Lonely Planet Writer

Stunning portraits celebrate the legacy of L.A.’s Urban Light

On its 10th anniversary Los Angeles icon and Instagram hotspot on Wilshire Boulevard, Urban Light was re-illuminated. Created by Chris Burden, the sculpture incorporates 202 vintage street lamps from 17 different designs from various cities in and around the Los Angeles area. Gifted to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2008, the museum has since been responsible for its maintenance and upkeep.

Urban Light installation LA
“Urban Light” Sculpture, Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, California, USA. Image by: VW Pics/Getty Images

On its tenth birthday, the sculpture was given new light bulbs. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation supported replacing all 309 incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs resulting in approximately 90% in power savings for LACMA while making the sculpture more environmentally friendly.

In order to commemorate the lasting impression Urban Light has left on both L.A. locals and travelers, LACMA commissioned artist and photographer Siri Kaur, to shoot portraits of people who have marked personal milestones at Urban Light. Using social media accounts Kaur and LACMA tracked down people who had posted photos of themselves at Urban Light and invited them for a portrait session with Kaur. The result is a sort-of where-are-they-now series of shots that invite viewers to witness how Urban Light has been a welcoming and stunning backdrop in the lives of so many people.

People explore the Urban Light sculpture
People spend time at the “Urban Light ” sculpture at LACMA on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. Image by: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

In the early 20th century, neighborhoods designed their own streetlamps as a form of public art and civic identity. Over seven years, Burden collected and restored these antique, cast-iron lamp posts sandblasting them and replacing missing parts. Once complete, Burden painted them all medium gray. Once electrified and gathered into a whole, the streetlamps became, “a statement about what constitutes a civilized and sophisticated society: safe after dark and beautiful to behold,” according to the artist.

“Whether you’re a visitor to LACMA or a passerby on Wilshire, Urban Light has captured the imagination of everyone who has experienced the wondrous work of art,” said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. “With the installation’s conversion to new energy efficient LED bulbs, today marks the start of a new era for this symbol of our city’s creative spirit.”