Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dia:Beacon Inspiration

Traveling from San Francisco to New York, I was both excited and unsure of what to expect. I was looking forward to visiting the myriad of locations listed on our itinerary, but I was so severely exhausted from the previous three months of class and travel, I did not know what to expect from myself. Little did I know that the next five days would be the most energizing week of my academic career. Searching for a research topic for a final paper was proving to be difficult as the semester progressed but during my trip to the Dia:Beacon, inspiration found my project.

The Dia:Beacon is located a distance away from NYC and required an entire daylong commitment, but this excursion proved to be the most exciting of the entire trip. The Dia:Beacon is a spectacularly converted Nabisco boxing factory from the 1920’s and is both expansive and spacious. Surely, something of this size and stature could never be found on the island of Manhattan. Rooms dedicated to Warhol, Chamberlain, On Kawara Gerhard Richater, Donald Judd Dan Flavin, Robert Smithson, Bruce Nauman among others was the most exciting collection of artists and space I have ever encountered. The de Mineo family collection of Rothko commissioned Mineo Chapel resides in Huston, as does the rest if the family’s collection, however, the contemporary collection of work located at the Dia:Beacon proved to be as inspirational as its physical move to Beacon, NY.

The Dia Foundation modeled its New York foundation after the German Kunsthalle model of exhibition organization, with some American modifications. The Dia Foundation held steadfast to its commitment to maintain the integrity of the art of contemporary artists. Exhibitions at the Dia New York were scheduled to only hang for one year and comprised of Dia commissioned works only with each floor of the foundation dedicated to one artist. Group shows were allowed, but only in the form of monographic shows, never a retrospective.

Historically, the 1980’s were filled with traveling blockbuster shows, but the Dia’s refusal to conform to the quid pro quo resulted in bad reviews and very little press coverage of its space in New York. Visitors to the Dia New York were rare therefore, the Dia aimed to perform to the purpose of the project of the artist, not the viewing audience. The Dia received much criticism for continuing its elitist behavior by moving to Beacon, NY, however, once the space is viewed, there is no question that New York City could never have produced a space as vast and buried in nature as the Dia:Beacon. It’s almost forgivable that one must go through Poughkeepsie, NY, before you arrive at the Dia:Beacon, NY.

Artist Robert Irwin even enjoyed hanging his work during a yearlong exhibition, only to have it taken down, modified by him to his liking and hung again for another year. Irwin also redesigned the building the Dia currently resides in, successfully repositioning the interior and salvaging beautiful original wood flooring. The Dia:Beacon is a successful space; beautiful in design and the pieces it holds

My visit of the Dia:Beacon sparked my interest in contemporary land artists such as Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer. The Dia:Beacon owns the Lightning Fields project created by Walter De Maria. Questions about the conception, creation and maintenance of the project were brought up. Land was purchased, de Maria was commission to create the steel rods and the placement was grid like and intended to distance itself from the gallery scene of the east coast. This pioneer endeavor of purchasing land to control the space and create the work was an extraordinary concept. The idea that these locations were created to step away from the commodification of the art world and have now become a destination location, a pilgrimage to Mecca, has created a geopolitical question. Purchase of land for art pieces creates questions of geopolitical associations, patronage, conservation and ideas of permanence.

De Maria’s Lightning Field is alive and needs to be maintained, creating the three things needed for land art pieces like the Lightning Field - 1) an art historical prominence of the project and artist 2) a successful art dealer who knows the business of art and 3) an individual with wealth and capital to complete the project. This idea of patronage is what jumped at me the most during our visit to the Dia and sparked my interest in the creation of land art leading me to choosing the creation of land art, its geopolitical interests, permanence and patronage as my final paper project.

Overall, the trip to New York was an excellent opportunity to get to know my fellow classmates, and have conversations about the spaces, pieces, lectures, exhibition tours and the city over dinner and a few glasses of wine. This was an excellent experience I will hang on to for a long time.

By Isabella Shirinyan

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