Dia Art Foundation is committed to advancing, realizing, and preserving the vision of artists. Dia fulfills its mission by commissioning single artist projects, organizing exhibitions, realizing site-specific installations, and collecting in-depth the work of a focused group of artists of the 1960s and 1970s.
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) and Joseph Beuys’s 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks), inaugurated at Documenta in 1982.
In 2018, Dia acquired Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels (1973-76), in the Great Basin Desert in northwestern Utah, from the Holt/Smithson Foundation.
Dia presents temporary exhibitions, performances, lectures, and readings on West 22nd Street in New York City.
Dia's ongoing series of Artist on Artist lectures and Readings in Contemporary Poetry are held at 535 West 22nd Street in New York City. Exhibitions are presented in the adjacent buildings at 541 and 545 West 22nd Street. Recent highlights include Hanne Darboven: Kulturgeschichte 1880–1983 (Cultural History 1880–1983, 1980–83) and Kishio Suga.
From 1987 through 2004, Dia presented ambitious long-term art installations 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 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.
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.