Chris Burden’s ‘Metropolis II’ on view starting Saturday


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Some artworks are valuable or delicate enough to need extra security. Chris Burden’s new art installation, ‘Metropolis II,’ is complex enough to need an operator. The miniature city in motion consists of 1,100 Hot Wheels-sized cars, 25 large buildings, 18 lanes of traffic, 13 trains and one human operator.

Lead engineer Zak Cook described the work’s complexity during its trial run, covered by the L.A. Times last week. ‘As you can imagine,’ he said, ‘this is a precision machine. These cars are going approximately 240 miles per hour to scale. If you’re going 240 miles per hour in a Ferrari and hit a speed bump, you would be flying.’


So every time the cars are zipping along, expect to see a trained operator standing inside the racetrack (Cook himself is visible in this video) to make sure nothing jumps the track. This vigilance is one reason the work will not be open continuously during museum hours but for several shifts Friday through Sunday.

[UPDATED 1/20/12 10:30a.m.]: The museum has changed Metropolis’s schedule to the following:

Fridays: 12:30-1:30pm; 2:30-3:30pm; 4:30-5:30pm; 6:30-7:30pm Weekends: 11:30am-12:30pm; 1:30-2:30pm; 3:30-4:30pm; 5:30-6:30pm

As for the cars themselves, they were custom made by the artist to be heavier than your usual Hot Wheels models, but they won’t last forever. Word is that LACMA has plans to sell the individual cars as museum souvenirs as they’re retired from service.

--Jori Finkel


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Video: ‘Metropolis II’ during trial runs before officially opening to the public. Credit: LACMA / Museum Associates 2012.