Urban Light
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Urban Light is now the iconic face of Los Angeles County Museum of Art--but it almost wasn’t.

After the museum was redesigned in 2008, the tour de force at its entrance was intended to be a Jeff Koons sculpture of a life-sized steam locomotive dangling from an actual 160-foot crane. Estimated to cost LACMA at least $25 million, the project never panned out, which left an opportunity for another lauded artist to create an equally Instagrammable piece.

Burden began his sculpture rather unintentionally. The first two lampposts that he purchased, at $800 a piece, were originally intended to decorate the end of his driveway. It wasn’t until he began acquiring more and more historic street lights of Los Angeles, scavenged from flea markets and cast-iron collectors in and around LA, that he considered synthesizing them into an installation.

Though it’s a nod to the city’s historic and urban development, Urban Light wasn’t at first intended to be installed in Los Angeles. The idea was to bring a little bit of LA’s culture and urban legacy to other locales--first to a Vienna museum, and when that fell through, to Burden’s gallery in New York. When costs of shipping became prohibitive and other hindrances to installation arose, Burden just did the simple thing: installed the work at his own home and threw a big party to celebrate the lamp lighting. Shortly thereafter, LACMA stepped in and snatched the piece up (with funds from one of the museum’s board co-chairs, also a partner at Goldman Sachs).

By now, LACMA and Burden are accustomed to Urban Light making frequent pop cultural appearances. Future raps in the middle of the installation in his video for Peacoat, Tori Amos drifts through it dreamily in her video for Maybe California, and the sculpture provided romantic ambiance in Valentine’s Day. The most art history-y lightbulb joke happens as Ashton Kutcher wonders aloud while wandering through Urban Light’s lampposts with Natalie Portman in No Strings Attached, “Who changes the lightbulbs? Must be a nightmare.”

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Urban Light

Urban Light (2008) is a large-scale assemblage sculpture by Chris Burden located at the Wilshire Boulevard entrance to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The 2008 installation consists of restored street lamps from the 1920s and 1930s. Most of them once lit the streets of Southern California.


Urban Light is composed of 202 street lamps arranged in a near grid. The lamps mostly came from the streets of Southern California, including Hollywood, Glendale, and Anaheim, with some from Portland, Oregon. There are 16 different streetlight models represented, many of which were commissioned for particular neighborhoods and streets. The Broadway Rose, the largest and most ornate of the models, is represented by six lamps. The style was found in downtown Los Angeles; a few can still be seen on Sixth Avenue between Olive and Flower Streets. The sculpture's glass globes are of three general shapes: round, acorn, and cone. The 309 LED bulbs are solar powered and switch on from dusk until dawn, governed by an astronomical timer.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Susan Freudenheim described the restored lamps as displaying "elaborate floral and geometric patterns" at the base, with "fluted shafts and glass globes that cap them...meticulously cleaned, painted and refurbished to create an exuberant glow."

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Urban Light.