No, This Bizarre Installation Near Area 51 Is Not A Secret Military Base

The sprawling Nevada Test And Training Range is an incredibly intriguing place full of strange man-made oddities that has long been a canvas for individuals to paint their wildest dreams and biggest fears upon due to the classified nature of much of what goes on there. But not everything within its bounds or in its vicinity is some military secret or a base used for clandestine operations of one type or another. Far from it in fact. Yet many media outlets really don’t care about that fact. Case in point, a story that is making the rounds, including on Russian state-owned outlet Sputnik and on social media, that claims a very odd looking installation not too far from Area 51 has some very shady purpose. 

It doesn’t.

The story was spurred from a video posted by a UFO/Aliens-centric Youtuber that calls the strange formation in the remote Garden Valley roughly 50 miles north of Area 51 into question. He says the site is a newly-built underground military base. The truth is that it is far from newly-built and it certainly is not an underground anything, nor does it belong to the military. In fact, it is a gargantuan sculpture of sorts by a very famous artist. 

Google Earth

Contemporary artist Michael Heizer has been working on the massive installation, named City, since 1972. Once it is finished, which could be fairly soon (2020), it will be one of the biggest art projects in the world, spanning well over a mile in length. His inspirations for the remarkable undertaking were the surrounding landscape, cities, industrial technology, minimalism, and the amazing ancient architecture found on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Heizer’s creation cost at least $25 million to build and is unviewable from outside the property lines.

Back around 2015, some in the art community became very concerned that the land the installation sits on could be seized by the government or developed for far less creative purposes. They were not wrong in worrying about this. The region is increasingly being taken control of by the federal government as part of a long series of huge land grabs that have continued for decades. If that were to have occurred, the extremely long-term art project would likely never have a chance to be appreciated by the public. 

Even if the land the sculpture is a part of weren’t seized, but the area around it was developed in some significant way, some think it would have had a drastic impact on how the installation would be appreciated by visitors. Over the years, land in the desolate area has been eyed for many applications, including as a missile launch site, for various energy projects, and so-called ‘glow trains’ loaded with nuclear waste and destined for the Yucca Mountain repository would have literally run directly through the art project. 

Los Angeles County Museum Of Art’s director of executive communications, Scott Tennent, wrote the following in 2015: 

“City is Heizer’s magnum opus. Although it is not yet finished, images of City have circulated for decades. As with many of Heizer’s greatest works, the sculpture is incomplete without the surrounding landscape. The solitude of City is part of its power. To have the surrounding land developed into anything would severely impact Heizer’s work. To see the land developed into a site for military, energy, or waste purposes, would ruin it forever. After 43 years of work, can it really be destroyed like this?”

Thankfully, in the summer of 2015, with the help of senior Nevada Senator Harry Reid, the Obama Administration used the 1906 antiquities Act to establish the art installation and a whopping 700,000 acres in the area as a National Monument. Reid visited the site and was blown away by its beauty and relevance before pushing to get it preserved. He stated the following about the unique work of art:

“What Michael Heizer has done is about as visionary as anything that one can imagine… It’ll be there for a long time. It’s going to be there forever.”

Like so many things in the area, this massive land-sculpture is bizarre, but for a much more inclusive and creative reason. Heizer is a master at what he does and looking at pictures of City, it is remarkable how well it captures the desolation and mystery of the terrain that surrounds it. It also has the potential to be the best filming set for futuristic movies and television shows ever devised. Hopefully, we will get a chance to take it all in once it is finally done, but in the meantime, we can say with confidence that there are no secret military projects or flying saucers located at the site.

What is there is extremely intriguing in its own right.

You can read more about Heizer and City here and this will take you directly to a satellite image of the installation.

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Tyler Rogoway Avatar

Tyler Rogoway


Tyler's passion is the study of military technology, strategy, and foreign policy and he has fostered a dominant voice on those topics in the defense media space. He was the creator of the hugely popular defense site Foxtrot Alpha before developing The War Zone.