Dia Art Foundation identifies, fosters, and presents those artists who have the potential to change the way we think about art and the world. To achieve this Dia:
• Provides artists with long-term support to realize the transformative potential of their ideas;
• Commits to this support even when the artists’ ideas seem too ambitious or impractical to be realized within the traditional museum context;
• Honors these artists’ visions by maintaining iconic projects and presenting; single-artist collections of breakthrough works.
Dia was founded in New York City in 1974 by Philippa de Menil, Heiner Friedrich, and Helen Winkler to help artists achieve visionary projects that might not otherwise be realized because of scale or scope. To suggest the institution’s role in enabling such ambitions, they selected the name “Dia,” taken from the Greek word meaning “through.”
Today, Dia is a constellation of sites, from the iconic permanent, site-specific artworks and installations in New York, the American West and Germany; to an exhibition program that has commissioned dozens of breakthrough projects; to the vast galleries of Dia:Beacon; and finally the programs of education and public engagement.
From the beginning, Dia demonstrated a willingness to follow and support artists’ ideas. Many of Dia’s early, major projects are sited outside the museum or gallery. These projects are open to the public and continue to be maintained by Dia today.
Dia commissioned and maintains The Lightning Field, completed by Walter De Maria in 1977 near Quemado, New Mexico. Additionally, De Maria’s installations The New York Earth Room (1977) and The Broken Kilometer (1979) in New York City and The Vertical Earth Kilometer (1977) in Kassel, Germany, have been on view for over 30 years.
In 1983, Dia inaugurated the Dan Flavin Art Institute in Bridgehampton, New York.
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 maintains several other long-term, site-specific projects in New York City, including Max Neuhaus’s Times Square (1977), Joseph Beuys’s 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks), inaugurated at Documenta in 1982, and Dan Flavin’s untitled (1996).
In 2013, Dia presented Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument in the Bronx, New York from July 1 through September 15.
Dia currently presents an ongoing series of Artist on Artist lectures and Readings in Contemporary Poetry at 535 West 22nd Street in New York City. Temporary installations, such as Thomas Hirschhorn’s Timeline (2012), and performances, such as Lisa Nelson and Steve Paxton’s Night Stand (2013), have been presented in the adjacent buildings at 535 and 541 West 22nd Street, the future site of Dia’s new project space in New York City.
From 1987 through 2004, Dia presented ambitious art installations, which remained on view for one year or longer, at Dia Center for the Arts at 548 West 22nd Street. Highlights included projects by Robert Gober, Jenny Holzer, Pierre Huyghe, Robert Irwin, On Kawara, Jorge Pardo, Robert Ryman, Fred Sandback, Jessica Stockholder, Diana Thater, Lawrence Weiner, and Robert Whitman.
In May 2003, Dia Art Foundation opened Dia:Beacon on the banks of the Hudson River in Beacon, New York, in a former Nabisco box printing factory. The museum presents Dia’s collection of art from the 1960s to the present as well as special exhibitions, new commissions, and public programs.
Since its opening, Dia:Beacon has helped transform the city of Beacon into a vibrant arts destination for visitors from the region, New York City, and beyond—attracting over 75,000 visitors per year.
Throughout the years, Dia has collaborated with other organizations to help share the visions and aspirations of artists. In the late 1970s, Dream House, a sound and light installation by La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, located in New York City, was initiated with Dia’s support, and the installation of works by Donald Judd in Marfa, Texas, was begun by Judd with Dia’s assistance and is now operated by the Chinati Foundation.
Dia’s contributions have also spawned new entities such as the Cy Twombly Gallery (opened in 1994) and the Andy Warhol Museum (opened in 1995), as well as helped initiate permanent projects such as Michael Heizer’s City in Nevada and James Turrell’s Roden Crater in Arizona.