At eighty feet high, a quarter of a mile wide, and one and a quarter miles long, the sculpture City is roughly the scale of the national mall in Washington, D.C., making the artwork, located in Garden Valley, Nevada, one of the largest sculptures ever created. The sculpture is so large that when the energy department did a survey flyover of the area, they mistook it for a military project.
Begun in 1972 by artist Michael Heizer, this "earthwork" is made entirely of dirt, rocks, and concrete, constructed with heavy machinery. Despite its size, City was built with incredible precision and is accurate to Heizer's plans down to a sixteenth of an inch. Creating City has been an 37-year process and has cost tens of millions of dollars, despite the fact that there is no real way to "sell" the monumental work. However, when completed, City is to last for thousands of years, long after other artworks are dust.
Earthworks and other unsellable "land art" like this were a reaction to the commercialization of art in the 1960s. Heizer, a bit of loner cowboy-type, has a distinctly antiauthoritarian streak and a deep distrust of the government. This makes sense, as City is some fifty miles from Area 51 and lies in the shadow of Nevada's nuclear test sites. This has heavily influenced Heizer and his art. In his words, City "is based on an awareness that we live in a nuclear era. We're probably living at the end of civilization."
In 2004, Heizer expressed dismay over Yucca Mountain's plans for a nearby rail line to transport nuclear waste to the storage site. The Las Vegas Mercury reported that year he, "told his neighbors that if the Caliente Corridor becomes reality, he will use his bulldozers to completely bury the "City" project and that he will walk away from it"
Much of Yucca's Mountains funding was cut in 2009 and LA Time's Art Critic Christopher Knight speculated that Heizer would not carry out his threat of destroying his decades-old project.
Heizer in general isn't especially welcoming of visitors. Heizer says anyone who shows up uninvited "will be arrested for trespassing or shot at."
Heizer is best known for his 1970 massive excavated earth work titled "Double Negative," located near Mopa Valley, NV.