Cryptic ‘City’ sculpture unveiled in remote Nevada desert

One of the art world’s largest and most mysterious projects was just completed. Do you know what it means?

'City' is a cryptic sculpture that sits in the Nevada desert.

Michael Heizer’s ‘City’ sculpture sits in the remote Nevada desert.

Key Takeaways:

  • The massive art project resembles ancient ceremonial construction.
  • Work on “The City” began in the 1970s and only recently finished.
  • Tickets to view the project in person can be had for $150 if the weather is good and a spot can be reserved. 

The Whole Story:

After spending decades and millions of dollars, construction on an expansive art sculpture called “The City” has been unveiled in the Nevada desert. 

Artist Michael Heizer’s creation is a mile and a half long and a half mile wide complex of shaped mounds and depressions made of compacted dirt, rock, and concrete. 

“The City is intentionally reminiscent of many ancient ceremonial constructions through its complexity and size, but its form is suggestive of the central hub or nucleus of a modern city,” said the Triple Aught Foundation, a non-profit that owns and operates the sculpture.

Decades in the making

The City has been developed and built by the artist since 1970 until today. It sits in an isolated valley within the high desert of the Great Basin that has been the grazing land for cattle and sheep for at least a century. 

According to the foundation, the Heizer family has inhabited Nevada since the 1800s, and the project’s location was partly chosen by the artist because of its remoteness. 

“Almost all elements within the City are made from basic materials—clay, sand, and rock—collected with minimally invasive means, so that the native plants and wildlife may remain undisturbed,” said the foundation. 

In June of 2015, the project’s location and the area surrounding it, 704,000 acres in total, were proclaimed the Basin and Range National Monument to safeguard the area’s unique environment for the enjoyment of future generations.

Team effort 

Work on the City has been aided over the last fifty years by organizational and financial support from institutions around the country, including the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas; Dia Art Foundation, New York; Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland; Lannan Foundation, New Mexico; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Many private individuals have also contributed their money and time. 

Trip to the ‘City’

The public can go see the project, but it’s going to cost you and a reservation will have to be made. Starting this fall, visitors can do short day trips for a maximum of six visitors, with prior reservations only, and only in favorable weather. The foundation noted that the project is on private property in rural terrain, and it has no habitable structures. 

“Visiting without a pre-arranged visit is thus potentially dangerous, and it is strictly prohibited and is trespassing,” foundation officials said. 

Reservations for future visits may be requested by writing to Visitors will be accommodated on a first come, first serve basis, and visitations will end for the 2022 season on November 1. The price of a visit is $150 per adult, $100 for students, and is free for residents of some Nevada counties. 


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