Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty
Great Salt Lake, Utah
Preservation and Collaboration
Created in 1970, Robert Smithson’s masterpiece, the Spiral Jetty, entered Dia’s collection in 1999 as a gift from the artist’s estate. As owners of the Spiral Jetty, Dia maintains the lease of Utah sovereign lands in the Great Salt Lake upon which the artwork is sited, and it is responsible for the long-term preservation and stewardship of the iconic American earthwork.
The Estate selected Dia to be responsible for the Spiral Jetty for several reasons: it had demonstrated its commitment to artists of Smithson’s generation; it had an international reputation for artistic excellence; and it had maintained and supported other works of Land Art, including Walter De Maria’s Lightning Field (1977).
At the time Dia had acquired the Spiral Jetty, the work was fully submerged in the lake. Beginning in the early 2000s, however, sustained drought in Utah caused water levels to recede, and the Spiral Jetty became visible for the first prolonged period in its history. Additionally, a generation of artists and scholars became keenly interested in Smithson, and major exhibitions were organized, including a nationally touring retrospective and a long-term installation of his work at Dia:Beacon. As a result, the prominence of the Spiral Jetty has risen dramatically over the past decade, increasing both the visitorship to the site and the general public’s interest in the artwork, at the local, national, and international levels.
As custodian of the Spiral Jetty, Dia ensures to do everything in its power to preserve the artwork, and it is committed to maintaining a photographic record of the work and documenting changes to the piece over time. It also collaborates with organizations in Utah that have been deeply involved in the advocacy of the Spiral Jetty over the years and who, through their respective missions and expertise, can assist Dia to build awareness locally and sustain the integrity of the artwork.
The Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College (GSLI) regularly uses the Spiral Jetty as a site for scientific research, art and science curriculum enrichment, K-12 outreach efforts for teachers and students, and community field experiences. As frequent visitors to Rozel Point, GSLI serves as a key ally for Dia, particularly with regard to environmental issues, site maintenance, and accessibility, as well as Great Salt Lake planning and management issues which may impact the Spiral Jetty.
The Utah Museum of Fine Arts at the University of Utah (UMFA) is the State of Utah’s official art museum, and its collection includes several works by Robert Smithson. UMFA works with Dia to ensure that the Spiral Jetty’s cultural reputation is upheld locally, and to promote the exceptional significance of the artwork within Utah.
Dia also maintains regular contact with State representatives from the Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands, within the Department of Natural Resources, who oversee the lakebed in which the Spiral Jetty is located. Along with park rangers at Golden Spike National Park, DNR has promoted the Spiral Jetty as an important state resource, and their efforts help ensure the site can be safely accessed.