Artist Michael Heizer’s ‘City’ in the Nevada desert to open after 50 years


Written by Benjamin Sutton

This article was originally published by The Art Newspaper, an editorial partner of CNN Style.

“City,” a massive complex of exterior structures and landmasses that land artist Michael Heizer began building in the Nevada desert in 1970, will finally welcome public visitors next month. The opening of the site on September 2, more than 50 years after work began on the site, marks the fulfillment of Heizer’s most ambitious and career-defining project.

“City” has been described as arguably the largest contemporary work of art in the world, measuring over a mile long and half a mile wide, evoking the scale of ancient sites such as Native American hills, Mesoamerican metropolises, and Egyptian devotional complexes. It is located in the remote Basin and Range National Monument in central eastern Nevada, in the ancestral lands of the Nuwu (Southern Paiute) and Newe (Western Shoshoni), about 160 miles north of Las Vegas.

For the first year of public accessibility, only a limited number of visitors are allowed, with mandatory pre-registration.

“City” has been described as possibly the greatest work of contemporary art in the world. Credit: Ben Blackwell

Initially funded by Heizer itself, the construction of “City” eventually gained the support of many influential collectors, institutions and dealers through the establishment in 1998 of the Triple Aught Foundation, which will manage and preserve the site for years to come. The foundation — of which Heizer himself, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and chief executive Michael Govan, director of the Museum of Modern Art Glenn D. Lowry, collector and co-founder of Glenstone Emily Wei Rales, and Gagosian senior director Kara Vander Weg, is a member of the board. – established an endowment for City with nearly $30 million in initial funding.

“Over the years, I sometimes compared Michael Heizer’s ‘City’ project to some of the most important ancient monuments and cities,” Govan said in a statement. “But now I only compare it to itself. It is a work of art that is aware of our primordial impulses to build and organize space, but it contains our modernity, our awareness of and reflection on the subjectivity of our human experience of time and space, as well as the many histories of civilizations we’ve built.”

Heizer's Strive to Build "City" has a complicated history spanning five decades.  The artist, now 77 years old, believes it will last for centuries.

Heizer’s attempt to build “City” has a complicated history spanning five decades. The artist, now 77 years old, believes it will last for centuries. Credit: Mary Converse

The path to building “City” has never been easy, forming huge mounds of earth, moving rocks and building huge concrete structures. This process is sometimes further complicated by external factors. In 2014 and 2015, a coalition of museum leaders and the late Nevada Senator Harry Reid fought for the protection of the area through a public petition and legislation. proposed to Congress. And in 2017, when the Trump administration moved to open up previously protected areas for resource extraction, some expressed concern that Heizer’s project would be among the endangered sites.

Perhaps in response to such threats, Heizer sees ‘City’ as a project that far exceeds the lifespan of even the most valuable and bold of contemporary art.

“My good friend Richard Serra builds from military-grade steel,” he said in a 2016 New Yorker profile of the project, discussing the American sculptor’s large-scale site-specific works. “That stuff will all be melted down. Why do I think so? Incas, Olmecs, Aztecs — their finest works of art were all looted, razed to the ground, torn apart and their gold melted down. When they come here to f* * If I hang my ‘City’ sculpture, they’ll realize it takes more energy to demolish than it’s worth.”
Read more stories from the art newspaper here.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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