Dia:Beacon presents Dia Art Foundation’s collection from the 1960’s to the present as well as special exhibitions, new commissions, and public and education programs.
In May 2003, Dia Art Foundation opened Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries, as a museum to house its renowned permanent collection of major works of art from the 1960s to the present. Located on the Hudson River in Beacon, New York, Dia:Beacon occupies a nearly 300,000-square-foot historic printing factory. The galleries are named in honor of Louise and Leonard Riggio for their extraordinary generosity, which has helped make possible the realization of this museum.
Since its founding in 1974, Dia has been dedicated to supporting individual artists and to providing long-term, in-depth presentations of their art. Dia:Beacon’s expansive galleries have been specifically designed for the display of the artworks to which Dia is committed, many of which, because of their character or scale, could not be easily accommodated by more conventional museums. Each artist’s work is displayed in a dedicated gallery or galleries, many of which were created in collaboration with the artists whose works they will hold.
The Building and Site
Dia:Beacon occupies a former Nabisco (National Biscuit Company) box printing facility built in 1929 and designed by Nabisco’s staff architect Louis N. Wirshing, Jr. In The building’s most recent owner, International Paper, donated the property to Dia in 1999.
The former factory is built of brick, steel, concrete, and glass, and is considered a model of early twentieth century industrial architecture. Design elements include broad spans between supporting columns, and more than 34,000-square-feet of skylights which create an exceptional environment for viewing works of contemporary art in natural light. These features were an important part of Dia’s decision to site the museum there, as was its location on the banks of the Hudson River only a five-minute walk from the Metro-North Hudson Line train station in Beacon, sixty miles (eighty minutes travel time) north of New York City.
To renovate the building, Dia asked American artist Robert Irwin to formulate a plan that would retain the original character of the factory, while accommodating its twenty-first century museum function. In collaboration with the architecture firm OpenOffice, a sensitive masterplan was devised for the museum building and its exterior setting that accommodates nearly 240,000 square feet of gallery space. Additionally, Irwin designed seasonally-changing gardens and a parking lot in which each car is matched with a flowering fruit tree.
Following the renovation, the building was listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places, and Dia is currently undertaking steps to restore the exterior’s brick façade. Dia is also working with state and local government officials and Scenic Hudson, a nonprofit environmental organization, on a master plan to connect Dia:Beacon facility with the adjacent riverfront land.
Assembled largely during the 1970s and early 1980s by Dia’s founders, Philippa de Menil and Heiner Friedrich, the original collection included works by some of the most important artists of the 1960s and 1970s including Joseph Beuys, John Chamberlain, Walter De Maria, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Imi Knoebel, Blinky Palermo, Fred Sandback, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, and Robert Whitman.
Anticipating the creation of Dia:Beacon, the collection was significantly augmented beginning in the late 1990s with works by artists of the same generation as those Dia historically supported. These include Bernd and Hilla Becher, Louise Bourgeois, Michael Heizer, Robert Irwin, On Kawara, Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, Bruce Nauman, Robert Ryman, Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, and Lawrence Weiner.