The New York Times finally made a correct assumption about Los Angeles today, in the scathing “340-Ton Sculpture Versus Immovable Bureaucracy.”
Writer Adam NaGourney blames the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's delay in moving the centerpiece of a new installation from Riverside to its West L.A. campus on “the bureaucratic tangle that is greater Los Angeles in the 21st century.”
Word up, Adam NaGourney. This time, though…
The problem arose in September when, at what was just about the last moment, engineers determined that a bridge in Pomona might not be able to accommodate the weight of the rock. (And why take chances?) That meant redrawing part of a route that had been a year in the making. And that, said Michael Govan, the executive director of the museum, meant taking the rock through three new cities in Los Angeles County, requiring three new sets of negotiations, pleadings and applications for various permits.
The massive immovable beast was chosen by artist Michael Heizer as the centerpiece of Levitated Mass, an upcoming LACMA installation. The news that he had finally stumbled across his stone of choice was trumpeted by museum officials over the summer:
As with other works by the artist, such as Double Negative (1969), the monumental negative form is key to the experience of the artwork. Heizer conceived of the artwork in 1968, but discovered an appropriate boulder, which is one component of the greater artwork, only decades later, in Riverside, California.
Still, LACMA officials warned, Heizer's muse also happened to be “one of the largest monoliths moved since ancient times.”
It's pretty depressing to compare this hard-hatted circus with what must have been the seamless, superhuman raising of Stonehenge:
We've contacted LACMA for more on what's holding up Heizer's coveted boulder, currently “all packed up — swaddled in white plastic,” according to the Times. However, Michael Govan, LACMA's executive director, tells the paper: “We traverse 21 cities and three counties over a 100-mile route. You can't think of another place in the country where it's that densely covered. The real heavy lifting here is the bureaucracy and the permissions.”
BS, etc. But he doesn't think it's quite as big of a deal (“Assuming this is going to be here for thousands of years, a few months don't matter”) as some of the pissy commenters on the LACMA blog.
“Seriously, what is going on with this rock?” wrote one commenter on November 22. By early December, another replied with, “crickets.”
LACMA then brushes off their frustration with a standard “progress on the transport is happening, but slowly. We will definitely make an announcement as soon as the transport becomes imminent. Thank you for your interest!”
Therein lies the real problem, writes commenter “brenton”:
“It's not really a matter of thinking that they're dragging their feet or being incompetent. I totally understand that this is insanely complicated. I will be astounded if they're able to accomplish it at all, and I'm already duly impressed with what they've accomplished, mapping out a route, etc.
I'm sure that the people involved talk to their friends, their family, and people on the elevator, saying all sorts of things. That they're worried about rain, that they're looking into this one bridge, that the rubber wheels are being re-tested for strength, etc. And yet when we ask for an update on a website, the response is 'this is really hard, stop bothering us, we'll give you an update eventually.'”
Scott Tennent, speaking for LACMA, replies with more of the same, assuring panty-twisters that the museum is “working with numerous county, city, and state offices in getting all necessary permits and other ducks in a row – it is a complicated and lengthy (and mundane) process.”
Sigh. Boulder problems.