Top LA Landmark: The Urban Light Sculpture on the Miracle Mile
The Urban Light Sculpture is a public art installation of 202 street lamps gracing the entrance to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). It is one of the top defining landmarks of of the City of Los Angeles.
After it was installed in 2008, the New York Times referred to it as an “instant landmark.” I would call it an interactive artwork. Like the Four Ladies of Hollywood Gazebo on the western entrance of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the forest of street lamps encourages all who see it to interact with the art, to go inside of it and of course to pose for pictures. It isn’t an artwork you simply look at, you become part of it.
Edit: Be sure to watch our video of Derek Hough and Hayley Erbert from Dancing with the Stars dancing at Urban Light!
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Some of the interactions are rather extreme. A director in one of the museums on the campus said people have held seances under the lights. They have lit fires and done crystal worshiping. Some people have been seen stripping naked and taking selfies under the lights. However, I don’t encourage you to do the same when you visit Urban Light. You could quite easily get arrested.
The inception of Urban Light actually dates back to the year 2000 when artist Chris Burden purchased two street lamps at the Rose Bowl Flea Market. He didn’t have any specific purpose for them at the time but collecting street lamps soon became a passion of the artist. Most of the street lamps were originally (and still are) in use in Los Angeles. There are sixteen different styles of street lamps in the exhibition.The largest and most ornate is named The Broadway Rose and this style of street light can still be found in downtown Los Angeles.
Burden initially attempted to have the installation installed at the Gagosian Gallery in New York, but they balked at the cost. He attempted some other sitings before finally securing the placement at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He said that he had long viewed his sculpture as an entrance to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
The lights are set to come on each night at dusk and turn off at 10:00 pm. They are said to be switched on by an “astronomical timer” that automatically adjusts to local sunrise and sunset times. The original lights were later replaced by energy efficient LED lights that match the light color of the original bulbs and the installation is completely powered by solar energy.
Since its 2008 installation, Urban Light has become an extremely popular attraction. According to Public Art in Public Places, Urban Light has become the most visited, photographed and well-known public artwork in Southern California. If you Instagram it when you visit it, and I’m sure you will, the official hashtag is #UrbanLight
Like most every other landmark in Los Angeles, Urban Light has also been a location used in a number of movies. These include: No Strings Attached, a Tori Amos video entitled, Maybe California, and in the film Valentine’s Day. It has also appeared in a Guinness commercial, a Vanity Fair article and it was used in a dance scene in VH1’s Hit the Floor.
If you are visiting Los Angeles and the Hollywood Walk of Fame was one of your destinations, it is a short 3 mile drive down LaBrea (the street bounding the western edge of the Walk of Fame) to Urban Light. The sculpture is located in front of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art at 5905 Wilshire Blvd.
This section of Wilshire Blvd is known as the Miracle Mile. Some other notable LA attractions a stones throw from the museum we will be writing about soon are the LaBrea Tar Pits and the Petersen Automotive Museum.