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The 340-ton rock arrives safely at LACMA, at last

March 10, 2012 |  8:16 am

LACMA
After 11 grueling, and especially cold, nights on the road navigating tight corners, “crabbing” across bridges and narrowly avoiding collision with towering utility poles, LACMA’s monolith has finally arrived.

That is, it arrived at the museum. It “arrived,” in the most general sense, as soon as it left its Riverside quarry and the media hype began to swell.
 
The 340-ton boulder –- still shrink-wrapped, lighted with string lights and resting in a steel sling on its custom transporter –- pulled up to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art at exactly 4:25 a.m., as planned. Its eventual resting place will be as the centerpiece of the museum's permanent art installation, "Leviated Mass," by Nevada artist Michael Heizer.

PHOTOS: Giant rock rolling toward LACMA

At LACMA, the piece of granite stopped opposite Chris Burden’s "Urban Light" sculpture -– a yin of sorts to Burden’s enormous outdoor installation’s yang. The rock was greeted by more than 500 cheering and clapping members of the "levitated masses," who’d been waiting hours for it to arrive.

After a short photo opp -- during which onlookers streamed into the street, some reaching out and touching the boulder --  the transporter rounded the corner onto Fairfax Avenue at 5 a.m., and pulled into the construction site that will be the rock's final home. 

The last leg of the boulder’s 105-mile journey began on Figueroa Street between 64th and 65th streets in South L.A. That stretch of more than 11 miles went mostly smoothly. But there were a few bumps.
 
There was a particularly difficult turn for the massive transporter -- it's roughly three freeway lanes wide -- at Adams Boulevard and Western Avenue. This was immediately followed by the challenge of crossing a bridge over Interstate 10.
 
California Highway Patrol called in extra support during the evening to help man the crowds, which had grown exponentially by the time the rock reached Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue.
 
The spectator sport grew to a feverish pitch at one point when, in one of the most dramatic moments of the night, the bright red transporter and its glowing, milky white rock turned sharply onto Wilshire from Western, passing the iconic, deco-style Wiltern Theater.

LACMA Director Michael Govan stood in the center of Wilshire Boulevard, looking up at it and beaming. “Pretty amazing. Crazy, crazy,” he said joyfully, shaking his head in disbelief.
 
MAP: Following the route

The boulder might have arrived at LACMA several hours early were it not for multiple hold-ups due to illegally parked cars along Wilshire Boulevard that needed to be towed away. The first tow of the evening brought a degree of levity: As the silver Dodge Avenger was carted off, the crowd cheered wildly.
 
The transporter is now parked on the sculptural site, across from the museum’s Resnick Pavilion. But the work is nowhere near done. The process of removing the rock from the truck, positioning it above artist Heizer’s 456-foot-long slot in the ground, and breaking down the transporter will take at least two weeks. Then landscaping of the surrounding area begins. The museum doesn’t expect the installation to be ready until late spring or early summer.
 
Emmert engineer Mark Voss, who designed the transporter, was a bit teary eyed at the thought of breaking down his masterpiece: "I’m kinda sad to take it apart,” he said. “Yeah. It was a really cool transporter.”

RELATED:

Full coverage:  LACMA's rock

Interactive: Getting the rock ready to roll

Following LACMA's big rock through Long Beach, tweet by tweet

-- Deborah Vankin

Twitter.com/@debvankin

Photo: Onlookers swarm the 340-ton rock on Wilshire Boulevard as it arrives at LACMA in front of Chris Burden's "Urban Lights" installation early Saturday. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

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