Opening This Weekend: Metropolis II

January 10, 2012

Ever since the first word about Chris Burden’s piece Metropolis II started making its way through the halls of LACMA’s offices, there has been excitement among the staff. Even before we saw the initial images that came to us from the artist’s studio, we were all making up what it would look like in our heads. But we couldn’t have imagined how awesome this complex kinetic sculpture would be.

The first glimpse I caught of the piece was in the truly beautiful short documentary made by Catfish’s Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. The pair spent three days with Chris Burden at his studio filming the sculpture before it was disassembled and moved to LACMA.

We had two unannounced preview days for Metropolis II in December for testing purposes. Staff and visitors alike stood around in awe.


Chris Burden, Metropolis II, installation shot, © Chris Burden, image © Museum Associates

Here are a few stats on the piece:

  • The cars are attached by a small magnet to the conveyor belt that brings them to the crest.
  • The only motorization of the cars is the conveyor belt to the top.
  • Once the cars cross over the crest and head downward, their entire movement is by gravity.
  • They travel at a scale speed of 240 mph, plus or minus.
  • The tracks they take are Teflon coated to reduce friction.
  • The tracks are beveled at 7 degrees to give added torque for speed when
    they come through corners and curves.
  • The trains are out of the box electric train sets that run on electricity.

Metropolis II opens to the public this Saturday, January 14. It runs at scheduled times, so check this page for when it will be running. Member previews start Thursday.

Alex Capriotti