Nancy Holt filming at 'Broken Circle/Spiral Hill' with Robert Smithson
Smithson and Holt at site of 'Spiral Jetty', 1970
Photograph: Gianfranco Gorgoni
Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson, 1968
Photograph: Dan Graham
Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson at their West Village loft, New York City, 1970
Photograph: Gianfranco Gorgoni

The Holt-Smithson Foundation exists to continue the creative and investigative spirit of the artists Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson, who, over their careers, developed innovative methods of exploring our relationship with the planet, and expanded the limits of artistic practice. Through public service, the Foundation will engage in programs that increase awareness of both artists’ creative legacies, continuing the transformation they brought to the world of art and ideas.


Holt archival material on show in Washington D.C.

Currently on show at the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art is a study of archival material showing how artists have shaped, and are shaped Read more....

Robert Smithson’s “Monuments of Passaic”

In the January 2018 issue of Artforum, Phyllis Tuchman discusses Robert Smithson’s “Monuments of Passaic” (1967). Smithson travelled by bus on September 30, 1967 from Read more....


Nancy Holt

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Nancy Holt (April 5 1938 – February 8 2014) grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Tufts University, where she majored in biology. In 1963 she married Robert Smithson (1938-1973).

Holt is an artist known for her Land art, public sculpture and installation work. Her large-scale environmental works ‘Sun Tunnels’ (1973–76, Great Basin Desert, Utah) and ‘Dark Star Park’ (1970–84, Arlington County, Virginia) are her most discussed outdoor site-specific sculptures, while other sculptures are permanently installed in locations across Europe and North America.

Holt’s oeuvre ranges from permanent works to ephemeral gestures: she made films, videos, photography, audio works, concrete poetry and artists’ books. An analytical thinker, Holt began her early work in concrete poetry in 1966 and engaged in Conceptual art practices during the mid-seventies. She participated in landmark exhibitions, such as Language III at the Dwan Gallery in New York (1969) and c. 7,500 at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia (1973-74, traveling exhibition curated by Lucy Lippard). Holt made a number of tours and audio works, including ‘Tour of the John Weber Gallery’ (1972) and the Visual Sound Zones series (1972-79), looped recordings describing in detail phenomena in a given space that are played back on loudspeakers. In 1971 she began Buried Poems, where she wrote poems for friends and buried them in disparate locations ranging from Florida, Utah to New Jersey. In the 1980s Holt created the influential Artists’ Books Ransacked: Aunt Ethel: An Ending (1980, Printed Matter in association with Lapp Princess Press, New York) and Time Outs (1985, Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester).

Holt’s early involvement with photography played a role in later works she described as ‘literally seeing devices, fixed points for tracking the positions of the sun, earth and stars.’ These works, that she referred to as Locators, created possibilities for intimate connection to nature, in particular the stars. Holt described: ‘I feel that the need to look at the sky—at the moon and the stars—is very basic, and it is inside all of us. So when I say my work is an exteriorization of my own inner reality, I mean I am giving back to people through art what they already have in them.’ During the 1980s Holt’s interests turned to site-specific systems projects. She explained, ‘[My] sculptures are exposed fragments of vast hidden networks. They are part of open-ended systems, part of the world.’

In the last decade of her life, Holt was involved in both creating new works and revisiting her archive to excavate her consistent exploration of perceptual processes. Her groundbreaking art works continue to have a powerful impact on the development of a broad spectrum of art across the world.

Holt’s work is held in major public collections, including: Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art; Utah Museum of Fine Arts; and Museum für Gegenswartkunst.

Works by Holt are permanently installed at locations that include Miami University Art Museum, University of Massachusetts, and University of South Florida.

In 2010-12 the retrospective exhibition Nancy Holt: Sightlines (curated by Alena J. Williams) traveled from the Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University to Badischer Kunstverein in Karlsruhe, Tufts University Art Gallery in Boston, the Graham Foundation in Chicago, Santa Fe Arts Institute and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City.

In 2013 Holt was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Sculpture Center in New York.

In the last ten years of her life Holt focused on a number of projects related to her work on the Estate of Robert Smithson, including the realization of Smithson’s ‘Floating Island To Travel Around Manhattan’ on the occasion of his 2005 retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Nancy Holt, 'Sun Tunnels' (1973-76)
Great Basin Desert, Utah, USA
Photograph: Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt, 'Sun Tunnels' (1973-76)
Great Basin Desert, Utah, USA
Photograph: Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt, 'Hot Water Heat' (1984)
Installation view at John Weber Gallery, New York, USA
Photograph: Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt, 'Electrical System II: Bellman Circuit' (1982)
Installation view at David Bellman Gallery, Toronto, Canada
Photograph: Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt, 'Rock Rings' (1977-78)
Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington, USA
Photograph: Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt, detail of 'Rock Rings' (1977-78)
Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington, USA
Photograph: Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt, 'Up and Under' (1987-98)
Sand quarry in Nokia, Finland
Photograph: Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt, interior view of converging tunnels in 'Up and Under' (1987-98)
Sand quarry in Nokia, Finland
Photograph: Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt, 'Holes of Light' (1973)
Installation view at LoGuidice Gallery, New York, USA
Photograph: Richard Landry

Robert Smithson

Born in Passaic, New Jersey, Robert Smithson (January 2 1938 – July 20 1973), spent his formative years in New Jersey. In 1963, Smithson married Nancy Holt (1938–2014).

Childhood interest in travel, cartography, geology, architectural ruins, prehistory, philosophy, science fiction, popular culture and language inspired his art across all media as he matured. In 1954 Smithson received a two-year scholarship to study at the Art Students League in New York City. Post war abstract expressionism influenced the young Smithson, and the late fifties and early sixties found him immersed in the vitality and experimentation of the burgeoning downtown New York art scene.

Smithson is best known for his earthworks ‘Spiral Jetty’ (1970), ‘Broken Circle/Spiral Hill’ (1971) and ‘Amarillo Ramp’ (1973). At age thirty-five, while photographing ‘Amarillo Ramp’, Smithson died in a small airplane accident, along with pilot Gale Ray Rogers and photographer Robert E. Curtin. Nancy Holt, Richard Serra and Tony Shafrazi completed ‘Amarillo Ramp’ one month after his passing. Prior to this earthwork trilogy, Smithson created performative entropic landworks, made to have a finite life rather than transform over long periods of time. The ephemeral earthworks ‘Asphalt Rundown’ (1969, Rome), ‘Glue Pour’ (1969, Vancouver), ‘Concrete Pour’ (1969, Chicago) and ‘Partially Buried Woodshed’ (1970, Kent State) speak poignantly to issues of time and the human condition.

Smithson’s first solo exhibition, with emphasis on ‘expressionistic work’, took place in 1957 at Allan Brilliant’s gallery in New York. The artist’s peripatetic life took him to Rome in 1961, when George Lester offered him his first solo international exhibition at Galleria George Lester, where he explored quasi-religious subject matter. His early paintings, drawings and sculptures made between 1961 and 1963 were imbued with references to concrete poetry, popular culture and science fiction. Influenced by minimalism, in 1964 Smithson declared his quasi-minimal sculptures made from industrial materials of metal and mirrored Plexiglas as his ‘mature’ works, distancing himself from his early expressionistic paintings and drawings. In 1965 he exhibited these works at the American Express Pavilion, New York World’s Fair.

Smithson changed notions of contemporary art by taking it out of the gallery and into the uncultivated landscape. A provocateur and autodidact, Smithson was fascinated by concepts of duality and entropy. Attracted to industrial wastelands, rock quarries and fringe landscapes, his works of the late 1960s broke with conventional notions of sculpture. His ‘nonsites’ were made from treks into non-urban environments. Incorporating maps, bins or mirrors with organic materials, such as rocks and earth, the nonsites create a dialectic between outdoors and indoors, ruminating on time, site, sight, nature and culture. Smithson defined the area from which organic materials were collected as the ‘site’, while the indoor placement of the materials is the ‘nonsite’. The first was ‘A Nonsite, Pine Barrens, New Jersey’ (1968), which premiered in his solo exhibition at Dwan Gallery, New York City in 1968. The artist Sol LeWitt (1928-2007), an important influence on Smithson, introduced him to Virginia Dwan. She became Smithson’s gallerist in 1966 and supported the creation of ‘Spiral Jetty’.

Smithson’s writings on art, western culture, graphic texts, and interviews, are published in The Writings of Robert Smithson, edited by Nancy Holt (1979, New York University Press, with an expanded version published in 1998).

His works are in numerous museum collections, including Chicago Art Institute, Dia Art Foundation, Museum of Modern Art New York, National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Tate and Whitney Museum of American Art.

Robert Smithson, 'Spiral Jetty' (1970)
Great Salt Lake, Utah, USA
Photograph: Gianfranco Gorgoni
Robert Smithson, 'Floating Island to Travel around Manhattan Island' (1970/2005)
Realized by Minetta Brook in collaboration with the Whitney Museum of American Art New York, USA
Photograph: Diana Balmori
Robert Smithson, 'Asphalt Rundown' (1969)
Rome, Italy
Robert Smithson, 'Broken Circle / Spiral Hill' (1971)
Emmen, The Netherlands
Robert Smithson, 'Broken Circle / Spiral Hill' (1971)
Emmen, The Netherlands
Robert Smithson, 'Broken Circle / Spiral Hill' (1971)
Emmen, The Netherlands
Robert Smithson, 'Mirror with Crushed Shells (Sanibel Islands)' (1969)
Robert Smithson, 'Partially Buried Woodshed' (1970)
Kent State University, Ohio, USA
Robert Smithson, 'Amarillo Ramp' (1973)
Tecovas Lake, Amarillo, Texas, USA
Photograph: Gianfranco Gorgoni

Comments or inquiries for the Holt-Smithson Foundation

General Inquiries

1000 Cordova Place #705
Santa Fe NM 87505


Lisa Le Feuvre
Executive Director

Tom Martinelli
Archive and Digital Resources Manager

Board of Directors

Matthew Coolidge
Dee Dee Halleck
Diane Karp, President
Serge Paul
Estevan Rael-Gálvez, Treasurer/Secretary
Wendy Lewis

All images © Holt-Smithson Foundation, Licensed by VAGA, New York.

For additional information on Nancy Holt, visit–nancy-holt.html

For additional information on Robert Smithson, visit

For reproduction of artwork by Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson, contact VAGA at

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