Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson's Land Art Masterwork

Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty (1970). Photograph by Gianfranco Gorgoni. Art © Estate of Robert Smithson/Licensed by VAGA, New York
Robert Smithson (American, 1938–1973), Spiral Jetty, 1970, Rozel Point, Great Salt Lake, Utah, black basalt rock, salt crystals, earth, and water, 1,500 ft. long and approximately 15 ft. wide. © Holt/Smithson Foundation and Dia Art Foundation, licensed by VAGA, New York.


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.

Visit Time Trip: Utah, Spiral Jetty, and Robert Smithson in the 1970s  to explore contemporary events in the Salt Lake Valley and the University of Utah (the U) ca. 1970, though objects from the collections of the UMFA and the J. Willard Marriott Library at the U.

Plan your visit to Spiral Jetty

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 University 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.

Photographic and video material of Spiral Jetty is copyright protected. For rights and reproduction requests, please contact rights@diaart.org. For general inquiries related to Spiral Jetty, please contact spiraljetty@diaart.org

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