December 1, 2022

Earthworks Artist Michael Heizer’s “City” Now Open


Last November Viewpoint Vancouver wrote about the monolith that was found in the desert in Utah. It had been placed there in 2016 and of course set off a public art frenzy of these monoliths being “found” in all kinds of places across the globe.

But a true intentional thoughtful piece of land art has now been opened to visitors several hours north of Las Vegas Nevada. Called “City”, it is a series of concrete constructions and eery dirt pilings created by public artist Michael Heizer.  Mr. Heizer is a pioneer of the “earthworks” group of artists and uses large scale earth moving equipment to shape formative landscapes.

Mr. Heizer has spent over half a century and 40 million dollars on “City” and it is now open to the public but you must obtain tickets in advance, and those tickets are limited to ensure you get the full impact of being in a desolate, lost, perhaps at one time civilized space.

Unbelievably Mr. Heizer who is now 77 has created a ruin that is several kilometers long and nearly a kilometer wide.  This project was originally self funded but was completed with several funders and now has a non profit that will support it with a huge multi-million dollar endowment.

This project is on a scale that is hard to comprehend, and puts the  garden “follies” of British aristocrats in place, including past Prime Minister of Canada Mackenzie King’s “ruins” on his  Gatineau estate “Moorside”.

The “City” artwork is  made of rock and clay that is local and is in part of the Nevada desert which is protected and declared a national monument. There are only six tickets a day issued to visit this public art, and to get there requires some off roading transportation. Visits are only during daylight hours, as there is no cell service or electricity at “City”.

Of course this installation also is controversial. Instead of working with the landscape as contemporary nature artists have done including Andy Goldworthy, Mr. Heizer has physically transformed it over half a century. It is arguably the last of its kind and perhaps symbolic of 20th century attempts to tame landscape.

Admission is free to residents of Lincoln, Nye, and White Pine Counties in Nevada and $150 to all others. Reservations may be made only by writing to and will be answered on a first-come, first-served basis, and will remain as six tickets issued a day. You can find out more about the triple aught foundation here.

There are  few videos of “City” available so far. One includes  thwarted skateboarders waved away by security. That may be part of the artist’s plan.

To give you an example of Mr. Heizer’s work, here is a YouTube video of another public art earthwork installation northeast of Logandale Nevada. This was done over fifty years ago, and may have been part of the inspiration for “City”.


images:nyt artnet archrecord

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