Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson's Land Art Masterwork
The monumental earthwork Spiral Jetty (1970) was created by artist Robert Smithson and is located off Rozel Point in the north arm of Great Salt Lake. Made of black basalt rocks and earth gathered from the site, Spiral Jetty is a 15-foot-wide coil that stretches more than 1,500 feet into the lake. Undoubtedly the most famous large-scale earthwork of the period, it has come to epitomize Land art. Its exceptional art historical importance and its unique beauty have drawn visitors and media attention from throughout Utah and around the world.
Rozel Point attracted Smithson for a number of reasons, including its remote location and the reddish quality of the water in that section of the lake (an effect of algae). Using natural materials from the site, Smithson designed Spiral Jetty to extend into the lake several inches above the waterline. However, the earthwork is affected by seasonal fluctuations in the lake level, which can alternately submerge the work or leave it completely exposed and covered in salt crystals. The close communion between Spiral Jetty and the super-saline Great Salt Lake emphasizes the entropic processes of erosion and physical disorder with which Smithson was continually fascinated.
On the occasion of Spiral Jetty's fiftieth year, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts invited four brilliant Utahns to share their perspectives. Read the series here.
Plan your visit to Spiral Jetty
- Download the self guide for history, directions, and travel tips.
- Download the experiential guide to help you explore the earthwork.
- Check out a Spiral Jetty Family Backpack at the UMFA, the Salt Lake City Public Library, or the Logan Library.
- View our event calendar for upcoming events related to Spiral Jetty.
- Find K–12 resources for teachers and schools.
In 1999, through the generosity of the artist Nancy Holt, Smithson's wife, and the Estate of Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty was donated to Dia Art Foundation. The Utah Museum of Fine Arts works in collaboration with Dia Art Foundation, Holt/Smithson Foundation, and Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College to preserve, maintain, and advocate for this masterpiece of late twentieth-century art and acclaimed Utah landmark. Dia leases the lake bed where Spiral Jetty is located from the State of Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. Click here to read more about the collaborative efforts to steward Spiral Jetty.
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