Artist Michael Heizer’s Nevada Desert ‘City’ Will Open After 50 Years – Amrita Bazar


Artist Michael Heizer’s Nevada Desert ‘City’ Will Open After 50 Years – Amrita Bazar

the writer Benjamin Suton

This article was originally published by CNN Style’s editorial partner, The Art Newspaper.

“The City,” a sprawling complex of open-air structures and landmasses in the Nevada desert by land-based artist Michael Heizer in 1970, will finally begin welcoming public visitors next month. More than 50 years after work began on the site, the opening of the site on September 2 marks the completion of one of Heiser’s most ambitious and landmark projects.

“The City” has been described as the largest modern work of art on the planet, measuring over half a mile long and half a mile wide, reminiscent of the scale of ancient sites such as Native American mounds , Mesoamerican metropolises and Egyptian devotional complexes. It is located in the Basin and Range National Monument in east-central Nevada, between the ancestral lands of the Nuu (Southern Paiute) and Niu (Western Shoshone), approximately 160 miles north of Las Vegas.

For the first year of public availability, only a limited number of visitors will be accepted with mandatory prior registration.

“The City” has been described as perhaps the greatest work of modern art in the world. Credits: Ben Blackwell

Initially financed by Heizer, the construction of “The City” finally received the support of many influential collectors, institutions and dealers in 1998 with the creation of the Triple Aut Foundation, which will manage and preserve the site for years to come. The foundation – whose board includes Heizer himself, Los Angeles County Museum of Art director and CEO Michael Govan, Museum of Modern Art director Glenn D. Lowry, collector and Glenstone co-founder Emily Wei Rales and CEO of Gagosian Cara Vander Weg – said in seed funding. This created a fund for the city with $30 million.

“Over the years, I have sometimes compared Michael Heizer’s The City project to the most important ancient monuments and cities,” Govan said. “But now I only compare it to myself. It is a work of art aware of our primary impulse to construct and organize space, but it also incorporates a reflection on our modernity, our reflection on the content of our human experience of time and space. We have built the history of many civilizations”.

Heizer's effort to build "the city" The complex has a history of five decades.  The artist, now 77, thinks it will last for centuries.

Heizer’s efforts to build “The City” have a complicated five-decade history. The artist, now 77, thinks it will last for centuries. Credits: Mary Converse

The road to building a “city” has never been easy, involving the creation of huge mounds of earth, the movement of stones, and the construction of massive concrete structures. This process is sometimes complicated by external factors. In 2014 and 2015, amid fears the basin and range could shrink, which could allow disruptive development near the site of the “city”, a coalition of museum executives and the late Nevada Senator Harry Reid fought to protect the site through public petitions and legislation. Submitted to Congress. And as the Trump administration moved in 2017 to open up previously protected lands for resource extraction, some feared Heizer’s project was in jeopardy.

Perhaps in response to such threats, Heizer envisioned The City as a project that would transcend even the most valuable and elusive of contemporary art.

“My good friend Richard Serra builds with military steel,” he said in a 2016 New Yorker profile of the project, discussing the American sculptor’s large-scale work on site. “It’s all going to melt away. Why do I think so? Incas, Olmecs, Aztecs – all their best works of art were looted, destroyed, smashed and their gold melted down. When they come here, if I raise my statue of the f*’town, I’m going to tear it down, they’ll realize that it takes more energy than it’s worth.”

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