Art Term

Land art

Land art or earth art is art that is made directly in the landscape, sculpting the land itself into earthworks or making structures in the landscape using natural materials such as rocks or twigs

Richard Long, ‘Sahara Circle’ 1988
Richard Long
Sahara Circle 1988
© Richard Long

Land art was part of the wider conceptual art movement in the 1960s and 1970s. The most famous land art work is Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty of 1970, an earthwork built out into the Great Salt Lake in the USA. Though some artists such as Smithson used mechanical earth-moving equipment to make their artworks, other artists made minimal and temporary interventions in the landscape such as Richard Long who simply walked up and down until he had made a mark in the earth.

Land art, which is also known as earth art, was usually documented in artworks using photographs and maps which the artist could exhibit in a gallery. Land artists also made land art in the gallery by bringing in material from the landscape and using it to create installations.

As well as Richard Long and Robert Smithson, key land artists include Nancy Holt, Walter de Maria, Michael Heizer and Dennis Oppenheim.

Related terms and concepts

  • Environmental art

    Environmental art is art that addresses social and political issues relating to the natural and urban environment

  • Conceptual art

    Conceptual art is art for which the idea (or concept) behind the work is more important than the finished art ...

  • Psychogeography

    Psychogeography describes the effect of a geographical location on the emotions and behaviour of individuals

  • Landscape

    Landscape is one of the principal types or genres of subject in Western art

Explore this term

Selected artists in the collection

Selected artworks in the collection

Land art at Tate

  • Tate Britain


    Richard Long: Heaven and Earth

    3 Jun – 6 Sep 2009
    Richard Long: Heaven and Earth ate Tate Britain 3 June – 6 September 2009
  • Tate Britain


    Hamish Fulton: Walking journey

    23 Mar – 4 Jun 2002
    Hamish Fulton: Walking journey: photographic works about the experience of walking. Past Tate Britain exhibition