Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

David and Art - A Long Awaited City

Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis

The biggest single work of art in the world is now open for visitors.

How big can a work of art be? Whatever kind of artistic medium you’re thinking of, how big can it be? Big murals that go up the walls of buildings…which depend on the size of the building; big sculptures—Mount Rushmore, for example.

The tallest statue in the world is in India in the state of Gujarat along the Narmada River. It’s called the “Statue of Unity.” It’s 597 feet tall and depicts one of the founders of modern India. Using what seems to be America’s fondest measuring device, that’s almost two football fields high. That’s a pretty big work of art. The Statue of Liberty by comparison is 151 feet tall not counting the base and the pedestal. Those four heads on Mount Rushmore are about 60 feet high each.

The largest mural in the world is either in Inchon South Korea or Wichita, Kansas depending on your criteria.

Now let me tell you about the largest work of art in the world.

It’s an Earth art installation in the remote American west created by an artist named Michael Heizer. He’s worked on it for 52 years—he began it in 1970. And on Friday August 19, he, and the foundation he created to help fund the project, announced that it was done and people could make reservations to tour it starting in September.

It’s a single complex of interrelated sculptural sites entitled City. It’s a mile and a half long with 14 miles of concrete curbing along its winding pathways. It’s like a cross between minimalism and the landscape architecture of Frederick Law Olmsted, with a little inspiration from the ruins of Mayan cities seasoned throughout.

Heizer started off as a minimalist painter in New York City in 1966 but quickly and very evidently felt he had reached the end of what painting could do. Being an artist grounded in Modernism he had no desire to pursue forms that others had already mastered and that had through the years become trite. “Basically, what I’m saying is that the European option is closed,” he explained in the 1970s. “The European tradition has to be honored, but that area is finished—it’s over with. The kind of art I’m involved with hasn’t really been done before.” There was a lot of such sentiment back then among artists as Robert Smithson, Walter de Maria, James Turrell, all of whom sought to make art that couldn’t be turned into a saleable commodity.

Heizer had to find something else. In the vast Nevada desert, Heizer found what would become his canvas. More on all this next time.