Feature

Installation of the week: Levitated Mass

The 340-ton chunk of granite drew massive crowds during a four-county, 22-city crawl to its new home.

Los Angeles County Museum of ArtOpens in late spring or early summer

Meet “Los Angeles’s newest rock star,” said Scott Gold in the Los Angeles Times. Recently excavated from a quarry in Riverside County, the 340-ton chunk of granite that now sits on the grounds of LACMA drew massive crowds earlier this month during a four-county, 22-city crawl to its new home. Museum officials knew the procession would stop traffic—the boulder was carried in a sling on a 260-foot-long custom-built rig and often moved more slowly than pedestrians. But no one anticipated the throng of 20,000 that greeted the rock in Long Beach or the stilt walkers, sidewalk artists, and vagabond musicians who transformed the journey into an 11-day carnival. By summer, it will be the centerpiece of Levitated Mass, a Michael Heizer installation “so highly abstract that some question whether it is art at all.”

The project could just as easily be named “Levitated Mess,” said Jonathan Dobrer in the Los Angeles Daily News. The LACMA officials who decided it was appropriate in these tough economic times to spend $10 million on such an undertaking clearly “have rocks in their heads.” Granted, the money was raised from private donors, and the sight of a granite megalith on the grounds of an urban museum might be “pretty awesome.” There might also be a case that it’s art. But even once the rock is perched above the narrow, 456-foot walkway that has been carved into the museum’s grounds, and even when visitors strolling under the rock are rewarded with the impression that it’s floating above them, the expenditure will be unjustifiable. “The next time LACMA solicits me for a contribution, or denies me admission to a special exhibition that isn’t included in my basic membership, the museum should not expect a positive response.”

Far better to spend the money on this than on acquiring a Picasso, said John Lopez in Bloomberg Businessweek. The $10 million created hundreds of local jobs, from quarry workers to transport engineers and museum-site construction crews. The 22 municipalities it passed through even earned permitting fees. When the installation is complete, tourists are sure to be interested in viewing a work that “has already earned comparisons to Stonehenge.” During the rock’s journey, there was “something indescribably sublime” in seeing an ancient, monumental creation of nature being “moved into aesthetic captivity” to provoke wonder or even head-scratching from generations to come. “Put more simply, it’s cool.”

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