space Odyssey fan,” Bret Hutchings, the helicopter pilot, speculated in an interview with Utah’s KSL 5 News

Officers from the Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS) inspecting the steel monolith

The agency abstained from sharing the exact location of the monolith of fear that it would draw visitors who could possibly be stranded and require rescue. But that didn’t stop some Reddit users from attempting to lock down the coordinates of the mystery object and arranging excursions to the site.

The metal slab, which rises to the estimated height of 10-12 feet, reminded many of the work of minimalist sculptor John McCracken, who died in 2011. However, David Zwirner gallery, which represents the artist’s estate, informed the Guardian that the steel object was not one of his works.

Others have attributed the monolith to the Mexico-based artist Petecia Le Fawnhawk, who used to live and work in Utah and who is known for installing totemic sculptures in desert landscapes. But when reached by Artnet, the artist said she “did have the thought to plant secret monuments in the desert,” but “cannot claim this one.” A plethora of other theories emerged on the internet, ranging from a Richard Serra secret project to an alien invasion.

In a statement, DPS issued a warning for any sculptor in the galaxy: “It is illegal to install structures or art without authorization on federally managed public lands, no matter what planet you’re from.”

The Federal Bureau of Land Management will be determining if they need to investigate further.

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant and he holds an MFA in Art Writing from the School of Visual...