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Spiral Jetty Has Lease Problems, Just Like Your Sublet

by Kyle Chayka on June 14, 2011

Robert Smithson's “Spiral Jetty” (1977) (image via wikipedia.org)

Could the Dia Foundation lose its lease to the most iconic work of land art ever? The Utah Department of Natural Resources recently informed Dia that it had failed to renew its lease on the land that holds Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” (1970) in Rozel Point, Utah.

The Salt Lake Tribune first noticed the problem, and was quick to inform a shocked Dia spokesperson. As it turns out, the state claims that Dia had failed to pay an annual $250 fee to upkeep its claim on the land. Sounds pretty much like a nasty security deposit conflict on a Brooklyn sublet. Can Dia and Utah forgive and forget? Will the Jetty end up on Craigslist?

The Tribune writes that “Dia had also failed to respond to the state’s automatically generated notice in February that its 20-year lease on the lake bed had run out, said [Utah DNR] division spokesman Jason Curry.” Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes has the whole story, though. He spoke with Dia director Philippe Vergne, who said that the foundation paid the lease fee “just as we’ve done since 1999.”

Spiral Jetty at Rozel Point in Utah (screengrab by author)

Vergne puts the confusion down to the death of the DNR staff member who had managed correspondence with Dia and the lack of a response from a new employee. Thankfully, the situation looks to be resolving quietly, without the state attempting to auction the land off to a new leaseholder (though they have had a handful of inquiries). Chalk this one up to bureaucratic confusion.

Still, one hopes that Dia can avoid even small conflicts like this in the future. As stewards of many of our country’s most significant earthworks, including Walter De Maria’s 1977 “The Lightning Field”, Michael Heizer’s “City” (ongoing) and James Turrell’s “Roden Crater” (ongoing), they have a lot to be responsible for.

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