Dia:Beacon Contemporary Art Space

Photo of Helena Bajaj Larsen
11 December 2015

A mere hour and a half from Manhattan’s beating heart – Grand Central Station – lies one of the most highly respected havens of contemporary art. Dia: Beacon is a cutting-edge space that allows for the display of large-scale artworks. Home to masterpieces by icons such as Dan Flavin, John Chamberlain, Robert Ryman and Agnes Martin, Dia: Beacon makes for the ideal day trip from NYC.

At first glance, Dia: Beacon seems an aesthetic anomaly amidst the beautiful natural backdrop of the Hudson River. Located in what used to be a Nabisco box-printing factory, this large, minimalist space stands in stark contrast to its stunning surroundings.

John Chamberlain Installation View | Image Courtesy of Rachel Gould

Dia: Beacon is expertly curated to sidestep the classic museum experience. The space sets grounds for an open dialogue between nature, industry and art, as all three elements merge together harmoniously. The entire space is lit with natural light seeping through exceptionally large windows. This ecological solution not only saves energy but also contributes to provide a brighter, airier space, perfect for the minimalist aesthetic embodied by most of the pieces on display. The large windows also allow visitors to catch glimpses of the natural beauty outside.

Installation View | Image Courtesy of Rachel Gould

It’s common for museums to organize their exhibitions chronologically, or to guide the visitor through a progression of thematic chapters. Dia: Beacon is more of an assemblage of gallery spaces, each separate from one another, giving a more intimate and individualized experience of contemporary art. Most of the works are unlabeled, and artist/artwork descriptions available outside of each room are kept brief.

One of the most unique characteristics of Dia: Beacon is the harmonious balance it has achieved between the old and the new, history and progress. The site, though minimalist, feels somewhat dated due to exposed pipes, decaying brick and the rusty industrial aesthetic of the exterior. That said, the space is raw and with an inspiring artistic energy. Dia: Beacon’s mission to serve as a permanent viewing space reinforces the idea of having the space exist freely outside of history and time.

Crouching Spider by Louise Bourgeois | Image Courtesy of Helena Bajaj-Larsen

Dia: Beacon proposes a new way of displaying art – perhaps a request for movement in the stagnant gallery art world. Ever since its inauguration in 2003, Dia: Beacon has brought vitality and culture to the otherwise quiet town of Beacon, New York, progressively turning it into a hip destination for art lovers both in the region as well as tourists from all over the world.

Today the foundation attracts no less than 75, 000 visitors a year.

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