Film by Eric Minh Swenson. On view at LACMA.
Jori Finkel, LA Times : What do billionaire art collectors and train-obsessed 5-year-olds have in common?
They're both drawn to Chris Burden's "Metropolis II," an epic art installation that looks like a toy racetrack or train set on speed.
When Burden briefly opened his studio in Topanga Canyon a year ago to unveil the work, it was an instant hit with contemporary art collectors. One, Nicolas Berggruen, bought the work and promptly loaned it to LACMA for at least 10 years.
Now it's also getting high marks from the preschool and grade-school set.
The artwork does not officially go on display at LACMA until Jan. 14, but the museum organized a series of unannounced trial runs last week to take it through its final testing, and museum visitors of various ages found their way to the car-fueled spectacle.
Granted, it was hard to actually hear every gasp over the din of the traffic — a loud sound effect that the artist has called a "happy accident." But you could see the excitement, with some kids running, jumping, or dragging their parents closer and others staring, mesmerized, like babies watching TV.
The artwork, four years in the making, features about 1,100 Hot Wheels-sized (but custom-made) cars coursing so quickly through 18 lines of traffic that you can see 100,000 cars passing through the system in an hour. There are also about a dozen trains. It resembles a miniature city, complete with a tangle of freeways and pockets of buildings in various styles — a log cabin here, a glittering Art Deco skyscraper there, an Eiffel Tower lookalike in the distance.
Caterina Roiatti from New York said her son Massimo, 5, spotted the exhibition from the Richard Serra sculpture just across the way. Her son was on the move, running in large circles around the piece. He moved too fast for a writer to talk to him.
"He is obsessed," his mother said. "I don't know how we'll get him out of here."
What was her reaction? "We're architects. I'm not so interested in the cars, but I like some of the buildings," Roiatti said. "They are simplified and abstract in interesting ways."
Entertainment lawyer Erik Hyman, 43, was holding one of his 3-year-old twin daughters on his hip. Her reaction was of the silent sort: She reached out as if to grab a car. "You can't touch it because it's delicate," her father said.
Then Hyman put his own reaction in words: "I am not a sophisticated art person," he said. "But I think this will be a gargantuan hit for the museum. Who wouldn't love it?"
Nearby a group of twentysomething hair stylists, dressed in black shirts and black jeans or leggings, looked mesmerized. Rafael Mercado, Aaron Reid, and Alyssa Elliott said they were students at the Toni and Guy hair academy who just happened to follow the crowds to the gallery.
All had smartphones out to take pictures. "I want this at my house. I want to live with it, or inside it. I don't really have the space for it, maybe I'd put it in the garage," said Mercado, who said it reminded him of how much he loved trains as a kid. "I still have a Thomas the Tank Engine pillow somewhere."