I finally made a pilgrimage to Dia Beacon earlier this May, and I am already planning my next visit. It had been raining most of the week, but I got lucky and my visit was on a cool-spring day. The fog and the fresh air made traveling up the Hudson a great addition to the museum itself. The train ride from Grand Central station to Beacon is a $28 round trip, and drops you off within easy walking distance to the museum and to the town of Beacon; a town, from what I saw, which was populated with quaint shops, small restaurants, and pleasant people. After lunch, it was time for the museum. I walked through a blooming parking lot, and bought my ticket, hoping Dia Beacon would live up to it's name.
Michael Heizer, North, East, South, West, 1967/2002
Richard Serra, Torqued Ellipses
I had heard good things, but I was blown away by this beautiful space. The museum had an ability to perfectly complement the art it housed. Robert Irwin, who is responsible for the landscaping and many small interior aspects of Dia Beacon, truly outdid himself. When remembering the visit, some of the true megaliths of minimal art quickly come to mind. Immense works by Serra and Heizer were almost overwhelming to experience. Standing before these works reminded me of what Peter Schjeldahl said about Dia Beacon in the New Yorker on June 7, 2004:
An anti-church, it offers, in the place of religion, beneficent addiction. (The hits wear off quickly. You want more.) This may be the upward limit of what liberal culture can provide for the common soul. Perhaps it’s enough. Certainly Dia:Beacon stirs grateful awe. Look at what we humans can do!The hit didn't wear off too quickly for me, especially when the museum also housed, and equally complemented more subtle works by Ryman, Sanback, and LeWitt. This is a museum that knew what space these work deserved, and then gave them a little more.
Every corner I turned in this museum I was nearly overwhelmed by the emmidiate physical presence of the pieces. After spending more time in Dia Beacon that day than I ever have in a museum's galleries, I took a break and wondered to the west garden to see Robert Irwin's famed landscaping. Instead, I was instantly struck, as I had been in all of the other galleries, by another piece of art. The piece was a sound installation by Louise Lawler entitled, Birdcalls, where there are loud bird-like sounds coming from the gardens. These birdcalls, which children in the gardens were loving, were in fact the names of famous male artists. This hilarious piece was a welcomed break from the extremely serious and intense works inside, and was a good introduction to the relaxing and beautiful gardens.
As I walked away from the train in Grand Central station, I was underground and smelled pee, and realized I still had 40 minutes of subway rides before I would be home, and I missed Dia Beacon dearly.
Dia Beacon's website here.