ArtNews talks about the history behind Chris Burden's Last Work by Nate Freeman

"Chris Burden’s Magnificent Flying Machine: The History Behind the Late Artist’s Last Work, Hovering Over Unlimited at Art Basel," by Nate Freeman, ArtNews

“It was one of these perfect pieces for Chris,” Paul Schimmel said.

I was speaking to the former chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles about a day in January 2015, a clear afternoon in Camarillo, California, when the artist Chris Burden showed his latest work to a very small group of close friends, including Schimmel. He called it Ode to Santos Dumont.

As Schimmel described seeing it, and described the elegiac qualities of the work, he started to choke up slightly. Just a few months after that unveiling, Burden was dead. Ode to Santos Dumont was his last finished work. And his last work turned out to be a strange and soulful white whale he spent a decade building—a re-creation of a curio of early aviation, a 40-foot-long white zeppelin that floats for 15 minutes around a fixed invisible point and then comes back earth.

“Because of his health, because of the gentleness of this…” Schimmel said, again stopping to collect his words. Then he cleared his throat and said, “I was recently in Egypt, and in their culture, there are boats that carry the spirit. And I did see that, with Chris, with him gently walking in front of the flying machine…”

Shortly after Burden’s death, Michael Govan, the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, staged a brief show of Ode to Santos Dumont in the back of his museum’s Resnick Pavilion, but only so many people could see it in the few weeks it was up. Now, the gigantic installation is making its high-profile debut on one of the few stages befitting its outsized ambition and physical girth: today, when VIPs enter the Unlimited sector of Art Basel in Basel, Switzerland, they will see Burden’s last work in all its glory, presented here by his longtime gallery, Gagosian.

“It was one of these perfect pieces for Chris,” Paul Schimmel said.

I was speaking to the former chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles about about a day in January 2015, a clear afternoon in Camarillo, California, when the artist Chris Burden showed his latest work to a very small group of close friends, including Schimmel. He called it Ode to Santos Dumont.

As Schimmel described seeing it, and described the elegiac qualities of the work, he started to choke up slightly. Just a few months after that unveiling, Burden was dead. Ode to Santos Dumont was his last finished work. And his last work turned out to be a strange and soulful white whale he spent a decade building—a re-creation of a curio of early aviation, a 40-foot-long white zeppelin that floats for 15 minutes around a fixed invisible point and then comes back earth.

“Because of his health, because of the gentleness of this…” Schimmel said, again stopping to collect his words. Then he cleared his throat and said, “I was recently in Egypt, and in their culture, there are boats that carry the spirit. And I did see that, with Chris, with him gently walking in front of the flying machine…”

Shortly after Burden’s death, Michael Govan, the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, staged a brief show of Ode to Santos Dumont in the back of his museum’s Resnick Pavilion, but only so many people could see it in the few weeks it was up. Now, the gigantic installation is making its high-profile debut on one of the few stages befitting its outsized ambition and physical girth: today, when VIPs enter the Unlimited sector of Art Basel in Basel, Switzerland, they will see Burden’s last work in all its glory, presented here by his longtime gallery, Gagosian.

“It was one of these perfect pieces for Chris,” Paul Schimmel said.

I was speaking to the former chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles about about a day in January 2015, a clear afternoon in Camarillo, California, when the artist Chris Burden showed his latest work to a very small group of close friends, including Schimmel. He called it Ode to Santos Dumont.

As Schimmel described seeing it, and described the elegiac qualities of the work, he started to choke up slightly. Just a few months after that unveiling, Burden was dead. Ode to Santos Dumont was his last finished work. And his last work turned out to be a strange and soulful white whale he spent a decade building—a re-creation of a curio of early aviation, a 40-foot-long white zeppelin that floats for 15 minutes around a fixed invisible point and then comes back earth.

“Because of his health, because of the gentleness of this…” Schimmel said, again stopping to collect his words. Then he cleared his throat and said, “I was recently in Egypt, and in their culture, there are boats that carry the spirit. And I did see that, with Chris, with him gently walking in front of the flying machine…”

Shortly after Burden’s death, Michael Govan, the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, staged a brief show of Ode to Santos Dumont in the back of his museum’s Resnick Pavilion, but only so many people could see it in the few weeks it was up. Now, the gigantic installation is making its high-profile debut on one of the few stages befitting its outsized ambition and physical girth: today, when VIPs enter the Unlimited sector of Art Basel in Basel, Switzerland, they will see Burden’s last work in all its glory, presented here by his longtime gallery, Gagosian.

“It was one of these perfect pieces for Chris,” Paul Schimmel said.

I was speaking to the former chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles about about a day in January 2015, a clear afternoon in Camarillo, California, when the artist Chris Burden showed his latest work to a very small group of close friends, including Schimmel. He called it Ode to Santos Dumont.

As Schimmel described seeing it, and described the elegiac qualities of the work, he started to choke up slightly. Just a few months after that unveiling, Burden was dead. Ode to Santos Dumont was his last finished work. And his last work turned out to be a strange and soulful white whale he spent a decade building—a re-creation of a curio of early aviation, a 40-foot-long white zeppelin that floats for 15 minutes around a fixed invisible point and then comes back earth.

“Because of his health, because of the gentleness of this…” Schimmel said, again stopping to collect his words. Then he cleared his throat and said, “I was recently in Egypt, and in their culture, there are boats that carry the spirit. And I did see that, with Chris, with him gently walking in front of the flying machine…”

Shortly after Burden’s death, Michael Govan, the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, staged a brief show of Ode to Santos Dumont in the back of his museum’s Resnick Pavilion, but only so many people could see it in the few weeks it was up. Now, the gigantic installation is making its high-profile debut on one of the few stages befitting its outsized ambition and physical girth: today, when VIPs enter the Unlimited sector of Art Basel in Basel, Switzerland, they will see Burden’s last work in all its glory, presented here by his longtime gallery, Gagosian.