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Brian D. Cohen

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Purpose

Posted: 07/10/2012 11:04 am

"You couldn't ask for a better gift to the economy right now than to be paying iron workers, truck drivers, concrete, construction workers. It makes sense in our modern California culture to take advantage of the outdoors for monumental sculpture because people love it," said Michael Govan, Los Angeles County Museum of Art curator.

The rock chosen for Michael Heizer's sculpture Levitated Mass made its way 105 miles, through four counties and 22 cities, to its perch at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Hundreds of people and tons of equipment moved the big rock over two weeks in March. (The $10 million cost to move the boulder was paid for through private donors).

When I heard about the big rock I couldn't help but think of the pyramids, of all the workers who lugged and hewed limestone for the great big funeral markers in Egypt

The Egyptian workers had a vested interest in the project turning out well, as their work would help guarantee their own afterlife and would also benefit the welfare and prosperity of Egypt as a whole (proper care for the body of the dead Pharaoh was necessary for him to carry out his duties in the underworld, which ensured the cycle of life and death would continue. Some historians now believe the workers were not slaves, but were willing employees and were fairly compensated. Plus they had the satisfaction of pitching in for the good of the universe -- the project had their total buy-in. ("Who Built the Pyramids?" PBS.org, NOVA. 02/04/97)

In both cases, a major public monument to posthumous ambition. Public art can stimulate the economy, and that was what Michael Govan could offer (that and the fact that the sculpture would be placed outdoors). But he didn't offer the workers eternal life or promise prosperity and peace for the country. We don't expect that much of our art, so we'll take what we can get.

 
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