The first major conservation project for Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels (1973-76)—four concrete sculptures in Utah’s Great Basin Desert—will commence in May with work undertaken by the New York-based Dia Art Foundation. The 10-day project will address cracking and erosion caused by exposure to extreme conditions in the American West.
Dia acquired Sun Tunnels in 2018 with support from the Holt/Smithson Foundation, which was established the year to serve the legacies of Holt and her husband Robert Smithson. (Dia acquired Smithson’s Spiral Jetty in Utah’s Great Salt Lake in 1999.)
The four large components of Sun Tunnels, arranged in an “X” formation on a 40-acre plot, align with the angles of the rising and setting sun during the winter and summer solstices, and small holes atop each piece reflect the constellations Capricorn, Columba, Draco, and Perseus. Sun Tunnels was the first work of Land art created by a woman to enter the collection of Dia, which in recent years has worked to expand the canon of ’60s-’70s-era art with activities related to Michelle Stuart, Anne Truitt, Dorothea Rockburne, Charlotte Posenenske, and more.
Lisa Le Feuvre, executive director of the Holt/Smithson Foundation, said in a statement, “Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels is landmark earthwork that is central to the future of art history. . . .This conservation of Sun Tunnels is emblematic of Dia’s undertaking to enable long-term and direct experience of artworks that have built the ground of art today.”
Jessica Morgan, Dia’s director, added, “The conservation work we are now embarking on will secure this work for future generations, demonstrating Dia’s strong commitment to the preservation and stewardship of Land art in our collection. These artworks each present unique and complex conservation issues, requiring vision and a deep understanding of the artists’ intentions to see the projects through.”