City (artwork)

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One complex in City, originally taken by Tom Vinetz, The New York Times

City is a piece of earth art located in Garden Valley, a desert valley in rural Lincoln County in the U.S. state of Nevada, near the border with Nye County. The work was begun in 1972 by the artist Michael Heizer and is ongoing.


Like Heizer's previous Double Negative (1969), City is designed and executed on a massive scale. Covering a space approximately one and a quarter miles long and more than a quarter of a mile wide (2 km by 0.4 km, roughly the scale of the National Mall), City is one of the largest sculptures ever created. Using earth, rocks and concrete as building materials and assembled with heavy machinery, the work comprises five phases, each consisting of a number of structures referred to as complexes, with some of the structures reaching a height of eighty feet.

City attempts to synthesize ancient monuments, Minimalism and industrial technology. The work derives inspiration from Mississippian mounds, Mesoamerican ball courts and Pre-Columbian sites like La Venta as well as Modernism. Heizer also cites an interest in the ceremonial squares and associated civic monuments of cites.


The cost of City is being financed by several patrons, including the Dia Art Foundation and Lannan Foundation, with an estimated cost of well over twenty five million USD. The work is located on a large parcel of private land owned by the artist and is closed to the public until its completion. Heizer is currently completing the work with a team of roughly a dozen and, as of 2005, anticipated completion before 2010. As of Spring 2015 City is not yet open to the public. Visitors are explicitly not welcome, and due to its orientation away from the road and system of earthen berms no part of "City" can be viewed from the ground without trespassing on posted property, but photos have been assembled here

Conservation issues[edit]

Garden Valley has been eyed for several major projects in the years since Heizer started working on his sculpture. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the government planned to crisscross the valley and others nearby with railroad tracks that would carry MX missiles to and from hidden silos. The program was vetoed by President Ronald Reagan.[1]

In recent years the work has been threatened by the proposed Yucca Mountain Repository, a U.S. Department of Energy terminal storage facility for spent nuclear reactor and other radioactive waste. The proposed route for the railroad that would ferry the waste from Caliente to the disposal site cuts across the same valley as City, and would come within its sightline. Heizer feels this will threaten his sculpture, as the location was selected for its isolation, and prefers to see the tracks redirected through nearby Coal Valley and Murphy Gap.

In September 2014, U.S. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada introduced “Garden Valley Withdrawal Act,” a bill that would preserve the land around City and protect 805,100 acres of Federal land from mineral and energy development.[2] Reid had visited the area around City in 2007, and he soon after tried to pass a similar bill in 2010 that would designate part of Garden Valley and nearby Coal Valley as a national conservation area.[3][4]

References and links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°01′48″N 115°26′10″W / 38.03000°N 115.43611°W / 38.03000; -115.43611