Dia Art Foundation, one of the world’s preeminent contemporary art institutions, is opening a new museum to house its renowned but rarely seen permanent collection, comprising major works of art from the 1960s to the present. Located on the Hudson River in Beacon, Dutchess County, New York, Dia:Beacon will occupy a nearly 300,000-square-foot historic printing facility. The building was donated to Dia by International Paper, its most recent owner. The museum will open to the public in early May 2003.
Since its founding in 1974, Dia has been dedicated to supporting individual artists and to providing long-term, in-depth presentations of their art. The Beacon museum’s expansive galleries have been specifically designed for the display of the works in Dia’s collection, many of which, because of their character or scale, could not be easily accommodated by more conventional museums. Each artist’s work will be displayed in a dedicated gallery or galleries, many of which are being created in consultation with the artists whose work they will hold.
The art to be installed at the new museum includes Andy Warhol’s 1978 Shadows (a multipart work comprising 102 paintings); recent monumental sculptures by Richard Serra; a suite of On Kawara’s Today paintings; a large-scale sculpture by Walter De Maria; “monuments” for V. Tatlin, a series of fluorescent light works by Dan Flavin; several mixed-media installations by Joseph Beuys; and Agnes Martin’s 1999 paintings Innocent Love.
American artist Robert Irwin collaborated with Dia and project architect OpenOffice (of New York City) to formulate the plan for the museum building and its exterior setting.
Built in 1929 by Nabisco (National Biscuit Company), the historic steel, concrete, and glass factory, designed by Nabisco’s staff architect Louis N. Wirshing, Jr., is a model of early-twentieth-century industrial architecture. The elegant, functional design that accommodated the printing plant during its sixty years of operation will create an outstanding environment for viewing works of contemporary art. The unusually broad grid of supporting columns provides for the construction of clear, open galleries, while more than 34,000 square feet of skylights permit exceptional amounts of reflected north light. At Dia’s instigation, the building has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.
The new museum is sited on thirty-one acres on the banks of the Hudson River. Dia is working with state and local government officials and Scenic Hudson, a nonprofit environmental organization, on a master plan to connect the building with the seventy acres of adjacent riverfront parkland.
The museum is a five-minute walk from the MetroNorth train station in Beacon, sixty miles (or eighty minutes travel time) north of New York City.
Assembled largely during the 1970s and early 1980s by Dia’s founders, Philippa de Menil and Heiner Friedrich, the original collection consisted of in-depth holdings of works by some of the most significant American and European 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 the Beacon museum, this collection is being significantly augmented with works by artists of the same generation as those Dia historically supported. These include Louise Bourgeois, Hanne Darboven, Michael Heizer, On Kawara, Agnes Martin, Robert Ryman, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, and Lawrence Weiner. To further develop the presentation, Dia is expanding its holdings of works by artists already represented in its collection.
Crucial to the renovation of the former Nabisco building into the new museum was Irwin’s integration of the building with the surrounding landscape, which will enhance the visitor’s experience from the point of entry to the property, through the parking areas, and into the museum galleries. A newly planted grove of flowering hawthorn and crab apple trees provides the setting for the entrance and parking areas. When full grown, the trees will attain a height of approximately twenty-five feet, matching the height of the building. A formal garden on the western edge may be accessed directly from a gallery in what was formerly the facility’s train depot.
Two principal architectural interventions are the addition of a modest brick entrance, which will serve as a transitional space into the museum proper, and the heightening of a gallery space to optimize the effect of a key work by Donald Judd.
The first galleries have wood floors and cool, even light, which is particularly suited to exhibit paintings, such as Blinky Palermo’s To the People of New York City (1976-77).
Warhol’s Shadows (1978) — a multipart work based on the theme of negative reflection — will be installed edge to edge around the perimeter of the gallery space. Warhol designated these variously-colored silkscreened canvases as “one painting...with parts.”
Hanne Darboven’s Kulturgeschichte 1880–1983 (1980–83) traces one hundred years of history through some 1,600 panels of images and texts and a collection of objects. Dan Flavin’s “monuments” for V. Tatlin will be installed on a zig-zag wall as suggested by the artist before his death. Also in this section of the museum will be works by John Chamberlain, Walter De Maria, Agnes Martin, and Robert Ryman.
In the southern end of the museum, clerestory skylights create a play of lighter and darker spaces. Here, an untitled work by Donald Judd — one of several by the artist on view in the museum — comprises fifteen variations on a plywood box, exemplifying the artist’s ability to produce exquisitely complex results by combining essential geometry and common industrial materials.
Michael Heizer’s North, East, South, West (1967/2002), in which four negative geometric forms constructed of Cor-ten steel are set into the floor, has been realized for the first time. Penetrating to a depth of some twenty feet, the massive shapes delineate open volumes. Three Torqued Ellipses and a Torqued Spiral by Richard Serra will be installed in the former train shed.
Joseph Beuys’s Aus Berlin (1979) was conceived as a site-related installation, and includes artifacts from the artist’s renowned performance I Like America and America Likes Me, which took place during Beuys’s first trip to the United States in 1974. Works by Imi Knoebel, Fred Sandback, and Lawrence Weiner will also be installed.
In addition to displaying Dia’s permanent collection, Dia:Beacon will offer long-term temporary exhibitions in a section of the building’s basement.
Dia:Beacon’s bookshop will provide a place for reading and browsing, and a café, serving light fare.
Publications, lectures, and other public programs will complement the museum’s installations. Dia is also establishing a variety of educational programs, including a major initiative with the Beacon city schools, a component of which launched in January 2002 with a pilot program with Beacon High School.
Dia’s arts-in-education program with the Beacon schools uses Dia’s new museum—including the art on display, the architecture, and the landscape—as a resource for local children in elementary, middle, and high school. The pilot course combines visits to the museum, hands-on activities, and guest lectures to examine Dia:Beacon in relation to the history of Beacon, the surrounding landscape, and contemporary art. During the 2002–2003 school year, Dia will expand the high-school program to include additional research-based arts curricula and will launch the elementary-school program. Integrated into the classwork of the second grade, this curriculum focuses on “learning to look,” or developing skills of observation. In 2003–2004, Dia will begin to work with Beacon’s middle-school students in a program that joins writing and personal expression with visits to the new museum.
Dia Art Foundation
Dia Art Foundation is dedicated to commissioning, supporting, presenting, and preserving contemporary works of art, and to serving as a locus for interdisciplinary critical discourse and performance. Dia was established in the 1970s in response to radical changes in artistic practice that were redefining the nature of art. These changes yielded work that was sometimes epic in scale, often site-specific, and occasionally ephemeral—virtually precluding traditional institutional support. The nonprofit Dia maintains its commitment to artwork that is not likely to be presented by conventional museums, and to supporting individual artists in the realization of singular projects.
Dia was a pioneer in restoring and converting large industrial buildings for the installation of modern and contemporary art, a practice now widely followed by museums internationally. In 1979, with initial assistance from Dia, Donald Judd began to convert former army barracks on the outskirts of Marfa, Texas, into a permanent installation for contemporary art (now under the auspices of the Chinati Foundation). In 1987, Dia converted a warehouse in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood into Dia Center for the Arts, a museum for temporary exhibitions and programming, thereby leading the transformation of the neighborhood into a major art center. The organization maintains long-term site-specific projects in the western United States, in New York City, and on Long Island, in addition to its permanent collection, its New York City exhibition facility, and its future museum in Beacon.
Substantial capital support for Dia:Beacon has been generously provided by Leonard and Louise Riggio, the Lannan Foundation, and members of Dia’s Board of Trustees. Extensive capital support has also been received from the following public agencies: the Office of Governor George E. Pataki through Empire State Development; the Dutchess County Industrial Development Agency; the City of Beacon; the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation; and the New York State Council on the Arts.