Dia : Beacon

By Kabir Karnani

This past Spring I visited the Dia:Beacon located in Beacon, NY. A hidden treasure box of modern art, it draws admirers of art and architecture to its remote location. If you haven’t already been I highly recommend catching the Metro North train one weekend and making the trip. The Dia:Beacon was originally a Nabisco box-printing factory. Who would’ve thought that a manufacturing facility could make such an amazing museum space.

Hall with Artist John Chamberlain’s "Thordis’ Barge" (urethane foam, cotton cover) & sculptures of painted and chromium-plated steel by John Chamberlain

Sawtooth roof skylights, bringing in natural light into the circulation space between exhibits

Another hall lit-up by clerestory windows, an original feature of the Nabisco box-printing facility.

The ample amount of natural light from the sawtooth roofs creates a comforting environment for the visitor to browse the various exhibits of Judd, Serra, Flavin and tons of other outstanding modern artists.

Michael Heizer’s "Negative Megalith" in a room lit by clerestory windows and polished concrete floors

The windows were so incredibly efficient, frosted glass for most of the window with a clear central piece, creating a soft dappled light while still allowing for a view to the outside.

Hall of Dan Flavin sculptures titled “Monument” for V. Tatlin (fluorescent light and metal fixtures)

 There are several features of the old Nabisco factory that remain, but the master plan of the museum and the spaces that specific artists inhibit are carefully curated, giving off a heightened experience to the displayed art. The collaboration between "Open Office" and artist Robert Irwin allows for each space to create an experience of art and architecture fused together, often separated as background and foreground. Recently, Rice + Lipka Architects designed a new entry passage, site circulation, parking and landscape renovation to the museum, allowing for a more neutral backdrop to the artwork exhibited.

Michael Heizer’s “North, East, South, West” weathering steel pits, one can never see the end of the hole due to the strategic location of the barrier and angle of vision.

Richard Serra’s “Union of the Torus and the Sphere” (weatherproof steel)

The organization and rhythm of the spaces generates a more exciting experience, unknowingly turning the corner into a large hall of Heizer’s weathering steel holes or entering a smaller space with Richard Serra’s massive steel sculptures that feel as if they are taking over the room.

(Left) Dan Flavin’s "untitled (to a man, George McGovern)" & (right) "Monument 4 for those who have been killed in ambush” showing the juxtaposition of light and dark spaces in an exhibit separated by a hall wall.

Fred Sandback’s "Untitled (from ten vertical constructions; black acrylic yarn)"

The subtle details, circulation layout, and room to art proportions truly make the Dia:Beacon unlike any other museum I’ve ever visited.