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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

December 2005 Issue

Partners in Art
Who helped avant-garde California artist Robert Irwin design a traditional landscape in the Hudson River Valley?

By Frank Edgerton Martin

Partners in Art
Richard Barnes, courtesy Dia Art Foundation

Throughout the profession’s history, landscape architects have drawn inspiration from painters, sculptors, and writers. But what happens when artists take over the design of landscapes? Is this a threat to landscape architecture, or an opportunity for new partnerships and roles for the profession? Dia:Beacon, a new 300,000-square-foot museum in Beacon, New York, provides one answer to that question.

Dia:Beacon is one of the galleries owned by Dia Art Foundation, also known as Dia, a collaborative effort started in the 1970s to support artists who challenge boundaries. Headquartered in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, Dia helped artists such as Walter de Maria and Michael Heizer begin working at a much larger scale in the open landscape, often in places like Nevada, where Heizer continues to build his monumental City installation in the desert. Such artists “realized that they needed not only to control the work, but they also needed to control and channel the whole environment,” according to Dia’s director, Michael Govan. “Dia came along and provided the means for artists to think this way.”

Housing artworks on the scale of Richard Serra’s and Donald Judd’s sculptures takes a great deal of space. In 1998, Dia’s leaders were looking for new spaces to house pieces that could never be displayed in their Manhattan galleries. They found a building that is worth a visit on its own. Almost 90 minutes north of Grand Central Station by train, Dia:Beacon is in a remarkable 1929 Nabisco printing plant that is almost fully daylit by sawtooth skylights, which were intended to show true color for press checks. Today, this huge space exhibits the work of 22 artists in roughly 260,000 square feet of galleries.

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