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Artist's massive 340-ton boulder making its way to Los Angeles art museum


March 7, 2012

A specially-designed truck is carrying the massive 340-ton rock to Los Angeles at 8mph

A specially-designed truck is carrying the massive 340-ton rock to Los Angeles at 8mph

Image Gallery (7 images)

If nothing else, large-scale works artist Michael Heizer gets major points for persistence (and thinking big). After over 40 years of searching for the right rock, the Berkeley, California, native's dream of creating a massive installation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is finally beginning to materialize. His monolith of choice, a monstrous 340-ton (308.44 mt), 21.6 ft (6.6 m) high behemoth, is slowly making its way to the museum where it'll eventually perch above a 456 ft (139 m) trench as the centerpiece in his upcoming work Levitated Mass.

Courageous visitors to quake-prone Los Angeles will actually be able to walk beneath the boulder, if they dare. A specially designed trailer, built around the rock at the quarry, is now ferrying the boulder to LACMA at 8 mph (13 km/h) and is scheduled to arrive on March 11th after an eleven day trip.

In what is estimated to be the largest stone-moving project since ancient Egyptian times, U.S. transportation company Emmert International was enlisted for the mammoth task. Their engineers spent months researching a circuitous route that avoided overpasses and roads too weak to handle the crushing weight of the rock. Their 295 ft long (90 m) rig is powered by two 600 hp tractors and has several pivot points along its length alog with 22 radio-controlled dollies to help negotiate curves. Along the way, utility crews have been dismantling overhead power lines and low-hanging traffic signals to give clearance to the vehicle.

The centerpiece for Levitated Mass rests at the quarry where it was discovered

Upon learning that the project is costing LACMA somewhere between US$5-10 million (funded entirely by private philanthropic donations), it's only natural for one to wonder why so much money is being spent to move a two storey rock over a hundred miles. Indeed, moving massive objects into special or sacred places has been a common theme throughout history.

"There's a very ancient tradition in cultures, ranging from the Egyptians to the Olmec in Mexico, of moving monoliths to mark a place," said LACMA director Michael Govan. "And I think the idea is that LACMA's campus really is a center for Los Angeles, a multi-cultural center, and this rock will mark it very physically in a very weighty, timeless and light manner." Levitated Mass is scheduled to open to the public in May or June, 2012.

Source: LACMA via WAN

The videos below, from Next Media Animation and LACMA, give a better sense of the project's scale:

About the Author
Randolph Jonsson A native San Franciscan, Randolph attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland before finding his way to the film business. Eventually, he landed a job at George Lucas' Industrial Light + Magic, where he worked on many top-grossing films in both the camera and computer graphics departments. A proud member of MENSA, he's passionate about technology, optimal health, photography, marine biology, writing, world travel and the occasional, well-crafted gin and tonic! All articles by Randolph Jonsson

What a waste of money!!

David Whyte

This proves beyond a doubt that some people are unbelievably stupid! $5 to $10 million could help a lot of people instead of bolstering the ego of on man and a museum director.


This character probably thinks of himself as a "greenie"! What of time, money, effort, and resources.

Guy Macher

Rock on Dudes! Excceeelllent!


To paraphrase an existing saying, "I don't know if it's art, but I don't like it."

Dave Andrews

I think the rock was perfect where it was. No art can be more impressive than the natural creation of this boulder.


For those who consider this project a waste of money and regardless of your opinon of the art value, keep in mind, the money was not shoveled into a pit and buried at the quarry. Rather, it went to the engineers and craftsmen who designed and built the transporter, to the material suppliers from which came the steel, rubber and electronics, to the operating crews and the folks taking down and re-installing the obstacles, to the cities along the way for permits and traffic control...in other words JOBS. Now you may have spent the funds differently if they were yours, but they were certainly not wasted. In the art world, sums of this magnitude change hands all the time for a painting or a sculpture...typically going from one rich person or institution to another. Not many jobs there. And in the end, Los Angeles will end up with a unique display that will attract visitors and generate more jobs yet.

Les LaZar

Rock 'n Roll. Seriously I thought there was a shortage of funds in the USA.


This mass is not really levitated, it is lifted up. though not really uplifting, when you walk beneath it.It will inspire a lot of people, if only to figure out how to make it drop.


As a person who knows how to appreciate good art, I find this exquisitely crafted piece of history, to be the most thought-provoking and mind-blowing creation God has ever laid eyes upon. The detail and depth in every cm^3 are only shadowed by the gentleness of the artist's maiden stoke through the peaks and valleys of this wonder. I consider myself among the lucky few that can acknowledge the artist's agony through his creation.



This "artist" had to wait 40 years to find this rock. He couldn't have been looking very hard. It's not even a naturally occuring rock it's been cut out of the existing quary.

Why didn't he either just go to the local quary and make one or alternatively and more creatively build the perfect rock out of foam and just make it look like the real thing??

If you are going to create such an installation it would be much safer if the rock was made of foam. You don't need to tell people what it is made of so they would get the same experience as if it was real.

How did he convince the curator of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to fund such an unusual project????


If you don't get it... you just plain don't get it.

John Hagen-Brenner

Me too!

I don't get it either...

Jeff Vandervort
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