Chris Burden, Urban Light, 2008, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Gordon Family Foundation's gift to "Transformation: The LACMA Campaign" © Chris Burden Estate

Light Experiments for “Urban Light”

March 1, 2017

Since 2010, LACMA’s conservation scientists have been working on retrofitting the incandescent light bulbs in Chris Burden’s Urban Light with cost effective, energy-saving light bulbs. 

Conservation scientists experimented with different kinds of plastic globes to see if they would weather well under UV light; ultimately they determined that existing plastic globes are not appropriate replacements for the original glass globes

Incandescent bulbs break easily, hog energy, and don’t last very long. When one goes out, it also risks damaging the glass globe around it. Nationwide, incandescent lights are being phased out; in the meantime, we are buying U.S. light distributors’ last stocks for our sculpture. 

LACMA’s conservation scientists conducted experiments with fluorescent, induction, and LED lights to determine which would be the best replacements. Unfortunately, fluorescent and induction bulbs that were tested didn’t have the color characteristics (the warm glow) of the originals, so the staff has been researching LED lights.

Corncob design LED light

In the above corncob design, the LED lights are embedded in the columns, imitating the omnidirectional glow of incandescent lights. The biggest challenge is to find the right size that have the same lumen output, which would give off the same intensity of light. 

Below, conservation scientist Charlotte Eng talks about her research and her quest to find the perfect replacement light bulbs. (Learn more about our repainting and repair of the iconic sculpture, which was completed last year!)