Los Angeles Museum to Move Massive Boulder for Art Installation

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

ABC News' Scott Shulman reports:

For more than a year, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has been planning to buy a 340-ton boulder and then move it over 100 miles, across 22 cities in four counties, on some of the most heavily traveled roadways in the country.

Upon traveling the serpentine route from suburban Riverside to West Los Angeles, Calif., on a specially built trailer, the massive rock will be mounted on tiny metal posts, giving the impression that it is floating above the heads of museum visitors.

The work, called "Levitated Mass," is Southwest artist Michael Heizer's latest creation. LACMA describes the work as "one of the largest megaliths moved since ancient times. ' Levitated Mass' speaks to the expanse of art history, from ancient traditions of creating artworks from megalithic stone, to modern forms of abstract geometries and cutting-edge feats of engineering."

The idea was originally conceived in the late 1960s, but Heizer only recently discovered the "appropriate" boulder to bring his mineral dream to reality.  Weighing in at 115 tons more than the Statue of Liberty, Heizer's beautiful bit of bedrock will begin its journey to artistic triumph on Feb. 28.

It will leave the quarry it has called home for the last million years and travel on a custom trailer donated by Korean shipping giant Hanjin.  Rolling on 196 wheels mounted on 44 axles, over the course of 11 nights, it will reach its destination in the Wilshire district of Los Angeles.

Travel in tinsel-town doesn't always go as planned.  To some, what looks like a sunny commute on MapQuest can frequently end up as a road rage nightmare.

Officials at the museum have invested thousands of hours planning the move.  Original estimates of the cost have been in the range of $10 million.

Structural limitations of roads and bridges as well as permitting requirements have caused months of delays. Significant re-routing has pushed the total distance from 85 to 115 miles. Travel will only occur at night, and the 200-foot trailer will remain parked on roads during daylight hours, requiring authorities to issue even more permits.

At this point, museum officials can only dream of levitating this mass.

LACMA has contracted with the engineering firm of Emmert International for the journey.  Emmert specializes in the heavy lifting of "extreme" objects such as massive steam generators, rockets, and other colossal equipment.  Months of studies and research have resulted in the circuitous route that never travels along a single Southern California freeway.

Workers will temporarily remove hundreds of power poles, light standards and signage as the boulder and its entourage pass by.  Each item must then be carefully put back in place.  No power outages are expected and traffic returning in the morning should be unaffected.

The rock was originally expected to arrive at its new home last August, but museum officials note that the bulk of the delay has been permitting issues and not the herculean task of the actual move.  There are potential dangers during the trip, but engineers say the main challenges are logistical.

Southern California received national attention recently as construction of a new bridge over the busy Interstate 405 necessitated a 2-day closure of the heavily traveled freeway.  "Carmageddon" as it was called, turned out to be mostly media hype, as Angelenos avoided the roadway, or just stayed home.  Predictions of gridlock were just that, as the project finished ahead of schedule with barely a notice by motorists.

So far, "Boulder-geddon" hasn't hit the So-Cal airwaves.  Officials at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art are hopeful that motorists will look beyond the possible inconvenience, and plan their own trip to visit "Levitated Mass" at its new home.