As long as you're going to make a sculpture,
why not make one that competes with a 747,
or the Empire State Building, or the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Michael Heizer
City, Michael Heizer's life-long project, is quite possibly the largest piece of contemporary art ever attempted. Because the artist is a very private individual, and the work is located in the remote Nevada desert, relatively little is known about City, except that Heizer has been working on it since approximately 1972. City comprises five phases, each consisting of a number of structures referred to as complexes, and in total measuring approximately a 1/4 mile in width and a 1-1/2 miles in length.
Phase One, about which most is known, consists of three complexes, which are pictured above. Complex Two (seen directly above), the largest complex in Phase One, is estimated to reach 70-80 feet in height and a quarter mile in length (note, for scale, the cement truck in the photograph). The complexes are made mostly of materials mined from the land surrounding City.
City was inspired in part by Native American traditions of mound-building and the ancient cities of Central and South America, with which Heizer became familiar through the work of his father, a prominent anthropologist. They include massive decorations, such as "stele" on Complex Two, and large, geometrically shaped metal bars on Complex One.
Pictures of a complex in Phase Five of City released by outlets such as The New Yorker depict a complicated structure of wedges and shapes named "45º, 90º, 180º" (a name Heizer has used previously for works at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA and at Rice University, Houston, TX). The form of "45º, 90º, 180º" is a play on perspective; when viewed from the front, it appears as one simple shape; only from the side or above does its true complexity come to light. This emphasis -- on the experience of art from different viewpoints and over time -- is a recurring theme of Heizer's work.
The construction of City was originally self-supported, with early funds from gallery owner Virginia Dwan (who supported his work on Double Negative). But by 1999, work had stagnated, and only Phase One was underway. In the early 2000s, however, Heizer received funding from the Dia Art Foundation, through grants from the Lannan Foundation, the Riggio family, and the Brown Foundation. With this more stable source of funding, work on City -- the total cost of which may run to $25 million -- progressed at a much more rapid pace.
According to a recent legal document filed by Heizer's foundation, the Tripe Aught Foundation, City is now considered substantially complete, and the work is expected to be fully completed in May 2020.
As work on City nears completion, efforts are underway to ensure that the natural areas surrounding the work remain unspoiled. Since 2015, City and the areas surrounding it have been subject to a conservation easement held by the L.A. County Museum of Art, and which is due to be transferred to the federal government. Further, in 2015, Present Barack Obama designated the land surrounding City to be federally protected as part of the Basin and Range National Monument, which is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
I'm building this work for later.
I'm interested in making a work of art that
will represent all the civilization to this point.
- Michael Heizer
Please note that City is NOT open to the public, and visiting City without prior permission of the artist is NOT currently permitted. Citing safety and artistic reasons, Heizer has disallowed all visitation of the work in progress. Heizer's foundation, the Tripe Aught Foundation, owns the property around the work and has marked the access to the site with a sign that prohibits trespassing. The terms of the conservation easement to protect City indicates that the work will be open to the public -- likely for small group tours in spring and fall -- once completed.
Where is City?
In 2004 -- prior to the advent of Google Maps and similar applications -- this website was the first to publicly disclose the location of City, which was discovered at the time based on context clues and by manually sifting through U.S.G.S. satellite imagery.
Even today, describing the location of City remains a challenge due to its remote location in the northwest corner of Lincoln County (near Hiko), NV. City is perhaps best described by its approximate coordinates, 38.030853 N, 115.436118 W -- a location approximately 157 miles (by car) from Las Vegas.
A satellite view is shown below, and a larger view is available through Google Maps.
We emphasize that the disclosure of City's location is not an encouragement to visit. City is NOT open to the public.