Dia Acquires Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt

March 7, 2018

Dia Acquires Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt

A New Exhibition of Holt’s Work to Open at Dia:Chelsea in September 2018

New York – Dia Art Foundation announced today that Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels (1973–76)—a pioneering work of Land art located in the Great Basin Desert in northwestern Utah—has joined its collection of art. This new acquisition demonstrates Dia’s unwavering commitment to site-specific projects, which began more than forty years ago with Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977) in western New Mexico and now includes projects around the world. In recognition of the significance of this acquisition, Holt-Smithson Foundation will gift Holt’s Holes of Light (1973) to Dia. Formed in 2017, Holt-Smithson Foundation is an artist-endowed foundation that continues the creative legacies of Nancy Holt (1938–2014) and Robert Smithson (1938–1973). 

“Nancy Holt was an important innovator and intellect. She deeply understood Dia’s commitment to stewarding such radical works. Dia enjoyed a long and productive relationship with her, which began in 1999 when she facilitated the donation of Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970) to Dia,” said Jessica Morgan, Nathalie de Gunzburg Director, Dia Art Foundation. “I am honored to give her the place she deserves alongside her peers by bringing Sun Tunnels, the first work of Land art by a woman, into the fold of Dia’s collection.” 

Based in New York, Holt first visited the American West in 1968. She immediately connected with the region and traveled to it for a few months each year before settling in Galisteo, New Mexico, in 1995. Her engagement with the Western landscape initially manifested in the photographic series Western Graveyards (1968) and continued with the film Mono Lake (1968/2004), a collaboration with Michael Heizer and Smithson, as well as her first site-specific outdoor installation, Missoula Ranch Locators: Vision Encompassed (1972), realized in a field in Montana.

A year after Holt began working on Sun Tunnels, she purchased 40 acres in the Great Basin Desert and began building the piece, which was completed in 1976. As Holt articulated in 1977: The idea for Sun Tunnels became clear to me while I was in the desert watching the sun rising and setting, keeping the time of the earth. Sun Tunnels can exist only in that particular place—the work evolved out of its site.”

Composed of four concrete cylinders that are 18 feet in length and 9 feet in diameter, Sun Tunnels is arranged in an open cross format and aligned to frame the sun on the horizon during the summer and winter solstices. Additionally, each tunnel is perforated by a series of holes corresponding to stars in various constellations—Capricorn, Columba, Draco, and Perseus—so that shadows cast by the sun through these small apertures into each tube trace the earth’s rotation. The work centers Holt’s interest in perception and involves a focus on time—sculpting the sun’s light through the interplay of land and sky, and celestial shifts from day to night.

“No institution has a greater legacy or commitment to Land art than Dia Art Foundation,” said Lisa Le Feuvre, Executive Director, Holt-Smithson Foundation. “Over the past four decades, Dia has established strong models for stewardship and for scholarly research—values at the heart of our newly formed artist-endowed foundation. We are delighted to work with Dia to preserve Holt’s legacy for future generations. Holt and Smithson recalibrated the possibilities of art, building the ground from which contemporary art has grown. Our partnership with Dia is crucial for us to achieve our mission, and we are immensely proud to work together.”

Dia will partner with the Center for Land Use Interpretation at Wendover, Utah, Holt-Smithson Foundation, and Utah Museum of Fine Arts at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City to further advocate for Sun Tunnels.

In conjunction with the exhibition in 2018–19, Dia and Holt-Smithson Foundation will convene a series of public programs about the artist and her practice.

Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1938 and raised in New Jersey. In 1960 she graduated from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Holt’s oeuvre ranges from ephemeral gestures to large-scale environmental works that are permanently installed in locations across Europe and North America. Alongside her outdoor works, she made artists’ books, audio works, concrete poetry, film, photographs, room-sized installations, and videos. An analytical thinker, she began her early work in concrete poetry in 1966 and started engaging with Conceptual art practices during the mid-1970s. Holt’s work has been exhibited internationally since 1970, including presentations at the Centro de Cultura Contemporània in Barcelona, Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, Hayward Gallery and Tate Modern in London, Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. From 2010 to 2012 a retrospective exhibition, Nancy Holt: Sightlines, traveled from the Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University in New York to venues in Boston, Chicago, Karlsruhe, Salt Lake City, and Santa Fe. A major monograph was published by the University of California Press to accompany the exhibition. Other recent notable exhibitions include Nancy Holt: Photoworks at Haunch of Venison in London (2012), Nancy Holt: Land Art at Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester (2013), and Nancy Holt: Selected Film and Photo Works at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver (2013). In 2012 Holt was made a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government, and in 2013 she was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Sculpture Center. Holt died in New York in 2014.

Dia Art Foundation
Founded in 1974, Dia Art Foundation is committed to advancing, realizing, and preserving the vision of artists. At Dia:Beacon and Dia:Chelsea in Beacon and New York City, Dia fulfills its mission by commissioning new projects, organizing temporary exhibitions, displaying its collection of art from the 1960s and 1970s, and presenting programs of public engagement. Dia also maintains several long-term sites including: Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room (1977) and The Broken Kilometer (1979), Max Neuhaus’s Times Square (1977), and Joseph Beuys’s 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks, which was inaugurated at Documenta 7 in 1982), all of which are located in New York City; the Dan Flavin Art Institute (established in 1983) in Bridgehampton, New York; De Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977) in western New Mexico; Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970) in Great Salt Lake, Utah; and De Maria’s The Vertical Earth Kilometer (1977) in Kassel, Germany.

Holt-Smithson Foundation
Holt-Smithson Foundation exists to continue the creative and investigative spirit of the artists Nancy Holt (1938–2014) and Robert Smithson (1938–1973). Holt and Smithson developed innovative methods of exploring our relationship with the planet, expanding the limits of artistic practice. Through public service, Holt and Smithson’s foundation engages in programs developing the artists’ creative legacies, continuing the transformation they brought to the world of art and ideas. Initiated in late 2017, Holt-Smithson Foundation joins the growing sector of artist-endowed foundations committed to preserving and expanding the legacies of the artists they are named after.

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For additional information or materials, contact: Hannah Gompertz, Sutton PR, hannah@suttonpr.com or 212 202 3402

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