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