LACMA Celebrates 10 Years of Urban Light With a Beautiful Photo Series

It’s a snapshot of what Chris Burden’s sculpture means to the people of L.A.
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Since it was installed at LACMA’s Wilshire Boulevard entrance in 2008, Urban Light has served as the backdrop for a lot of pictures. You could scroll through Instagram till your thumb cramped or your hand fell asleep and still not come close to getting a sense of the sheer frequency with which late artist Chris Burden’s sculpture—an assemblage of 202 vintage street lamps—is photographed, by locals and tourists alike.

At the same time, Urban Light transcends our culture’s sudden zest for social media-optimized art. It predates the launch of Instagram, as well as the inclusion of the word “selfie” in the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s more than just a backdrop. It’s a place where people celebrate life events—first dates, proposals, pregnancies—when they want Los Angeles to be part of the occasion. It’s a way to say “I love L.A.” without downloading a Randy Newman track.

To celebrate the sculpture’s tenth anniversary, LACMA enlisted photographer Siri Kaur—whose work is part of the museum’s collection, although it isn’t on display at the moment—to shoot portraits of people who’d previously posted images of themselves at Urban Light on social media. Throughout the day on January 27, Kaur photographed families and individuals and, with the help of LACMA’s team, documented their stories to create a sort of before-and-after series that’s a beautiful celebration of both the artwork and the way it’s become integrated into the fabric of the city. (We were on hand to interview Kaur live on Facebook in between shoots, which you can watch here.)


A couple named Dalene and James took their engagement photos at Urban Light in 2011…

Courtesy the subjects with permission from LACMA

For their shoot with Kaur, they brought their daughter and dog…

Photo © Siri Kaur, Artwork © Chris Burden/licensed by The Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Mike took a selfie with his then-boyfriend Will at Urban Light in 2015…

Courtesy of the subjects with permission from LACMA

They’ve since broken up (amicably), but Mike—who works with LGBT youth in WeHo—came to have his photo taken solo…

Photo © Siri Kaur, Artwork © Chris Burden/licensed by The Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Even the Mayor showed up…

Photo © Siri Kaur, Artwork © Chris Burden/licensed by The Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


At a press conference on Thursday, the museum also announced that all 202 lamp posts—a total of 309 lightbulbs—will be converted to LED bulbs, thanks to a grant from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.

To see more of Kaur’s images and their corresponding “befores,” check out the gallery on LACMA’s Facebook page.


RELATED: Chris Burden Has Died at Age 69


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