The Nancy Holt Estate records measure circa 57.8 linear feet and date from circa 1900-2014, with the bulk of the material dating from 1960-2000. The records include financial records, notebooks, project files including unrealized proposals, correspondence, calendars, and 9 linear feet of Holt's annotated library. Also included are the John Weber Gallery records concerning Robert Smithson that consist of the gallery's inventory and slide records of Robert Smithson's drawings and sculptures, including earthworks, and incorporate some slides from the James Cohan Gallery. James Cohan worked for John Weber before establishing his own gallery in 2001.
Scope and Contents:
The Nancy Holt Estate records measure circa 57.8 linear feet and date from circa 1900-2014, with the bulk of the material dating from 1960-2000. The records include financial records, notebooks, project files including unrealized proposals, correspondence, calendars, and 9 linear feet of Holt's annotated library. Also included are the John Weber Gallery records concerning Robert Smithson that consist of the gallery's inventory and slide records of Robert Smithson's drawings and sculptures, including earthworks. The records incorporate some slides from the James Cohan Gallery (1999-), an art gallery in Manhattan, New York, which represents the estate of Robert Smithson.
The Nancy Holt Estate records are arranged as 4 series.
Series 1: Project Files, circa 1900-2014, bulk 1970-2000 (12.8 linear feet; Boxes 3-10, OVs 11-31, RDs 32-39)
Series 2: Calendars and Notebooks, circa 1970s-2013 (2 linear feet; Boxes 40-42, OVs 43-44)
Series 3: John Weber Gallery Records Concerning Robert Smithson, circa 1960-circa 2001 (2 linear feet; Boxes 1-2)
Series 4: Unprocessed Papers, circa 1960s-circa 2014 (41 linear feet; Boxes 11-30, 34-38, 43-49, 53, 63-70, OVs 71-72)
Biographical / Historical:
Nancy Holt (1938-2014) was an environmental and installation artist, sculptor, filmmaker, and photographer, based in New York, New York. She was best known for her large-scale public land art installations including her seminal work Sun Tunnels (1973-1976) located in the Great Basin Desert, Utah. Her work engaged with the natural environment and the celestial realm, tracing the rotation of the earth and the movement of the sun and stars. Holt was also fascinated by mechanical systems such as those used for heating, drainage, and ventilation, and her functional sculptural installations explored the relationship between architecture and the built environment.
Holt was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, grew up in New Jersey, and graduated from Tufts University in 1960 with a degree in biology. She moved to New York City later that year where she met the artist Robert Smithson, to whom she was married from 1963 until Smithson's death in 1973.
Holt's landmark work Sun Tunnels was executed in 1973-1976 in Utah's Great Basin Desert, where Holt and Smithson had purchased surrounding land specifically to ensure an unimpeded view of the horizon. Holt went on to produce many site-specific outdoor works including 30 Below (1980), Dark Star Park (1984), Solar Rotary (1995), and Up and Under (1998). Her exploration of what she termed Systems Works included Catch Basin (1982), Flow Ace Heating (1985), and Spinwinder (1991).
Holt's photography was essential in the development of her ideas. In Missouri Ranch Locators: Vision Encompassed (1972) she used photography in her development of "seeing devices," creating eye-level steel pipes to direct viewers to a specific site in the surrounding landscape, and developing a concept that was central to Sun Tunnels and other works. Her book Ransacked, Aunt Ethel: An Ending (1980) documented through text and photographs the abuse and theft her aunt was subjected to at the end of her life. In Time Outs (1985) Holt used photographs of football games taken from a television screen to create a book born out of her childhood love of TV sporting events.
Holt's work can be found in the collections of major institutions including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, and the Museum für Gegenswartkunst, Germany. Her permanent installations can be found at public institutions including Miami University Art Museum, Southern Connecticut State University, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, Western Washington University, and University of South Florida.
In 2012 Nancy Holt was made a Chevalier of the of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government. In 2013 she was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Sculpture Center in New York. Holt received five National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, two New York Creative Artist Fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of South Florida, Tampa.
Holt lived in Galisteo, New Mexico, from 1995-2013. She died in New York City in 2014.
The Archives of American Art also holds the Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt papers, an interview with Nancy Holt conducted 1992 July 6 by Scott Gutterman for the Archives of American Art, and an interview with Nancy Holt conducted 1993 August 3 by Joyce Pomeroy Schwartz for the Archives of American Art.
Bequest of Nancy Holt, 2014.
The bulk of this collection is open for research. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Researchers interested in accessing born-digital records or audiovisual recordings in this collection must use access copies. Contact References Services for more information.
Some papers remain closed to researchers including some rolled documents in the unprocessed papers, financial files, and Nancy Holt's annotated library of books.
Items created by Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson copyright held by Holt/Smithson Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Requests for permission to reproduce should be submitted to ARS.