Leonardo DiCaprio Paid to Give Chris Burden’s ‘Urban Light’ at LACMA an Eco-Friendly Overhaul

The actor's foundation urged LACMA to reduce its carbon footprint with energy-efficient bulbs.

Chris Burden's Urban Light (2008) outside of LACMA. Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Chris Burden’s Urban Light installation just got a green makeover courtesy of actor Leonardo DiCaprio. The Hollywood star has convinced the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to swap the work’s 309 incandescent lights with more energy-efficient LED bulbs.

The installation on Wilshire Boulevard, outside the museum’s entrance, consists of 202 vintage street lamps taken from 17 different cities and municipalities in southern California. The work has become a symbol of the museum since it was donated to LACMA in 2008.

The change will cut the artwork’s energy consumption by 90 percent and will save more than 3 million kilowatt hours of electricity over the next decade, enough to power 295 average-sized American homes for a year, according to the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which is dedicated to environmental causes. Just by switching the light bulbs, the museum is preventing the release of 5.2 million pounds of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to burning 2.5 million pounds of coal, or 265,718 gallons of gasoline. The energy savings can also be compared to growing 61,199 trees for 10 years, the foundation says.

The correct bulbs were difficult to track down, a LACMA spokeswoman told artnet News in an email, pointing out that they had to find three different wattages of LED bulbs, for example. In the end, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s sustainability office put the foundation in touch with a local company used by the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Lighting to custom-build the bulbs.

“The bulbs were chosen very carefully as emulation of the original incandescent light in brightness,” LACMA’s spokeswoman said. “Color, temperature, and, particularly, profile were very important.” DiCaprio’s foundation paid for the project, though the spokeswoman declined to say how much it cost.

LACMA Director Michael Govan and Leonardo DiCaprio. Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for LACMA.

The LED bulbs were installed at the beginning of February and turned on at a ceremonial lighting on February 8th. Burden’s Urban Light is viewed and experienced by 1.5 million museum visitors annually, and many more Angelenos and tourists that pass by the installation on Wilshire Boulevard.

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