POTUS steps in to help protect “one of the most ambitious examples of the distinctively American land-art movement” for “recreationists seeking vastness and solitude.”
Earlier this month, President Barack Obama augmented his public lands legacy by a great deal, designating three new national monuments that, taken together, have a greater area than the state of Rhode Island. Nevada’s Basin and Range region is one of them, a 704,000-acre area that has ecological and archeological significance, but whose rallying cry was taken up by the art world. That’s because Michael Heizer’s City sits within its bounds.
Construction on the land-art project began in 1972 and still continues today. Heizer’s City consists of a number of mounds, terraces, and ramps spread throughout a stretch of Garden Valley desert roughly the size of the National Mall. It has yet to be opened to the public, though occasional tours are given to the donors who contribute its estimated $25 million construction budget.
In an official announcement the White House called the Basin and Range area “an iconic American landscape,” emphasizing the value of its prehistoric rock art, which “serves as an irreplaceable resource for archaeologists, historians, and ecologists.” The statement also acknowledges the area’s modern art, calling Heizer’s work “one of the most ambitious examples of the distinctively American land-art movement.”
Though Heizer’s work isn’t considered part of the protected area, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which holds the easement to the land on which City is built, reportedly plans on donating it to the federal government when the sculpture is completed, sometime within the next five years. The region surrounding it has faced numerous environmental threats, including oil and gas exploration, and a proposed nuclear rail line.
The proclamation protecting the surrounding land was signed by Obama under the Antiquities Act of 1906.Though senator Harry Reid’s attempts to protect the Basin and Range area were shut down earlier this year in the House and Senate, a petition requesting executive intervention was reportedly influential in convincing Obama to take action.
The White House’s announcement also notes the area’s importance to “recreationists seeking vastness and solitude.”