The Foundation

Holt/Smithson Foundation exists to continue the creative and investigative spirit of the artists Nancy Holt (1938-2014) and Robert Smithson (1938-73).

Holt and Smithson developed innovative ways of exploring our relationship with the planet, expanding the limits of artistic practice. Through public service their Foundation engages in programs developing the artists' creative legacies, continuing the transformation they brought to the world of art and ideas.

Biographies

Nancy Holt

1938—2014

Nancy Holt (April 5, 1938 – February 8, 2014) was a member of the earth, land, and conceptual art movements. A pioneer of site-specific installation and the moving image, Holt recalibrated the limits of art. She expanded the places where art could be found and embraced the new media of her time. Across five decades she asked questions about how we might understand our place in the world, investigating perception, systems, and place.

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Nancy Holt

Robert Smithson

1938—1973

For over fifty years, Robert Smithson's work and ideas have influenced artists and thinkers, building the ground from which contemporary art has grown. Born in New Jersey in 1938, Smithson' early interests in cartography, geology, prehistory, philosophy, science-fiction, and language spiral through his work. From his landmark earthworks to his “quasi-minimalist” sculptures, Nonsites, writings, proposals, collages, drawings, and radical rethinking of landscape, Smithson's ideas are profoundly urgent for our times. 

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Robert Smithson
a young man seated on a rock with the Colosseum in Rome in the background
Year: 1961

Smithson at the Colosseum in Rome, in 1961. This photograph was taken during Smithson's first visit to Rome when George Lester offered him his first solo international exhibition at Galleria George Lester, where he explored quasi-religious subject matter. 

Poster with text in upper left and pen and ink drawing of angels, monsters, and horses interacting
Year: 1962

An exhibition poster for Robert Smithson's 1962 solo exhibition at Richard Castellane Gallery,  New York, NY. This was the first of Smithson's two solo exhibitions with Castellane Gallery in 1962.

 24 x 18 in. (61 x46 cm.)

black and white photograph of a man and woman sitting on floral pattern sofa. Man has his arm around the woman and she is looking at the camera.
Year: 1963

Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson marry in New York on June 8, 1963.  This photograph of them was taken on Christmas, 1963.

Nancy Holt standing by shore of lake with sunglasses on and short brown hair.
Year: 1968

Nancy Holt visits the American West for the first time with Smithson and Michael Heizer. Shoots film Mono Lake with Smithson and Heizer at California’s Mono Lake.

Photo: Michael Heizer

Two men in swimsuits leaned over pushing a tree stump on a sandy beach.
Year: 1969

Robert Rauschenberg helps Smithson drag a tree out of the water and onto the beach on Captiva Island, Florida, in order to create Smithson's Upside Down Tree II.

Nancy Holt's face reflected in a circular mirror
Year: 1973

Nancy Holt first presents her installation work Holes of Light in a solo exhibition at the LoGiudice Gallery.

Three figures standing at the site of Amarillo Ramp in Texas
Year: 1973

While photographing Amarillo Ramp, Smithson dies in a small airplane accident, along with pilot Gale Ray Rogers and photographer Robert E. Curtin. Richard Serra, Nancy Holt, and Tony Shafrazi complete Amarillo Ramp one month after his passing.

Nancy Holt standing inside one of the large tunnels that are part of Sun Tunnels.  Blue sky and sunny and Nancy is wearing a blue top and blue jeans.
Year: 1976

Holt completes construction of her most discussed work, Sun Tunnels in Utah’s Great Basin Desert.  

Nancy Holt standing in a circular hole at her work Stone Enclosure: Rock Rings
Year: 1978

Working with Professor Lawrence Hanson and stonemason Al Poynter among others, Holt constructs Stone Enclosure: Rock Rings at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.

A series of interconnected steel conduit and lightbulbs in a room.
Year: 1982

Holt constructs and exhibits her first Electrical System works: Electrical System (For Thomas Edison) and Electrical System II: Bellman Circuit [pictured].

Nancy Holt sitting in an old juniper tree in New Mexico
Year: 1995

Nancy Holt moves to Galisteo, New Mexico.

Photo: Lucy Lippard, 1998

large earthwork sculpture made using earth, concrete, water, and grass with people moving around on top of it.
Year: 1998

Holt completes a major earthwork in Nokia, Finland titled Up and Under. 

Nancy Holt, Up and Under (1987-98)

Location: Pinsiö, Finland

Materials: sand, concrete, topsoil, grass, water

Overall surface area: 14 acres (5.7 hectares)

Mound: height ranges from 11 to 26 ft. (3.5 to 8 m), with a length of 630 ft. (192 m)

Tunnels: length 241 ft. (74 m), with a diameter of 10 ft. (3 m)

Orientation: using the North Star as true North, the tunnels are on north-south and east-west axes

© Holt/Smithson Foundation/licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York

A large white walled room with benches and projected images on two hanging screens and images on the wall.
Year: 2010

From 2010 through 2012 the retrospective exhibition Nancy Holt: Sightlines (curated by Alena J. Williams) travels 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.

Photograph: Stephan Baumann

Announcements

First Annual Holt/Smithson Foundation Lecture

We are very pleased to announce the first in a ten-year series of Annual Lectures, a new Holt/Smithson Foundation program that invites artists, writers, and thinkers to extend the creative legacies of Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson.

2022 Research Fellow: Margo Handwerker

We are delighted to announce our second 2022 Holt/Smithson Foundation Research Fellowship awardee: Margo Handwerker. 

Margo Handwerker is Chief Curator and Director of the Texas State Galleries at Texas State University. Handwerker holds a Ph.D. from the School of Architecture at Princeton University and a Masters in Art History, Theory, and Criticism from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a member of M12 STUDIO, a group of artists, researchers, and writers collectively based in Big Springs, Nebraska.

Virginia Dwan (1931-2022)

At Holt/Smithson Foundation we are honored that Virginia Dwan served on our Board of Directors from 2018 until her passing on September 4, 2022. Her wisdom, humor, curiosity, warmth, attention to detail, and vast expertise has contributed immensely to our young foundation. We will miss her a great deal.

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