A day-trip to Dia:Beacon

I set off relatively early on a Saturday morning, for an out-of-the-city day trip! My departure point for this was Grand Central Terminal, the largest train station in the world by number of platforms (44 with 67 tracks!). The Grand Central Depot was first built in 1871, was demolished and reconstructed as Grand Central Station in 1900 and then demolished and reconstructed once again as Grand Central Terminal in 1913 which narrowly avoided being torn down and thank god as it’s an amazing, iconic structure.

The main information booth is in the center of the main concourse. This is a perennial meeting place, and the four-faced clock on top of the information booth is perhaps the most recognizable icon of Grand Central. Each of the four clock faces is made from opal, and both Sotheby’s and Christie’s have estimated the value to be between $10 million and $20 million!

I found my platform ( i had to get the later train as my train left the platform just as i reached it!) and was finally on the “Hudson line” which takes you right alongside the Hudson river heading north.

After 1hr 45 min i arrived at my destination – Beacon. It has a population of about 14 000 people and was named to commemorate the historic beacon fires that blazed forth from the summit of the Fishkill Mountains to alert the Continental Army about British troop movements. During the 1800s, the city became a factory town but by the 1970s a decline in the economy shuttered most of the factories. From about 1970 to the late 1990s, almost 80 percent of the city’s commercial business spaces and factories were vacant. The area has experienced an artistic and commercial rebirth since the early 2000s with the opening of one of the world’s largest contemporary art museums Dia: Beacon, the reason i had ventured here to this quaint riverside town.

Dia Art Foundation opened Dia:Beacon, as a museum to house its renowned permanent collection of major works of art from the 1960s to the present.

Located on the Hudson River in Beacon, New York, Dia:Beacon occupies a nearly 300,000-square-foot historic printing factory.

Since its founding in 1974, the Dia Foundation has been dedicated to supporting individual artists and to providing long-term, in-depth presentations of their art. Dia:Beacon’s expansive galleries have been specifically designed for the display of the such artworks, that because of their character or scale, could not be easily accommodated by more conventional museums. Each artist’s work is displayed in a dedicated gallery or galleries, many of which were created in collaboration with the artists themselves to optimize the intended impact.

As well as the works installed for long-term view, they also have about 3 temporary exhibition, and the feauture exhibit when i visited was dedicated to Sol LeWitt. Sol LeWitt was the man who made conceptual art an appealing concept. For almost four decades, LeWitt, who died in 2007 at 78, made immense abstract wall drawings that he conceived but almost never executed himself.
His method was to devise a set of instructions — for instance, draw 10,000 ten-inch lines, covering the wall evenly — that could be carried out by assistants or, for that matter, by anyone. Often he never even saw the finished work, much less touched it. LeWitt’s art is not about the singular hand of the artist; it is the ideas behind the works that surpass each work itself. I asked the museum guide what would happen when the exhibit was over, as these were drawn right on the walls, and he said they’d be painted over so it could be installed in another location

After a brief self guided tour, i enlisted the help of an expert and joined the guide for a tour of the exhibits which gave many of the conceptually based works meaning and certainly helped. There were John Chamberlains sculptures created from old automobiles (or parts of) that bring the Abstract Expressionist style of painting into three dimensions. As an indigent young artist he was drawn to scrap metal primarily because it was free and plentiful.

Then the Andy Warhol “Shadow room”. In the mid-1970s, shadows increasingly began to haunt Andy Warhol. In the Still Life drawing series of 1975 and the Hammer and Sickle series of 1977 (also titled Still Life), they assume an idiosyncratic, almost independent existence as compositional elements; in the Skulls of 1976, they become more expressive and fanciful in character. Finally, in 1978–79, in a brief but concentrated foray, Warhol confronted shadows as a subject in their own right. The result was an exceptional series of paintings, notably one vast environmental work in 102 parts, together with sundry others in different formats and with different motifs.

Theres a hall for Dan Flavin whose work is composed almost entirely of light, in the form of commercially available fluorescent tubes in ten colors

Of all the works my definite favourites were the immense sculptures of RIchard Serra

What interests me is the opportunity for all of us to become something different from what we are, by constructing spaces that contribute something to the experience of who we are.” – Richard Serra

Union of the Torus and the Sphere (2001), presents a closed form, an exception in Serra’s oeuvre: extravagantly tilting, obviously hollow, it encourages a kind of vertigo as the viewer edges around the deliberately constricted space, a site selected by the artist for its snug fit and for the dramatic immediacy of the encounter.

Then in another section of the gallery, Serra’s series of Torqued Ellipses elaborates concerns with orientation and movement into tightly contained sculptures that radically challenge modernist notions of sculptural space. For in these works space shifts and moves in wholly unpredictable and unprecedented ways: so destabilizing yet so beguiling is this sensation of movement that the spectator quickly gets caught up in an exploration of extended duration. Rolled-steel plates, each two inches thick and weighing twenty tons, stand abutted. This forthright, direct presentation, characteristic of Serra’s aesthetic, gives little hint of the fundamental newness and potency of the experience offered in these monumental works—and also fails to betray the prolonged and difficult process of their realization. By Serra’s account, the initial idea for this body of work was breathtakingly simple: take an elliptical volume of space and torque it.

After all the strenuous mind bending to try and understand the works, some obvious others painfully elusive (which is completely the purpose of them) i took a break out in the garden over lunch – food wasn’t anything to write home about but it did the job.

I had intended to visit the rest of the rooms i’d missed but was so mentally exhausted i decided it was time to head home. So i went back down to the river and whilst waiting for the train, took photos of the jetty and my surrounds.

until i was finally home-ward bound

arriving in the late afternoon in Grand Central Station

But it wasn’t QUITE home time as i was meeting my hosts at their friends apartment in the East village a bit later on. So i wandered through Mid-town Manhattan

having a break at Bryant Park ( a lovely place which i continually find my self returning to)

continued on in the glowing afternoon light

catching the metro to the village and walking past Union Sqaure park to get ot the apartment. A the park, i stopped in my tracks to marvel at the best street performer i’ve so far seen – i kid you not.

To see the video, click here or the link below. The first 2 performers are just there to warm up the audience for the 3rd who is an incredible acrobat — make sure you watch to the end as the finale is just ridiculous.


Despite my diversion, I finally arrived just in time at the friends newly bought and furnished apartment in the East Village

We sipped lovely wine as we chatted up on the terrace which has AMAZING views of the city

We had a wonderful evening of great company and delicious food. It was another of those special travel experiences that i’d otherwise miss if i was going from hotel to hotel and just sightseeing for the duration of my trip. I have been truly fortunate in many regards, but particularly in that i have met so many kind and generous people who’ve allowed me to experience their diverse and intriguing lifestyles


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One response to “A day-trip to Dia:Beacon

  1. bagnidilucca

    Isn’t Grand Central Station amazing. I always go to just stand there when I am in New York. Bryant Park is another favourite place. Have you been through the ramble in Central Park?

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