Spiral Jetty, An Early Earthworks Sculpture, is Now Under Dispute
Spiral Jetty, one of the world's famous earthworks sculptures, was constructed by artist Robert Smithson in 1970 on the north side of the Great Salt Lake on land owned by the state of Utah. Robert Smithson died in 1973 leaving the Spiral Jetty under control of the Smithson Estate. Ensuing years of continuous heavy rains and floods raised the water level in the Great Salt obscuring the Spiral Jetty from view. Then, in 2004, after five continuous years of drought, the Spiral Jetty became visible again after nearly 30 years under water. Mass pilgrimages of art lovers traveled to view the Spiral Jetty, no longer a massive coil of black boulders but white with encrusted salt layers from the Great Salt Lake.
In 2008, the famous earthwork Spiral Jetty was under threat due to plans to drill for oil in the Great Salt Lake.
Today, the great spiral is fully uncovered, but under a new threat. According to the Utah Department of Natural Resources, the Dia Art Foundation, a New York-based arts organization who received control over Spiral Jetty from the Smithson Estate, hasn’t been making the annual payments on the ten acres of land under Spiral Jetty. The Department of Natural Resources stated that Dia had failed to renew the 20-year lease when it ran out in February 2011. So they sent Dia a letter indicating that the 20-year lease on the land had run out and would not be renewed.
Dia denied that they were late renewing their lease, stating that they had paid every annual Spiral Jetty lease invoice, but that the death of the Utah State Sovereign Lands Coordinator in 2010 buried all the paperwork. Now, as the Department of Natural Resources chases the paper trail, a Utah-based group called The Jetty Foundation has applied for the lease on Spiral Jetty. The group ,which was founded in June, includes a local TV news director, and a Travel Council spokesman, headed by Greg Allen, a technology entrepreneur, art collector, filmmaker and art blogger living in Washington, D.C.Continued on the next page