"A Tale of Two Cities," The Chris Burden Piece That Almost Didn't Make It

"A Tale of Two Cities," The Chris Burden Piece That Almost Didn't Make ItPhoto by Leigh Silver

"Chris Burden: Extreme Measures" opens at the New Museum today, a monumental show that will be the artist's first New York survey. The buildup to the show included hanging a giant remote-controlled ship on the exterior of the museum and installing two Quasi Legal Skyscrapers on the roof. While the show deals with a career of mental and physical strain (this was the artist who let himself get shot in the arm), one work almost didn't make it long enough to see the survey.

Burden's A Tale of Two Cities is an installation of 5,000 toys set up on a sand and coral landscape, showing two cities at war. Since it was conceived in 1981, however, it has fallen into ruin, so much so that Burden wanted to just get rid of the thing once and for all and blow the motherf**ker up. 

According to Burden, such an act would just change the state of the work: “That was more metaphoric—I was trying to illustrate the fluid nature of the work. The work of art would still exist, but it would be rubble.” 

Conservators at the Orange County Museum of Art in California, the institution that purchased A Tale of Two Cities in 1987, were able to convince Burden to let them fix the decaying piece. After initial hesitations and 5 weeks of restoration, which involved rebuilding broken roads and replacing old toys with ones found on eBay, the artist allowed the piece to be included in the New Museum's show. According to Burden“I’m really pleased it has been brought back to life.” 

RELATED: Chris Burden's New York Art Survey Comes to the New Museum 

 [via The Art Newspaper]

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