Robert Smithson, Nonsite, Site Uncertain, 1968

In the late 1960s, Robert Smithson’s “nonsites” radically challenged the limits of sculptural practice and paved the way for the artist’s construction of Spiral Jetty (1970). This spring, to honor fifty years of the iconic earthwork, the Museum is thrilled to welcome Smithson’s 1968 sculpture Nonsite, Site Uncertain on loan for one year from the Detroit Institute of Arts. This work exemplifies Smithson’s dialectic of “sites” and “nonsites,” a theory and sculptural practice that focused on the interplay of outdoors and indoors, there and here, open and closed, scattered and contained, natural and built. For Smithson, the “site” was “the physical, raw reality” of a location while the “nonsite” was a sample of that reality displayed elsewhere. Nonsite, Site Uncertain will be on view in the Museum’s modern and contemporary gallery. 

Robert Smithson, Nonsite, Site Uncertain, 1968. Cannel coal, steel, and enamel, 15 x 90 x 90 in. (overall). Detroit Institute of Arts, USA. Founders Society Purchase, Dr. and Mrs. George Kamperman Fund and New Empowerment Fund. Ó Holt-Smithson Foundation/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo courtesy Bridgeman Images.