The history-making events of the two decades prior had distilled a zeitgeist which pushed artists to explore new frontiers. It was the midst of a groundbreaking technological era – where the first image of Earth had been captured in 1946 and the “Golden Age” of travel offered aerial views of the world below. The geopolitical tensions of the Cold War (1947-1991), the horrors of the Vietnam War (1955-1975), and the threat of a nuclear warfare in the 1960s had also birthed countercultural movements that rebelled against institutions and authority.
In 1966, then-chairman of Sotheby's Peter Wilson appeared on the BBC’s ‘Money Programme’ and announced that art was offering better returns than most stocks and shares had in the previous 30 years. It cemented the idea of art as an investment and some artists became disillusioned with the rapid commercialisation of the artworld. It was in this climate that the Land Art movement found its footing and artists expanded their thinking beyond not only the white cube, but the city limits. While Land Art did find itself in proximity to the mainstream artworld through seminal exhibitions like 1969’s ‘Earth Art Exhibition’ and ‘When Attitudes Become Form’, by situating itself in opposition to the traditional market model, Earthworks essentially held no monetary value. Whether intentional or not, Land Art was an anti-gallery protest.
“There are no values attached to something like this because it’s not portable and not a malleable barter exchange object,” said Michael Heizer, one of the pioneering artists of the movement. “You can’t trade this thing, you can’t put it in your pocket. If you have a war, you can’t move it around, it’s not worth anything. In fact, it’s an obligation.”