Is It Any Good?

One of the special things that…if you’re not careful…you might miss during your visit to LACMA.

There are a lot of small, very wonderful, sometimes downright amazing hidden treasures in any city. Los Angeles is no exception.

One of the more…unusual things…is a sculpture. A living breathing sculpture that, if you didn’t know where to find it, might escape your notice completely.  Do yourself a favor…don’t let it.

I speak of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s very own Metropolis II by Chris Burden. It is, for all intents and purposes, a massive tinkertoy-slash electric train-slash-slot car set.

Only thing is, it’s as big as your living room.

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Is that fair? Allow me to let LACMA paint the picture their way:

Chris Burden’s Metropolis II is an intense kinetic sculpture, modeled after a fast paced, frenetic modern city. Steel beams form an eclectic grid interwoven with an elaborate system of 18 roadways, including one six lane freeway, and HO scale train tracks. Miniature cars speed through the city at 240 scale miles per hour; every hour, the equivalent of approximately 100,000 cars circulate through the dense network of buildings.

Seriously look at the pictures in the slideshow above.  You’ll see a young lady in a few of them.  She’s one of the operators, as well as one of the people responsible for helping build Metropolis II. That picture is to scale. That is how big the darned thing is.

Metropolis II is on display during all hours the Museum is open. They only run it at select times on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (and the occasional Target Free Mondays), on the half hour, one hour on, one our own until close.

Why? I can only presume physics and thermodynamics come into play.

Basically, you run the dang thing for hours on end…with the sculpture being made primarily of plastic, the cars and tracks will start to heat up, the parts will start to warp and bend, and…well, that wouldn’t be any fun for anybody.

I’m sure there are YouTube videos capturing the magic of the thing, but…truth be told, the magic is looking in on your little corner of it. Looking at this little bit here, this little bit there.


IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Photographing Metropolis II is permitted, so long as you don’t use a flash.

Remember it’s on the first level in the Broad Contemporary Art Museum. Once you enter, after showing your ticket, you can head either right or left, and work your way in short order to Metropolis II. Personally, I’d head left toward the massive maze-like sculpture that takes up the entire room. Head right and you head into…what I can only call a very, very, very annoying Mixed Media…thing with a massive video display and a set of hands touching fingers together, all while blaring out “LEFT ONE…RIGHT TWO…LEFT THREE…RIGHT FOUR…” or somesuch.

Seriously, I don’t know how the guards can stand it.

And remember, be mindful of the hours of when it’ll be turned on. It’ll always be on display, but weekends when it’s running are it’s most popular time. There may even be a line to get in and see it going.


Metropolis II
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90036
(323) 857-6000

11:30–12:30 pm
1:30–2:30 pm
3:30–4:30 pm
5:30–6:30 pm
Saturdays & Sundays:
10:30 am–11:30 am
12:30–1:30 pm
2:30–3:30 pm
4:30–5:30 pm