New York, NY—Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty (1970) is threatened by an application to drill exploratory boreholes in Utah's Great Salt Lake for oil exploration by Pearl Montana Exploration & Production. Dia Art Foundation adamantly opposes this proposed oil drilling as it will endanger one of the most widely recognized and cherished American sculptures of the late twentieth century. Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty is perhaps the most iconic example of Land Art in the world. Dia acquired the Spiral Jetty as a gift from the artist’s Estate in 1999 and today oversees its long-term preservation, including the protection of the surrounding environment.
Smithson's sculpture is made of basalt rocks and earth taken from the site and formed into a massive 1,500-foot-long coil that spirals into the Great Salt Lake. Jeffrey Weiss, director of Dia Art Foundation, said, "The expansive natural setting is integral to Smithson’s artwork, providing an essential frame for experiencing the Spiral Jetty. Any incursion on the open landscape, including the proposed drilling, would significantly compromise this important work of art."
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has joined Dia in protesting the proposed drilling. Richard Moe, president of the Trust offered his support: "The National Trust for Historic Preservation believes that Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty on the Great Salt Lake is a significant cultural site from the recent past, merging art, the environment, and the landscape. We are deeply concerned about the potential harm that energy development could bring to the Spiral Jetty."
Dia strenuously objects to the proposed drilling which will occur less than 5 miles away from the Jetty. The drilling itself, and potential subsequent oil extraction, will disrupt the viewshed and the area’s isolated character, and will degrade the natural environment of the lake by introducing barges with large-scale drilling equipment. Moreover, construction and operation will introduce toxins and chemicals to the delicate saline water and wetlands that surround the lake. In the case of a toxic spill, the proposed operation would cause irreparable damage to the lake environment and threaten the physical integrity of Smithson's extraordinary sculpture. Additionally, Dia is concerned about increased traffic and heavy transport on the rural road that leads to the Spiral Jetty through Golden Spike National Monument, and the potential for noise pollution from drilling and operations.
Smithson’s pioneering sculpture—made with bulldozers and earth—occupies an important place in art history, and has inspired both scholarly study and younger generations of artists. Visitors come from around the world to Rozel Point in Box Elder County, Utah to experience the Spiral Jetty which was conceived in relation to the specific geology and topology of its unique site. The fragile balance of earth, salt lake, and local flora and fauna, symbolized in the form and structure of the artwork, must be maintained to preserve the experience of the Spiral Jetty in this unique landscape.
As stewards of the Spiral Jetty, Dia believes the State of Utah must seriously consider the detrimental effects that energy exploration in the Great Salt Lake will have on Robert Smithson's internationally acclaimed artwork. Dia urges the public to write to the Utah Public Lands Policy Coordination Office to oppose the proposed drilling, and has provided a template letter and contact information at www.diaart.org.
Dia Art Foundation
A nonprofit institution founded in 1974, Dia Art Foundation is internationally renowned for initiating, supporting, presenting, and preserving art projects. Dia presents public programs and its permanent collection of works from the 1960s through the present at Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries, in New York’s Hudson Valley. Since opening in spring 2003, Dia:Beacon has received more than 350,000 visitors. Beginning in the fall of 2007, Dia presents commissions and projects by contemporary artists at the Hispanic Society of America while it seeks a permanent home for these initiatives in New York City. Additionally, the foundation maintains long-term, site-specific projects in the western United States, in New York City, and in Bridgehampton on Long Island. For additional public information, visit www.diaart.org.