After 50 Years, Michael Heizer’s artwork of extraordinary size and ambition will finally open in Nevada Desert. Called ‘The City’, the open-air artwork will begin to accept visits from the public, by advance reservation only, beginning September 2, 2022. Visits will be limited for the first year of operation.
The 'City' has long been a legend, even as a work in progress. More than half a century in the making—a time scale suggestive of the immemorial cultures that have inspired it—the City is as monumental as an ancient, pre- Columbian complex or Egyptian ceremonial structures and is as starkly uncompromising as the high desert of Nevada’s Basin and Range National Monument, the environment that is its setting and substance. Composed of shaped mounds and depressions made of compacted dirt, rock, and concrete, the City is more than a mile and a half long and a half mile wide.
Complex One, City. © Michael Heizer. Courtesy of the artist and Triple Aught Foundation. Photo: Mary Converse.
Influential in the second half of the 20th century and continuing into the 21st, Michael Heizer is known for producing large outdoor earthwork sculptures and for his work with rock, concrete, and steel that exists both outside and inside museums and galleries. Heizer started to build the City in the early 1970s in a continuation of the work he had created in the West where he was born, beginning with the negative North and South in the Sierras (1967), and anticipating the epoch-making Double Negative at Mormon Mesa (1969). His earthworks, which live outside in the environment, are known to elicit responses not common to architecturally dependent artworks.
© Michael Heizer. Courtesy of the artist and Triple Aught Foundation. Photo: Mary Converse
Acquiring remote parcels of property over the decades, consolidating them into the ideal location for his sculpture, and using materials mined from the land itself, Heizer merged his interests in non-inhabited forms in Native American traditions of mound-building, the pre- Columbian cities of Central and South America, and his studies of Egyptian construction with his singular ability to work with immense variations in scale, perspective, and viewpoint. The result is a lifetime achievement of breathtaking complexity and size, evoking ancient ceremonial constructions while also suggesting the forms of a modern city’s central hub.
© Michael Heizer. Courtesy of the artist and Triple Aught Foundation. Photo: Ben Blackwell
Describing the City, art critic Dave Hickey wrote, “Approaching the cut on foot from the north or south, elements of a cityscape seem to be rising or falling from within the excavation that cuts flat into the rising ridge... As one walks up to an overlook, Heizer’s cultural interventions open out the space. The roads and domes and pits within the excavation are elegantly curbed into long, quiet Sumerian curves. They restore our sense of distance and scale, so the complexity of City reveals itself as a gracious intervention in the desert... composed and complete.”
45°, 90°, 180°, City. © Michael Heizer. Courtesy of the artist and Triple Aught Foundation. Photo: Joe Rome
Construction of the City was originally funded by Heizer himself, eventually joined by individuals and institutions including Virginia Dwan, Dia Art Foundation, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Lannan Foundation. The Triple Aught Foundation, established in 1998 to help complete the work, owns and manages the City and is charged with its long-term preservation.
Triple Aught Foundation has established an endowment for the City with initial funding close to $30 million.
A coalition of institutions across the United States has joined together to ensure the financial and operational sustainability of the City. These institutions are Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville, Arkansas), Glenstone Museum (Potomac, Maryland), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, California), and the Museum of Modern Art (New York, New York). Representatives of the participating institutions, who have decades- long experience in museum governance and institutional management, have joined the Triple Aught Foundation Board of Directors, bolstering its already robust membership.
Cover photo: 45°, 90°, 180°, City © Michael Heizer. Courtesy of the artist and Triple Aught Foundation. Photo: Ben Blackwell