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Art Fairs — 2021

Parafin is delighted to return to the Spotlight section at Frieze Masters with a presentation exploring Nancy Holt’s use of photography in the late 1960s. The presentation focusses in particular on works made during a trip to England and Wales with Robert Smithson in 1969, and includes the major 20-part work Trail Markers (1969). During this journey Holt and Smithson visited fellow artists (Richard Long and Keith Arnatt, for example) and sites resonating with their practices, ranging from ancient ruins and landscaped gardens, to wild natural places. Both artists made important works, rare examples of major American Land artists working in the UK.


Nancy Holt (1938–2014) was a key member of the Earth, Land, and Conceptual art movements and a pioneer of public art, site-specific installation and moving image work. Within Holt’s practice photography was central. Her overriding theme was vision; the phenomena of sight, how we look and how we become conscious of our looking. For Holt the camera was a tool that allowed her to record objects, people and places, and – in a conceptual leap – to record the act of seeing and recording.


Holt’s beginnings as an artist coincided with radical cultural shifts that initiated new ways of making art and, alongside explorations of text and film, she embraced the possibilities that photography offered. For Holt, the camera enabled extended meditations on the changing conditions of place, a passage through space and an extended investigation of site.


The presentation includes important works such as Concrete Visions (1967) and Ruin View (1969) which use framing devices anticipating Holt's later 'Locators' series and the iconic Sun Tunnels (1973-76). It also explores her use of serial imagery in ‘composite’ works such as Wistman's Wood (1969) and the rarely seen Bar None (1967), as well as multi-part serial works such as Trail Markers (1969). Trail Markers records a walk Holt and Smithson made to Wistman's Wood on Dartmoor. At Wistman's Wood Holt made the first of her 'Buried Poems' (1969-71), which she dedicated to Smithson, and recorded the location. Old Sarum Ruins (1969) combines four views of an ancient earthwork on Salisbury Plain, anticipating both Holt and Smithson's later landscape projects.


‘Nancy Holt’ at Frieze Masters is presented in association with the Holt/Smithson Foundation.

Frieze Masters

Spotlight: Nancy Holt

13 – 17 October 2021


Selected Works

Nancy Holt


Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Nancy Holt (April 5, 1938 – February 8, 2014) grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Tufts University, where she majored in biology. In 1963 she married Robert Smithson (1938–1973). Holt is known for her earthworks, public sculpture and installation work. Best known for her large-scale environmental works Sun Tunnels (1973–76, Great Basin Desert, Utah) and Dark Star Park (1970–84, Arlington County, Virginia) her public sculptures are permanently installed in locations across Europe and North America. In 2018 Sun Tunnels was acquired by Dia Art Foundation, with the support of Holt/Smithson Foundation.


In 2010-12 the retrospective exhibition ‘Nancy Holt: Sightlines’ travelled from Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York to venues in Karlsruhe, Boston, Chicago, Santa Fe, and Salt Lake City, accompanied by a monograph by Alena J Williams (University of California Press). Other notable recent exhibitions include Dia Art Foundation, New York (2018); ‘Nancy Holt: Locators’, Parafin, London (2015); ‘Nancy Holt: Land Art’, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (2013); ‘Nancy Holt: Selected Film and Photo Works’, Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver (2013); and ‘Nancy Holt: Photoworks’, Haunch of Venison, London (2012). Her work has been included in major survey exhibitions including ‘Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974’ at Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and Haus der Kunst, Munich (2012-13), and ‘Light Show’ at Hayward Gallery, London (2013).


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.


© Parafin Ltd 2021