But Heizer never abandoned his decades-old plan for Levitated Mass
, and the sculptor was given another chance in 2007, when he received a call from a quarry outside of Riverside, California, telling him that they had a rock he “might be interested in.” Heizer flew out the next morning to see it—the rock weighed 340 tons and was around two stories tall. Leaving the quarry, he called Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
(LACMA), from the airport, and told him he’d just found the most beautiful rock he’d ever seen. Govan, familiar with the unfulfilled plans Heizer had laid out in the 1960s for Levitated Mass
, was on board. With a major institution’s support, the sculpture could finally move forward, but one problem remained: How the hell were they going to get a 680,000-pound rock to Los Angeles?
First, Heizer and his team needed to map a route. An object that size was too cumbersome to navigate sharp turns, too tall for many overpasses (one overpass the boulder later passed under in Chino left a clearance of barely six inches), and too heavy for steep inclines and most highways. And so an itinerary was laid out: The boulder would have to travel 105 miles, through four counties and 22 cities. This meant a lot of permits. The permit applications included the route’s every turn, noting every streetlight, traffic signal, wire, underpass, and overpass. Many of the traffic light poles along the way would have to be removed and replaced, which could take up to two hours per pole. The weighty permitting process ultimately delayed the work’s installation by roughly six months.
The museum then hired Emmert International, a company that specializes in moving “extreme objects” like nuclear generators and missiles. The company built a 294-foot-long, 206-wheel trailer that, with the use of as many as six trucks pushing and pulling simultaneously, would carry the rock on its Homeric journey, maxing out at around eight miles per hour.
The centerpiece of Levitated Mass
could be moved only at night, so as not to impede traffic. Otherworldly and ancient, the sheer strangeness of its presence on the road garnered a great deal of attention, and tens of thousands flocked to see the boulder travel by night and rest by day. One Long Beach neighborhood threw a rock-themed festival
in its honor. A poignant moment found the monolith sitting for the day, by coincidence or divine magnetism, outside of a Carson church named Roca de Salvacion (“rock of salvation” in Spanish), at which point locals prayed and took photos. There was at least one marriage proposal made with the rock as its backdrop. Residents of all zip codes along the rock’s route were granted free admission to LACMA for a period of time after Levitated Mass
’s installation was completed.