PRINT May 1999

US News


IN MARCH 1998, Robert Ryman, Walter De Maria, and Richard Serra traveled from Manhattan to an obscure town upstate. They weren’t looking for weekend real estate but checking out the Hudson Valley site of the newest Dia Center for the Arts, in Beacon, New York.

Now, a year later, Dia has gone public with its plans for a vast waterfront museum, unveiling a $20 million project to renovate a dilapidated 291,000-square-foot factory building. Once completed, the new facility will accommodate pieces from Dia’s collection of monumental works, among them Serra’s 160-ton Torqued Ellipses, 1996-97, Andy Warhol’s 102-canvas installation Shadows, 1979, and unseen projects by De Maria. In addition, Dia has just acquired a classic untitled Donald Judd, of 1976, comprising fifteen plywood floor pieces, as well as a work by Hanne Darboven. Dia director Michael Govan said that he and curator Lynne Cooke will acquire more art with the Beacon outpost in mind.

When Dia was founded in 1974 by gallerist Heiner Friedrich (with funding from his wife, Philippa de Menil), Dan Flavin was one of the very first artists the center championed. Govan describes the newest Dia as posthumously fulfilling Flavin’s wishes for a Hudson Valley museum to house both his own works and his collection of Hudson River School drawings (which will be shown in rotating exhibitions). The Beacon Dia also recalls another dream: the Mass MoCA envisioned by Govan’s former boss, Guggenheim director Thomas Krens, if not the scaled-down version due to open this May (see box below). “Michael [Govan] is doing what Tom once wanted to do, but as Beacon is an hour from New York and not in western Massachusetts, the geography is on Dia’s side,” MoMA curator Robert Storr said.

The New York State government has been on Dia’s side as well. Attorney and “fixer” Ed Hayes recently boasted that he sold the Pataki administration on the museum almost single-handedly. But it may be he was preaching to the converted, as Pataki—a resident of nearby Garrison, New York, and a former mayor of Peekskill—is keen on Hudson Valley revitalization.

In any event, thanks to the administration’s support, Dia received the defunct seventy-year-old factory (a gift from International Paper), as well as $2.8 million in funding from local and state programs. The center believes its Beacon satellite will be a tourist attraction—like Storm King, the nearby sculpture park—luring an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 visitors a year after its opening in 2001. Dia has begotten other far-flung success stories, including Walter De Maria’s Lightning Field, in New Mexico. While Chelsea neighbor gallerist Pat Hearn—East Village denizen and longtime advocate of adventurous new art—applauds the new center, remarking that she hopes it “will inspire other foundations to support work outside of institutions,” she also hopes such efforts will include works on a smaller scale—hardly a Dia specialty. As Storr points out, “Dia’s presentation is rough, elegant, and not as neutral as it pretends to be. It’s perfect for Joseph Beuys, but it’s murder for smaller work. It’s just not meant for Elizabeth Peyton, you know.”