Established in 1974, Dia Art Foundation is internationally recognized as one of the world's most influential contemporary art institutions. The name "Dia," taken from the Greek word meaning "through," was chosen to suggest the institution's role in enabling visionary artistic projects that might not otherwise be realized because of their scale or ambition.
Dia's founders, Heiner Friedrich and Philippa de Menil, wished to extend the boundaries of the traditional museum to respond to the needs of the generation of artists whose work matured and became prominent during the 1960s and 1970s. Ever since, Dia's mission has been to commission, support, and present site-specific long-term installations and single-artists exhibitions to the public.
Assembled largely during the 1970s and early 1980s by Dia's founders, Philippa de Menil and Heiner Friedrich, with Helen Winkler, 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 opening of Dia:Beacon, Dia worked with Louise and Leonard Riggio, Lannan Foundation, Brown Foundation, and other generous donors to augment its collection with focused acquisitions and long-term loans of artworks by Bernd and Hilla Becher, Louise Bourgeois, Hanne Darboven, Michael Heizer, Robert Irwin, On Kawara, Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, Bruce Nauman, Robert Ryman, Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, and Lawrence Weiner.
Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries
Dia pioneered the conversion of industrial buildings for the installation of contemporary art—a practice and aesthetic now widely adopted by museums and galleries internationally. Dia's most recent conversion, its museum in Beacon, is located in a former printing plant built in 1929 by Nabisco (National Biscuit Company). With 240,000 square feet of exhibition space, the museum is sited on thirty-one acres on the banks of the Hudson River, and is adjacent to ninety acres of riverfront parkland. It is a five-minute walk from the Metro-North train station in Beacon, sixty miles (or eighty minutes travel time) north of New York City. To learn more about the renovation of Dia:Beacon with American artist Robert Irwin and architect OpenOffice, click here.
Dia:Beacon's expansive spaces are uniquely suited to the needs of large-scale installations, paintings, and sculptures. In keeping with Dia's history of single-artist, site-related presentations, each gallery was designed specifically for the art it contains.
Dia's New York City exhibition program
Dia's exhibition program in New York City was initiated in 1987 with the opening of a four-story converted warehouse at 548 West 22nd Street. In keeping with Dia's mandate, the exhibitions at Dia:Chelsea focused on individual artists and typically offered an artist an entire floor on which to develop a new project or create a focused presentation of existing work. The exhibitions were on view for approximately one year to allow extended viewing.
Among the many artists who have created site-specific exhibition projects for Dia are Robert Gober, Ann Hamilton, Jenny Holzer, Pierre Huyghe, Robert Irwin, Juan Muñoz, Jorge Pardo, Jessica Stockholder, Diana Thater, and Lawrence Weiner. Others, including On Kawara, Bridget Riley, Robert Ryman, and Robert Whitman, presented existing work in focused installations that responded to Dia's mandate and site.
Dia:Chelsea closed in 2004 after the building, which was in need of substantial renovation, was found to be inadequate for Dia's programming needs. Dia subsequently explored other locations throughout Manhattan and in 2009 announced its plan to build a new facility at 545 West 22nd Street, on the footprint of a building that it currently owns. This new space will provide a location for ambitious projects by contemporary artists; exhibitions; long-term installations; public programs including readings, lectures, and symposia; and performances.
Since 2007, Dia has partnered with The Hispanic Society of America, on a series of projects by contemporary artists commissioned by Dia for installation at the Hispanic Society's Beaux-Arts complex, on Broadway at 155th Street in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. The partnership provides a unique venue at which Dia can present special projects accompanied by Dia publications and educational programs. At the same time, it enables the Hispanic Society to engage a new audience. This multi-year collaboration began with Francis Alÿs: Fabiola followed by Zoe Leonard: Derrotero in the fall of 2008, and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster's new site-specific project, chronotopes & dioramas, which is on view September 23, 2009 - June 27, 2010.
Long-term and Affiliated Projects
Dia's first major projects, undertaken in the late 1970s, were long-term sited works of art not likely to be accommodated by conventional museums because of their nature or scale. Many of these projects are ongoing, including Walter De Maria's The Lightning Field (1977), near Quemado, New Mexico; the installation of work by Donald Judd and John Chamberlain, in Marfa, Texas, begun by Judd with Dia's assistance and now operated by the Chinati Foundation. More recently, in 1999, Dia acquired Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty (1970), in Great Salt Lake, Utah, as a gift from the estate of the artist.
Dia also supports long-term projects in New York City, including Walter De Maria's The New York Earth Room (1977) and The Broken Kilometer (1979) in SoHo. Dream House, a sound and light installation by La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, located in Tribeca, was also initiated with Dia's support in the late 1970s. In 1987, Dia sited Joseph Beuys's 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks), an installation of trees paired with basalt columns along West 22nd Street between and including 10th and 11th avenues. This continues a project the artist began with Dia's sponsorship at Documenta 7, in Kassel, Germany, in 1982. Max Neuhaus's Times Square, a sound work installed on a pedestrian island in New York City's Times Square joined Dia's collection in 2002. Originally created in 1977, it was decommissioned in 1992 and reactivated in 2002. In addition, Dia maintains the The Dan Flavin Art Institute, an installation of fluorescent light works by Flavin in Bridgehampton, New York.
Dia continues to advocate for the development of Michael Heizer's long-term work City, in eastern Nevada, and James Turrell's Roden Crater project in the Painted Desert in Arizona which was begun in the 1970s with Dia's support. Dia has also collaborated with other institutions in realizing long-term projects, including The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh (opened in 1994), and the Cy Twombly Gallery, Houston (opened in 1995), both of which were created in part with gifts from Dia's permanent collection.
Artists' Projects for the Web
In 1995, as part of its efforts to explore new sites for the presentation of contemporary art, Dia initiated a series of internet commissions, thereby becoming one of the first arts organizations to foster artists' use of the internet as a medium. Its collection of web projects includes works by Francis Alÿs, David Claerbout, Diller + Scofidio, Molissa Fenley, Susan Hiller, Glenn Ligon, Komar & Melamid, Feng Mengbo, Allen Ruppersberg, Shimabuku, Gary Simmons, Stephen Vitiello, Ezra Johnson, Rosa Barba, and Barbara Bloom. To learn more about Dia's web projects, click here.
Dia's public programs are integral to its efforts to make the arts of our time accessible to a broad and diverse audience. Programming at Dia:Beacon includes a series of year-long temporary exhibitions as well as public programs designed to complement the collection and exhibitions, including monthly Gallery Talks, music performances by St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble, and Community Free Days for neighboring counties. Since 2001, Dia has worked with the Beacon City Schools to develop an Arts Education Program that serves area students at all education levels, making Dia's collection a valuable resource to students and their teachers and families.
Programs in New York City include the Artists on Artists lecture series, which focuses on the work of artists in Dia's collection and exhibition programs, as well as periodic performances and other special events. Dia's collaboration with the Hispanic Society includes educational programs for local schools, as well as lectures and other public programs.
Dia's publication program produces books in conjunction with selected exhibitions, scholarly volumes on the permanent collection, and other program-related publications, audio works on CD, and multimedia works. Dia books are available at the Dia:Beacon bookshop and on line at www.diabooks.org.