LACMA head Michael Govan led a public dedication ceremony in front of hundreds of eager art devotees at 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 24, to mark the debut of earthworks artist Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass.” The 340-ton megalith at its center drew international attention in March when it was moved through 22 cities over 11 nights via a specially constructed transporter from a Riverside quarry. (THR exclusively reported that it will be the subject of a documentary about its creation from the producer of Blue Valentine.)
The granite boulder is now carefully positioned atop the center of a 456-foot-long concrete slot, which museum visitors descend in order to walk beneath it. “As Michael said to me once, ‘When do you get to see the bottoms of sculptures?’” said Govan.
Among those who helped pay for the $10-million artwork were industry players Bobby Kotick, Carole Bayer Sager, Bob Daly, Steve Tisch and LACMA co-chair Terry Semel. Semel attended the dedication ceremony alongside Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
All eyes, however, were on reclusive rock star Heizer, who sat on the dais but did not speak publicly. The mayor at one point sidled up to him, full of ribbon-cutting-day bonhomie, asking, “Michael, can I take a picture with you for a tweet?” The artist, taciturn in keeping with his reputation, obliged with an almost imperceptible nod, but did not smile behind his rancher hat and sunglasses.
Govan, in closing the ceremony, noted that the Nevada-based Heizer, who works primarily on large-scale sculptural pieces in the remote desert area near his home, would not be speechifying about his work. So he did so for him, drawing comparisons — as he has done in the past — to ancient obelisks in other cultures (think: Stonehenge) and also providing context for the assembled audience about the larger tradition of 1960s and 1970s land art, of which “Levitated Mass,” first dreamed up during that era, is derived. Then the museum director observed that for all of the trouble it took to get the massive stone to the site, which is immediately adjacent to the future home of the Academy museum, he suspects it will remain in its place for a very long time, serving to future generations as “a monument to our own time and place.”