Nancy Holt sculpture officially gifted to the Contemporary Austin

Some 39 years after its creation, Holt's 'Time Span' is donated to the Austin museum by the Holt/Smithson Foundation


Though its been on the grounds of Laguna Gloria since its creation in 1981, Nancy Holt’s site-specific sculpture “Time Span” is now officially part of the Contemporary Austin’s permanent collection of outdoor sculptures, museum officials announced today.

The sculpture is a gift from the New Mexico-based Holt/Smithson Foundation, the legacy left by Holt (1938–2014) and artist Robert Smithson (1938–1973), who was Holt’s husband.

“’Time Span’ has been appreciated by visitors to Laguna Gloria for nearly four decades,” said Margie Rine, interim director of the Contemporary Austin. “We are deeply grateful to Holt/Smithson Foundation for making it possible for the Contemporary to permanently acquire a work that so poetically communicates with the landscape of this very special place.”

“Time Span” was commissioned when the Contemporary was known as Laguna Gloria Art Museum, and the museum’s only location was the 14-acre lakeside location. (The Contemporary know include the downtown Jones Center on Congress Avenue.)

Holt was one of several key figures who, beginning in the 1960s, sought to integrate art with the landscape and explore the potential of the American West, a movement that came to known as Land Art. Holt along with Smithson, wha was best known for his earthwork “Spiral Jetty” (1970) in Utah’s Great Salt Lake, pioneered ideas about taking conceptually rigorous art out of the museum into the natural landscape.

In siting the sculpture within Laguna Gloria’s 14-acre wooded site along Lake Austin, Holt chose the most remote point of the peninsula. Metal chains extend from the stucco and steel sculpture to poles standing in the lake itself, directing the viewer’s attention beyond the shoreline.

Holt intended “Time Span” to reflect change, offering variable sight lines of the surrounding landscape at different times of the day and year. Every year on April 5 — Holt’s birthday — the sun creates a shadow pattern encircling a plaque inscribed with the day’s date.

“Holt was dedicated to exploring how we might perceive the world around us in new ways,” said Lisa Le Feuvre, Executive Director of Holt/Smithson Foundation. “She was fascinated by the relationship between time measured by the sun and human existence. ‘Time Span’ is a very special work to the artist.”

In honor of the acquisition, the Contemporary is hosting a number of special programs, including film screenings at the Austin Film Society.

Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson: Filmworks
7 p.m. April 1
AFS Cinema, 6259 Middle Fiskville Road. Tickets at

 This screening of moving image works created collaboratively by Nancy Holt and artist Robert Smithson includes “East Coast / West Coast,” “The Making of Amarillo Ramp, Swamp,” “Mono Lake,” and a never-before-seen short film by Holt of Smithson and his works. Program will be introduced by Ann Reynolds, professor of Art History at the University of Texas at Austin and author of “Robert Smithson: Learning from New Jersey and Elsewhere.”

Nancy Holt: Sun Tunnels & Other Short
12 noon, April 5
AFS Cinema, 6259 Middle Fiskville Road. Tickets at

On the artist’s birthday, this special screening of Nancy Holt’s films explores the act of looking, creating portraits of remote places, and documenting the development of her monumental sculpture “Sun Tunnels.” Visiting guest speakers DeeDee Halleck, media activist and Holt’s longtime film editor, and Rachel Kushner, author of “The Flamethrowers” and other novels, will discuss the artist and her legacy following the screening.

Annual celebration of ‘Time Span’
3 p.m. April 5
Laguna Gloria, 3809 West 38th St. Ticket included with museum admission or film ticket

See how the steel wheel of Holt’s sculpture casts a shadow around its plaque set into the earth and brings into focus Laguna Gloria in springtime. Hear remarks by Annette DiMeo Carlozzi, the curator who commissioned the project in 1981, and Lisa Le Feuvre, Executive Director of Holt/Smithson Foundation.


Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
An award-winning arts journalist, Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the founder and editor-in-chief of Sightlines.

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