Approximately 50 years after Michael Heizer began work on it, an extensive installation by the artist City ready to receive the first visitors. Starting this Friday, a very select few will be able to make a pilgrimage to Heizer’s monumental sculpture in the Nevada desert, marking the first time the general public will see the work in its fully completed state.
But what is City, in general, but how to see it in person? Below is your guide to Heizer and his latest creation.
What exactly City?
More than one and a half kilometers long City is one of the largest works of art in the world. Heizer had been working on it since the 70s, and it was supposed to resemble a massive urban complex. But the city that Heizer envisioned is nothing like today’s urban metropolitan areas. Instead, it is intended to resemble prehistoric giant abstract forms made of sand, cement and other materials that emerge from the Nevada desert.
Sounds great. How do I see it?
Here’s where things get tricky: City, unlike many of Heizer’s other works, it is not easy to get to and not easy to see. You can request a visit City by sending an email to the Triple Aught Foundation, which manages the artwork. Right now, you can request a booking to see works between September 2 and November 1 this year, although more details are expected to be announced soon.
Seems simple enough, right? Well, not quite.
The newspaper “New York Times reported that there would be six bookings per day, and that each would cost $150. Residents of nearby Lincoln, Nye, and White Plain counties can enter for free, although this agreement only covers 60,000 people. If you’re one of the lucky ones with a chance to go, expect plenty of walking – there are reportedly no benches here.
It’s sort of a secret. According to oncevisitors City pick up at the “nearest” town of Alamo, Nevada. They are then left on the installation, which they are allowed to view for several hours. (There is no gift shop here, so there is no need to set aside time for this.) In addition, there is little official information about the whereabouts of Heizer’s largest piece of art.
But some unofficial details about City, courtesy of none other than Google Maps. Tweeted by sharp-eyed museum worker Brian Hilley noted that for a short period Google Maps listed City with coordinates 38°01’59.5″N 115°26’37.0″W. Then, rather cryptically, the official list for City disappeared altogether. If you enter these coordinates into Google Maps, you can still see the Heizer shape from the satellite, set in the desert, where it looks like a geographic anomaly.
Who is Michael Heizer and what is his business?
You may now be wondering what would make someone build a mile and a half installation, and Heizer worked on a large scale for many years creating some of the major works of the land art movement. 70s. Land art, sometimes known as earthworks, grew out of the conceptual and minimalist art movements and marked an attempt by its creators to fully connect art with nature. As with the work of his late colleagues Robert Smithson, Walter De Maria and Nancy Holt, Heiser’s art often takes the form of minimalist forms that appear in remote and often arid environments.
Occasionally, Heizer’s work has also appeared in museums and galleries. Dia:Beacon in New York, for example, owns an installation north east south west (1967/2002), which has four holes drilled into the floor of the gallery, two of which are precisely cut squares. But Heizer is still best known for his constant interventions in the American landscape, including double negative (1969), which involved digging a trench in the Moapa Valley, near Overton, Nevada.
Heizer used natural materials such as giant rocks and sand and processed them in industrial ways; he once referred to his practice as “the construction business”. Grandly presented and often epic in scope, Heizer’s designs exhibit a muscular, manly sensibility. They also often have an enigmatic quality that leaves viewers wondering how his materials ended up where they ended up.
How City come to be?
Heizer is building City piecemeal over time, but due to the sheer amount of funding required to support such a large undertaking, the building process has been slow and sporadic. First part City was Complex Onewhich Heizer created between 1972 and 1976. It has an elevated shape with a single sloped slide in the style of the Step Pyramid of Djoser seen by Heizer during a visit to Luxor, Egypt.
Difficult Two followed in the 80s and continued Heizer’s visual references to ancient cultures. The other element of the City did the same, 45°, 90°, 180°.
How much did City cost, and who funded it?
Generally, City production cost $40 million. The Dia Art Foundation and the Lannan Foundation contributed a good amount of money to help make the project a reality, although many more people and organizations supported it over the years. The Triple Aught Fund, set up by Heizer to manage the project, helped control all of this funding. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Glenston Museum have been tasked with continuing to ensure that City maintained in subsequent years.
Were there any threats City before?
Yes. Over the years, there have been a couple of attempts by politicians to expand local industry in a way that would change the land on which City installed. In the 1970s and 1980s, some politicians planned to build railroad tracks there to transport ballistic missiles between hidden bunkers. The plan was dropped after Ronald Reagan, who was then president, vetoed it.
Then in the 2010s, Nevada Senator Harry Reid once again saved Citysite when he successfully lobbied President Barack Obama to protect the earth from becoming a nuclear waste storage site. Under Obama legislation, 700,000 acres of land surrounding City cannot be mined or drilled for oil, and the work of art itself cannot be destroyed.
What did Heizer say about City?
That’s it – he wants the City to stand the test of time immemorial. Here is Heizer talking to New Yorker in 2016: “When they come here to fuck my City sculpture, they will realize that it takes more energy to destroy it than it is worth.”
Where can I see more photos City?
There is ARTnews slideshow for that.