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April 19th, 2003, 09:10 AM
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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, New York, Dia:Beacon will occupy a nearly 300,000-square-foot historic printing factory. The building was donated by International Paper, its most recent owner.

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 artworks to which Dia is committed, many of which, because of their character or scale, could not be easily accommodated by more conventional museums.


April 23rd, 2003, 07:44 AM
April 23, 2003
An Old Factory Is a Haven for New Art

Michael Govan, of the Dia Art Foundation, in a renovated factory that opens as the Dia:Beacon museum on May 18 in Beacon, N.Y.

BEACON, N.Y. — Michael Govan remembers the day he got his first glimpse of the abandoned 1929 factory built of steel, concrete and glass that overlooks the Hudson River and has since been transformed into Dia:Beacon, a $50 million art museum opening on May 18.

"It had a faded Nabisco sign," recalled Mr. Govan, director of the Dia Art Foundation, which runs the museum. "When I walked into the building the light was beautiful. So were the hardwood maple floors."

That was five years ago. Mr. Govan was seeking a home for the Dia's collection of work by artists who emerged during the 1960's and 1970's. And this example of 1920's industrial architecture, with its graceful sequence of large, uninterrupted rooms and its 36,000 square feet of skylights and high ceilings, had everything he could want for a museum that shows monumental sculptures and delicate drawings.

The building was for sale. The owner, the International Paper Company, was asking $2 million. It had been empty since 1991, having been built by Nabisco to make boxes for its products. Officials at Dia, with help from Governor George E. Pataki, persuaded the paper company to give the building to the foundation as long as Dia paid for a required $1 million environmental cleanup.

Beacon is an economically depressed town about an hour north of Manhattan, and its location offered the opportunity to combine culture and urban renewal. So eager is the state to transform this corner of the Hudson Valley into a thriving tourist destination that state and local governments have contributed a total of $2.7 million toward the museum's construction. The project is expected to create about 20 jobs and to attract about 100,000 visitors a year, and Mr. Govan said it would generate about $7.4 million annually in tourist revenue.

Using new museums to infuse down-at-the-heels cities with cash is hardly a novel idea. Bilbao, Spain, did just that in 1997 with the opening of the Guggenheim Bilbao, the museum designed by Frank Gehry. So did North Adams, Mass., a blue-collar town where the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art opened in May 1999 with a promise of revitalization.

The Dia:Beacon is on 31 acres along the Hudson and is a five-minute walk from a Metro North train station. Its 240,000 square feet of exhibition space is more than four times the exhibition space of the Whitney Museum of American Art and not quite twice the size of the Tate Modern in London.

The Dia Art Foundation was created in 1974 by the German art dealer Heiner Friedrich and the Houston arts patron Philippa de Menil, who is his wife. It has a collection of nearly 700 works by artists like Joseph Beuys, John Chamberlain, Walter De Maria, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Hanne Darboven, Agnes Martin, On Kawara, Blinky Palermo, Robert Ryman, Richard Serra and Andy Warhol. Each is an artist who Mr. Friedrich represented and loved.

The Beacon museum becomes the sixth location overseen by Dia. It has two galleries on West 22nd Street in Chelsea, and runs several site-specific art installations, including Mr. De Maria's "New York Earth Room" and "Broken Kilometer," both in Manhattan; "The Lightning Field," in New Mexico; and the Dan Flavin Art Institute in Bridgehampton, N.Y. Dia also helped found the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and the Cy Twombly Gallery in Houston.

Dia was one of the first art centers in Chelsea, more than a decade before that area became populated with contemporary art galleries. It owns and will continue to operate two warehouses and a garage there, including its primary exhibition space, in a renovated warehouse on West 22nd Street.

"Even if you added up all three buildings and converted them into galleries for the collection, it only comes to 55,000 square feet with mostly low ceilings and without the diversity of spaces," Mr. Govan said. "It's simply not comparable to Beacon."

Dia:Beacon is not the only art center in the area. A 15-minute drive away, in Mountainville, N.Y., is the Storm King Art Center, devoted primarily to outdoor sculpture. About a mile away, still in Beacon, is the Tallix Foundry, where artists like Frank Stella and Claes Oldenburg have worked.

And Dia is but one of the institutions working to transform the area. Near Dia:Beacon, Scenic Hudson, a nonprofit environmental organization and land trust, has bought more than 2,000 acres to create a $40 million development on 23 acres along the east bank of the Hudson, where it plans to build a hotel, conference center, restaurants, spa, shops, harbor, public waterfront, a park and a network of hiking trails over the next three years.

William S. Ehrlich, a Manhattan real estate developer, has also joined the crowd. When he heard of Dia's plans, Mr. Ehrlich bought real estate here valued at about $14 million. He has opened a small gallery on Main Street. And on April 28 a performing arts center designed by Mr. Gehry will open at nearby Bard College. To accommodate all this growth, Metro North is investing about $11 million to improve the Beacon train station.

"This is one of our fastest-growing stations. Ridership is up 250 percent from 1985," said Marjorie Anders, a spokesperson for Metro North. "Dia:Beacon will contribute to an existing trend."

The new museum will allow Dia to show off its collection of large-scale and multimedia works surrounded by light and space. It will also give Dia its first opportunity to exhibit its permanent collection, most of which has been languishing in storage, coming out only piecemeal for particular exhibitions.

Unlike so many new museums that have become tourist attractions because of their celebrity architects, Dia:Beacon is the undesigned museum. "It's supposed to look raw and simple," Mr. Govan said. "The building didn't need to be redesigned. It just needed to be tweaked and humanized."

Mr. Govan enlisted Robert Irwin, a California artist who designed the central garden for the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, to help Dia conceive a master plan for the complex. He also designed the surrounding landscape, including a grid of flowering trees that form a canopy over the parking lot. Open Office, a young Chelsea architectural firm, also collaborated on the factory renovation.

Most of the gallery spaces are skylighted, with no electricity except mandatory emergency lighting. As a result, the museum's hours will change with the seasons, staying open only until 4:00 p.m. in winter when the sun sets early and until 6:00 p.m. during spring and summer.

Others involved in the project are many of the artists whose works are on view.

"It's like a campus of single-artist environments," Mr. Govan said. One of the first rooms visitors will see is devoted to Warhol's "Shadows," a 1979 work commissioned by Dia that consists of 78 canvases. Four rooms have been devoted to the postwar painter Robert Ryman, with works from 1958 to 2003. Mr. Ryman helped install many paintings himself, like "Third Prototype, 2003," 14 panels 22-inches-square that are virtually painted onto the wall.

John Chamberlain has been consulting on the placements of his sculptures, including "Privet," which is nearly 62 feet long and 12 feet tall and made of chrome and painted steel.

The only upstairs spaces, called the attic, are a series of brick lined galleries where the sculptor Louise Bourgeois is represented. One room consists of "Spider" (1997), a 21-foot-tall welded steel spider sitting on a steel mesh cage lined with ancient tapestries.

Since the announcement of its new building, Dia has been able to nearly double the number of artists in its collection. Leonard Riggio, chairman of Barnes & Noble and of Dia, who has headed this museum's building effort, has given about $30 million towards Dia: Beacon, as well as many crucial artworks like three monumental steel sculptures by Richard Serra called "Torqued Ellipses."

The Lannan Foundation of Santa Fe, N.M., the museum's other major benefactor, has given or loaned Dia about $15 million worth of art, enabling it to double the number of artists in its collection, which now totals 24.

Many works were specifically created for the museum. The painter Agnes Martin, for instance, was commissioned to create an eight-painting series, "Innocent Love" (1999). The Lannan Foundation also paid for four works from the estate of the earth artist Robert Smithson, including "Map of Broken Glass (Atlantis)" (1969).

Mr. Govan said that the installation visitors would see when the museum opens will be on view long-term, although not everything would be part of the permanent collection. Some loans and works on paper would rotate, and there would be some galleries for changing exhibitions.

"We will have one major exhibition each spring," Mr. Govan said. "I do think this will be a destination not just to return to see favorite artworks, but also to see Beacon as it keeps changing."

John Chamberlain's "Privet," made of chrome and painted steel, will be on view at the Dia:Beacon.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

May 16th, 2003, 05:06 AM

June 16th, 2003, 05:56 AM
June 16, 2003

Art, Industry and Beacon

The affinity of art and industry is familiar news by now. American industry built on a scale that artists have come to love, and it's now a commonplace in American cities to see manufacturing districts reborn as places where the only thing being manufactured is art. Never mind that an artist's work resembles that of the solitary inventor more than the bustle of a crowded 19th-century factory, or that what matters most is often the raw space of factory buildings, not the memory of the work and the people who once filled them.

These are the kinds of thoughts that come to mind while walking through the immensity of Dia's new museum in the Hudson River city of Beacon. At Dia:Beacon the affinity of art and industry is taken to its logical conclusion. Nabisco workers once ran printing presses under the north light thrown by what seems like miles of skylights. They are gone, replaced by visitors who are dwarfed by the building and the art, which seem made for each other.

Some minimalist art, especially of the grand dimensions shown at Dia:Beacon, can hardly be called minimalist at all. When you first confront Richard Serra's "Torqued Ellipses" or Michael Heizer's "North, East, South, West" — enormous, brooding concavities of steel — they seem to be as much about the power to make art, about the resources needed to fabricate it, as they are about the impact of the finished piece. But then you come across the actuality. Walking through Mr. Serra's ellipses in the shifting light or standing before Mr. Heizer's yawning voids, it's almost impossible not to feel the industrial urge behind the works. They radiate an astonishing productive energy, as the factory must have years ago.

All those workers at the Nabisco plant would once have spilled out at day's end, into the city of Beacon. Like most cities with industrial skeletons, Beacon had, until recently, seen better days. Dia:Beacon could easily have created a "day tourism" that benefited only a small number of residents and alienated many. But the city has worked closely with the museum from the beginning and with an environmental group called Scenic Hudson to redevelop an abandoned industrial waterfront.

The goal has been to reimagine that waterfront according to the expressed needs of Beacon's diverse residents, rather than the necessities of the market, to extend the community's reach all the way to the water instead of denying access with high-end properties. To visit Beacon now is to visit a a place where something more ambitious than commercial desire is beginning to win out, where the productive energy of the future looks promising.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Virtual Tour (http://archrecord.construction.com/projects/portfolio/archives/0310Dia-1.asp)

February 11th, 2005, 11:28 AM

I copied this article from ArtForum and have included some photos I took
when I visited the gallery in September '03. I really like the way the site
was treated, particluarly the use of grasscrete pavers at the entrance.

ArtForum, October 2003
THE RECENTLY OPENED DIA:BEACON, its permanent collection installed in galleries inside a converted box factory, is by all accounts a major success. Despite the obvious gaps in the collection, tied to the vicissitudes of the last twenty years of collecting, critics have cited a number of factors contributing to the exhilarating effect of a visit: the appropriateness of the huge former printing sheds for art that demands a spacious setting, the ability for living artists to collaborate in the installation and in some cases provide new site-specific work, the elegant gardens designed by Robert Irwin, and the museum's Hudson Valley location.


Who were the Site Architects? The parking lot is quite nice,
especially when no cars are there. [-asg]

What has been only cursorily noted, however, is the role of the architecture in supporting and in some cases constructing this effect, a dynamic role that asks audiences to revisit the thinking behind Minimalist sculpture. Perhaps this omission is a result of the way in which the "architecture" makes less of a statement and, in the face of the art on display, is more recessive than in many recent museums. Certainly at a moment when the iconic design of a building typically plays so strong a part in its public success and that of its institution, as in Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Bilbao, one would have hoped that such recessive architecture would have gained more praise as precisely reacting against this tendency toward the spectacle--the trend, as Hal Foster has observed, toward museums as images that in themselves become "cultural capital." But apart from the necessary acknowledgments to master planner Irwin and occasionally to the architectural firm Open Office for its internal and technical realization, the Dia:Beacon architecture has received little attention.

Of course the prior existence of the 1929 factory building contributes to this oversight. For other than the low, monumental entrance and the surrounding parking lot and gardens conceived by Irwin, the architects would appear to have intervened only in the original interior structure (and very slightly at that), preserving the long, brick-walled machine shops, the top lighting, and the basement, with its stunning colonnade of mushroom-capped columns, like some Egyptian hypostyle temple in modern dress. Nevertheless, the architects have accomplished a con siderable triumph of sensitive intervention, technologically and aesthetically, in support of two interrelated conditions--the existing factory and the architectural demands of Minimalism.

First, what is not generally understood in the phrase "converted factory" is that the original building was in itself a work of modern architecture. Built a decade after the enthusiasm of the early Modern Movement for the simple structures of factories and grain elevators, it nevertheless resisted the developments of the free plan and curtain wall already embedded in the International Style of the late '20s. Thus the Dia:Beacon architects started with a structure that was at once modern and premodern, and so were able to develop a spatial organization that was suited to that called for by Minimalism, one that had emerged following the architectonic redefinition of modernism by Louis Kahn and others.


It might be argued that at Dia:Beacon the architecture, abstract and spatial, is coordinated to the art on display and tied to the imbricated history of Minimalism and its reciprocal relations with architecture in the '60s. As explored by Robert Morris in the late '70s, these relations dealt with a new definition of the object in space with respect to the viewer: Morris wrote of the constant polarity formed by the difference between viewing an object and viewing an architectural space, between surrounding space and being surrounded. In Morris's terms, the sculptural object generates a kind of force field that extends into and takes over its surroundings, thereby creating a new spatial and architectural condition.

In this sense, as demonstrated by the work of Judd, Heizer, Smithson, Serra, and others as they are installed at Dia:Beacon, the work of sculpture demands its own space--one representing its own internally generated field of force--but also an architectural or other space against which and within which to assert itself; reciprocally, the architectural space that acts as site for the sculpture generates an equal and opposite experience, as architectural space for its own sake, without the existence of which the sculpture would have little to tussle with. The traditional "gestalt" conception of the object in space thereby breaks down, energizing what was formerly a polarity through ambiguity. Dia:Beacon's long halls of apparently infinite depth, cross-cut by axes that break them out, sometimes into static squares, sometimes into horizontal passages, defined as much by carefully calculated light from top and side as by enclosures, thus work toward what Morris called an almost "baroque" effect produced by the play of distance and depth, multiple views and perceptual complexity.

If the architectural achievement of Dia:Beacon has been largely invisible to commentators, it may then be that the architecture of the museum has been self-camouflaged, so to speak, by its entirely sympathetic resonance to the work exhibited. This is work that demands of its spaces a new kind of unity, one that, at Dia:Beacon, goes beyond the original expectations of the artists to construct at once a site for an object that is surrounded and a space that surrounds.

Anthony Vidler is dean of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at Cooper Union in New York.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Artforum International Magazine, Inc.

August 27th, 2005, 01:34 PM
Meanwhile, the foundation is conducting feasibility studies on an expansion of the Beacon site, home to its permanent collection. Although the galleries there are unusually large, some works cannot be displayed, in some cases because of the placement of the building's structural columns. Dia envisions the creation of 70,000 square feet of additional exhibition space at Beacon within a series of pavilions designed by Peter Zumthor, a Swiss architect. That way it could exhibit, say, Mr. de Maria's "360° I Ching," (1981), an installation of 64 elements in a square grid surrounded by 64 elements in a circle; and some monumental towers by Louise Bourgeois.