Levitated Mass: What Next?

March 15, 2012

Now that the 340-ton megalith has completed its 11-night, 105-mile journey, what happens next? I asked John Bowsher, project manager for Levitated Mass, that very question. “The spectacle’s over,” he said. “Now we make the artwork.”

As difficult as it was to transport the giant boulder from Jurupa Valley to the middle of Los Angeles, that is only the beginning of the process of realizing Michael Heizer’s sculpture. With all elements of the artwork now gathered in one place, Heizer will make the trip from Nevada to Los Angeles to oversee the placement of the boulder atop the 456-foot-long slot already constructed in the earth along the Sixth Street side of LACMA’s campus.

Megalith and slot slated to become part of Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, © Michael Heizer, photo © 2012 by Museum Associates/LACMA

Or, mostly constructed. In fact about 75 feet of the slot remains to be dug—we had to leave the land flat until the massive transporter rolled onto campus. Once the transporter is disassembled (already under way) and its parts are trucked out, work on completing the slot will begin. (For more on the construction of the slot, see this article on County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's website.)

Slot slated to become part of Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, © Michael Heizer, photo © 2012 by Museum Associates/LACMA

Meanwhile, as the transporter is taken apart, a 700-ton gantry is being assembled to place the megalith atop the slot. The gantry is a steel framework that will be able to lift and lower the boulder as well as move it horizontally (as much as 60 feet). As the gantry positions the boulder, it will be secured by pins to the steel shelves jutting out from the center of the slot. This will secure the boulder to the slot and will safeguard it against seismic activity. Once pinned, Heizer will strategically place steel wedges between the boulder and the shelves.

The final element of the artwork to be completed will be the surrounding 2.5 acre site, comprised of a compressed decomposed granite.

How long will all of this take? A couple of months at least. For the moment we anticipate opening Levitated Mass to the public in late spring or early summer. We will update you with an opening date in the coming weeks.

Scott Tennent