Dia Art Foundation

Dia Art Foundation

Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries in Beacon, New York, on the Hudson River
Founded 1974
Founder Philippa de Menil, Heiner Friedrich, and Helen Winkler
Focus Contemporary art
Key people
Jessica Morgan (director),[1] Yasmil Raymond (curator)[2]
Endowment $57 million (as of 2007)[3]
Mission Initiating, supporting, presenting, and preserving art projects
Website Dia Art website

Coordinates: 40°44′52″N 74°00′25″W / 40.74778°N 74.00694°W / 40.74778; -74.00694

Dia Art Foundation is a nonprofit organization that initiates, supports, presents, and preserves art projects. It was established in 1974 as the Lone Star Foundation[4] by Philippa de Menil, the daughter of Houston arts patron Dominique de Menil[3] and an heiress to the Schlumberger oil exploration fortune; art dealer Heiner Friedrich, Philippa's husband; and Helen Winkler, a Houston art historian.[5] Dia wanted to support projects "whose nature or scale would preclude other funding sources."[6]

The name "Dia", taken from the Greek word meaning "through", was chosen to suggest the institution's role in enabling artistic projects that might not otherwise be realized.

Dia holds a major collection of work by artists of the 1960s and 1970s, on view at Dia:Beacon opened in the Hudson Valley in 2003. Dia additionally maintains long-term site-specific projects in the western United States, New York City, and on Long Island. Dia's permanent collection holdings include artworks by artists who came to prominence during the 1960s and 1970s, including Joseph Beuys, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Agnes Martin, and Andy Warhol. The art of this period represented a radical departure in artistic practice and is often large in scale; it is occasionally ephemeral or site-specific.

Currently, Dia commissions, supports, and presents site-specific installations and long-term exhibitions of work by these artists, as well as those of younger generations.


Founded in 1974 as the Dia Art Foundation, it first patronized a group of artists that included Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, John Chamberlain, Walter De Maria, La Monte Young, and Marian Zazeela.[5] They got stipends, studios, and archivists in anticipation of one-man museums that Dia planned for several of them.[7] Philippa's husband, Francesco Pellizzi, was on the original six-member board, and Dominique and Christophe de Menil were on the advisory council. Starting in 1979, the foundation hired architect Richard Gluckman and started looking for reinforced-concrete structures suitable for showing art.[5] Gluckman helped locate Dia's present Chelsea building on West 23rd Street for a planned Cy Twombly museum, a performance space for Robert Whitman on West 19th Street, and the Mercantile Exchange on Harrison Street for Young and Zazeela. In 1980, Dia opened the Masjid Al-Fara, a Sufi mosque[8] replete with Flavin light works and living quarters for Muzaffer Ozak, in a former firehouse at 155 Mercer Street.[5]

The financial difficulties during the 1980s reduced Dia's annual expenditures from $5 million in 1984 to 1.2 million in 1987, accompanied by Heiner Friedrich's departure and the end of Philippa de Menil's financial support though she continued to hold a position on Dia's board.[9] Philippa de Menil's mother, Dominique de Menil, stepped in, ousted Friedrich and installed Ashton Hawkins, an executive vice president at the Metropolitan Museum, as Dia's chairman. Along with Hawkins, the new board members included Lois de Menil, John C. Evans, future United States Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer, Margaret Douglas-Hamilton, and Herbert Brownell.[5] The board then hired as director Charles Wright and curator Gary Garrels. The mosque was removed from 155 Mercer Street. La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela had to leave the Harrison Street building, which was then sold for $5.5 million. By the end of 1987, real-estate and art sales had brought in about $17 million to pay the debt and start an endowment. The foundation was renamed the Dia Center for the Arts and a program of poetry readings, performances, lectures and publications was begun.[7]

Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries

Main article: Dia:Beacon

Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries in Beacon, New York, is located in a former printing plant built in 1929 by Nabisco. When it opened in 2003 with 160,000 square feet (15,000 m2) of exhibition space,[10] it became one of the largest museums to open in the United States since the Museum of Modern Art opened in the late 1930s.[3]

The museum is sited on 31 acres (13 ha) on the banks of the Hudson River, and is adjacent to 90 acres (36 ha) of riverfront parkland. It is 60 miles (97 km) north of New York City.

Each gallery was designed specifically for the art it contains. The space is limited to the works of 25 artists, including:

The museum's galleries of paintings by On Kawara, Agnes Martin, Blinky Palermo, and Robert Ryman receive reflected north light from more than 34,000 square feet (3,200 m2) of skylights.

Dia collaborated with Robert Irwin and architect OpenOffice to formulate the plan for the museum building and its exterior setting. The grounds include an entrance court, and parking lot with a grove of flowering fruit trees and a formal garden, both of which were designed by Irwin.

According to the New York Times, it cost $50 million to build, with Leonard Riggio contributing at least $35 million of that amount; the remainder of the construction funds came from the Lannan Foundation ($10 million), Ann Tenenbaum and her husband Thomas H. Lee ($2.5 million), among others.[3] As of 2007 its annual operating costs are about $3 million a year.[3]


Former home of Dia:Chelsea and current site of the X Initiative arts project.

Dia's exhibition program in New York City began in 1987 with the opening of a four-story converted warehouse at 548 West 22nd Street, called the Dia Center for the Arts. In keeping with Dia's mandate, the exhibitions, at what would be later renamed Dia:Chelsea, focused on individual artists, and typically offered an artist an entire floor on which to develop a new project or create a focused presentation of existing work. The exhibitions were on view for about one year to allow extended viewing.

Among the many artists who created site-specific exhibition projects for Dia are Robert Gober, Ann Hamilton, Jenny Holzer, Pierre Huyghe, Robert Irwin, Juan Muñoz, Jorge Pardo, Jessica Stockholder, Diana Thater, and Lawrence Weiner. Others, including On Kawara, Bridget Riley, Robert Ryman, and Robert Whitman, presented existing work in focused installations that responded to Dia's mandate and site.

In October 1987, when Dia:Chelsea opened its main space,[11] it attracted about 16,000 to 17,000 visitors a year. Before it closed for renovations in February 2004, attendance had grown to about 60,000.[12] The extent of the repairs needed prompted the foundation to sell the building for $38.55 million in December 2007.[13]

Dia began as an institution dedicated to supporting long-term projects by living artists, and for several years, it was trying to raise money to build a space for such endeavors in Manhattan, after outgrowing its two locations on West 22nd Street in Chelsea and closing them in 2004.[1] The foundation's board abandoned plans on opening a museum at the entrance to the High Line in 2006 after losing its longtime director, Michael Govan, and its chairman and benefactor, Leonard Riggio.[14]

In November 2009 Dia's Director, Philippe Vergne, announced plans to reopen in Chelsea on West 22nd Street.[15] In 2011, after years of negotiations, Dia bought the former Alcamo Marble building at 541 West 22nd Street, located between its former space at No. 545 and its existing six-story building at No. 535, for $11.5 million.[16] Inside, these three existing brick buildings will be woven together to create three interconnected galleries on the ground floor. According to plans, the new Dia, designed by architect Roger Duffy, will include 15,670 square feet of gallery space and 3,625 square feet of rooftop for outdoor exhibitions like Dan Graham's Rooftop Urban Park Project (1991), an architectural pavilion fashioned from two-way mirrored glass that was originally installed on the roof of No. 548.[16]

In 2015, incoming Dia Director Jessica Morgan re-launched the space at 545 West 22nd Street with an exhibition of La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela.[17] From September 2016, Hauser & Wirth will take over the four-story space as a temporary home while constructing its new building at no. 542. To adapt the space, the gallery enlisted Annabelle Selldorf.[18]

Partnership with the Hispanic Society

Since the sale of Dia:Chelsea, Dia has been searching for a new home for its contemporary art programs in New York City. While this search is underway, it has partnered with The Hispanic Society of America, for which Dia will commission a series of projects by contemporary artists to be installed at the Hispanic Society's Beaux-Arts complex, on Broadway at 155th Street in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. The partnership provides a venue at which Dia can present special projects accompanied by Dia publications and educational programs and enables the Hispanic Society to engage a new audience. This multi-year collaboration began in the fall of 2007 with a new project by artist Francis Alÿs titled Fabiola, and in late 2008 Dia presented Zoe Leonard: Derroetero.

Collections and installations

Permanent collection

Over Dia's first ten years, its founders assembled a collection of a select group of artists. Among those whose work was commissioned and collected at that time are Joseph Beuys, John Chamberlain, Walter De Maria, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Imi Knoebel, Blinky Palermo, Fred Sandback, Cy Twombly, Robert Whitman, and La Monte Young. In 1979 the Lone Star Foundation (now the Dia Art Foundation) acquired Shadows (1978–79), the monumental painting installation by Andy Warhol consisting of 102 canvases, as a single entity from the artist during its inaugural exhibition at the Heiner Friedrich Gallery in New York.[19]

In 1991 Dia gave the Menil Collection in Houston six of its best works by Twombly in anticipation of the Twombly Gallery that opened there in 1995.[20] In anticipation of the opening of Dia:Beacon, Dia augmented its core collection with focused acquisitions. The first of these was made in 1997, when Board Chairman Leonard Riggio and his family gave the Foundation three sculptures from Richard Serra's Torqued Ellipses series (1996–97), sculptures created for an exhibition at Dia:Chelsea; it was the first acquisition for Dia's permanent collection in over ten years, a $2 million purchase made by Riggio.[3] With support from the Lannan Foundation, the artists themselves, and others, the collection has expanded with gifts, purchases, and long-term loans of works by other artists from that same generation—Bernd and Hilla Becher, Louise Bourgeois, Hanne Darboven, Michael Heizer, Robert Irwin, On Kawara, Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, Bruce Nauman, Gerhard Richter, Robert Ryman, Robert Smithson, and Lawrence Weiner—as well as additional works by artists already represented.


In 1985, the Dia Art Foundation for the first time auctioned off 18 works at Sotheby's, including pieces by Cy Twombly and Barnett Newman, for $1.3 million.[5][21] In 2013, the foundation announced its plan to sell another group of paintings and sculptures — including pieces by Twombly, Chamberlain and Barnett Newman — at Sotheby's, this time hoping to raise at least $20 million for an acquisition budget[20] and to pay for 30 works that have been on long-term loan to Dia from the Lannan Foundation.[21] In response, founders Heiner Friedrich and Fariha de Menil filed suit in New York Supreme Court,[22] seeking an injunction against the foundation and Sotheby's while raising the possibility that some of the works might not be legally owned by Dia but constitute long-term loans from the Friedrichs.[23] However, the lawsuit was dropped shortly after,[21] and the consigned works raised $38.4 million.[24]

Long-term and affiliated projects

Michael Govan, the former director of Dia under whose direction Dia:Beacon was constructed, estimates that before Philippa de Menil's family forced her to sharply cut back on fundingan act precipitated by the 1980s oil glut's effect on the Schlumberger fortuneDia spent "at least $40 million" on a series of installations that Dia continues to maintain.[3]

Among those 1970s and early 1980s projects are works by Walter De Maria, including The Lightning Field (1977),[25] near Quemado, New Mexico; and The New York Earth Room (1977)[26] and The Broken Kilometer (1979),[27] in New York City. In addition, Dia maintains the Dan Flavin Art Institute, a former church in Bridgehampton, New York converted in the 1980s into an installation of works by Flavin.[3] The installation of work by Donald Judd and John Chamberlain, in Marfa, Texas, was begun by Judd; Dia gave the project $4 million between 1980 and 1986, before cutting off the financial support due to Dia's financial crisis; a lawsuit threatened by Judd led to the establishment of the Chinati Foundation with support from Dia.[28] Dream House, a sound and light installation by LeMont Young and Marian Zazeela, located in New York City, was also initiated with Dia's support in the late 1970s. Since 1987 Dia has sited several long-term projects in New York City, including Joseph Beuys's 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks),[29] an installation of trees paired with basalt columns along West 22nd Street. This continues a project the artist began with Dia's sponsorship at Documenta 7, in Kassel, Germany, in 1982.

In 1999 Dia acquired Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty (1970),[30] in Great Salt Lake, Utah, as a gift from the estate of the artist. Max Neuhaus's Times Square,[31] a sound work installed on a pedestrian island in Times Square in New York City joined Dia's collection in 2002. Originally created in 1977, it was decommissioned in 1992 and reactivated in 2002. In addition, Dia continues its involvement with the development of Michael Heizer's long-term work City, in eastern Nevada, and James Turrell's Roden Crater project in the Painted Desert in Arizona, which was begun in the 1970s with Dia's support. Dia has also collaborated with other institutions in realizing long-term projects, including The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh (opened in 1994), and the Cy Twombly Gallery, Houston (opened 1995), both of which were created in part with gifts from Dia's permanent collection.


Artists' Projects for the Web

In 1995 as part of its efforts to explore new sites for the presentation of contemporary art, Dia initiated a series of internet commissions, thereby becoming one of the first arts organizations to foster artists' use of the internet as a medium. Its collection of web projects, which is available on its website, at www.diaart.org, includes works by Francis Alÿs, David Claerbout, Diller + Scofidio, Molissa Fenley, Susan Hiller, Glenn Ligon, Komar & Melamid, Feng Mengbo, Lisi Raskin, Allen Ruppersberg, Shimabuku, Gary Simmons, Stephen Vitiello, Ezra Johnson, Rosa Barba, and Barbara Bloom.

Public programs

Dia's public programs are integral to its efforts to make the arts of our time accessible to a broad and diverse audience. Programming at Dia:Beacon includes a series of year-long temporary exhibitions as well as public programs designed to complement the collection and exhibitions, including monthly Gallery Talks, music performances by St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble, and Community Free Days for neighboring counties. Since 2001 Dia has worked with the Beacon City Schools to develop an Arts Education Program that serves area students at all education levels, making Dia's collection a valuable resource to students and their teachers and families.

Programs in New York City include the Artists on Artists lecture series, which focuses on the work of artists in Dia's collection and exhibition programs, as well as periodic performances and other special events. Dia's collaboration with the Hispanic Society includes additional educational programs for local schools, as well as lectures and other public programs.


Dia's publication program produces books in conjunction with selected exhibitions, scholarly volumes on the permanent collection, and other program-related publications, audio works on CD, and multimedia works.



The Dia Art Foundation is a tax-exempt charitable organization. Current programs are supported in part by funds from the members of the Board of Trustees, foundations (such as the Lannan Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts), and other friends of the institution. As of 2013, Dia' endowment stands at around $55 million.[32]

Board of Trustees

Among others, the Dia Art Foundation's board includes collectors Frances Bowes and Howard Rachofsky.[32] Under new director Jessica Morgan's leadership, the Greek shipping magnate George Economou, Ra Hee Hong Lee, Irene Panagopoulos, Jane Skinner and James Murdoch joined.[33][34] Artist trustees have included Brice Marden, Robert Ryman, and George Condo.


  1. 1 2 Randy Kennedy (September 10, 2014), Dia Art Foundation Appoints a Tate Modern Curator as Its Director New York Times.
  2. Dia Art Foundation Announces Appointment of Yasil Raymond as Curator a May 8, 2009 press release from Dia Art Foundation's website
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Nocera, Joe (October 14, 2007). "The Patron Gets a Divorce". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-25.
  4. Andrew Russeth (October 23, 2009), Philippe Vergne on the Future of Dia ARTINFO.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Bob Colacello (September 1996), Remains of the Dia Vanity Fair.
  6. Glueck, Grace (October 3, 1989). "To Get His Museum, Opening in '92". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-24.
  7. 1 2 Michael Kimmelman (September 15, 1996), At Dia, Fresh Wounds and a Fresh Start New York Times.
  8. Anne Barnard (August 13, 2010), In Lower Manhattan, 2 Mosques Have Firm Roots New York Times.
  9. Glueck, Grace (October 7, 1987). "Dia Foundation, Back From Brink, Opens New Center". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-28. But under Mr. Friedrich's direction, Dia's ambitions proved grandiose, and it overreached financially. Now he no longer has a role in Dia and, although Mrs. Friedrich is a member of the board, she no longer makes financial contributions.
  10. http://www.nytimes.com/1999/03/09/arts/dia-center-to-open-a-museum-upstate.html
  11. Saltz, Jerry, "Remembering Dia, at the End of an Era", vulture.com, March 12, 2010. Retrieved 2015-10-01.
  12. Carol Vogel (May 9, 2005). "Dia Art Foundation Plans an Upscale Move". The New York Times.
  13. "Dia Leaving Chelsea—Gallery Granddaddy Sells Building for $38.5 M.". The New York Observer. December 11, 2007. Retrieved 2015-10-01. The museum, housed in a four-story brick building, closed for renovations in 2004 but never reopened due to the extent of repairs needed. [Dia's director, Jeffrey] Weiss said he was pleased by the high sales price, and said the money will be invested and likely used to purchase its next space.
  14. Carol Vogel (October 25, 2006). "Dia Art Foundation Calls Off Museum Project". The New York Times. Retrieved July 8, 2009.
  15. Carol Vogel (November 5, 2009). "Dia Plans to Return to Its Chelsea Roots". The New York Times.
  16. 1 2 Carol Vogel (May 24, 2012). "Dia Outlines New Plan for Building in Chelsea". The New York Times.
  17. Anny Shaw (September 29, 2015), Dia abandons previous plans for new building in Chelsea The Art Newspaper.
  18. Robin Pogrebin (June 9, 2016), Hauser & Wirth Gallery to Take Over Former Dia Space in Chelsea New York Times.
  19. "Andy Warhol: Shadows", September 25, 2011 - January 15, 2012 Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
  20. 1 2 Carol Vogel (June 27, 2013), Dia Foundation to Sell Works to Start Acquisition Fund New York Times.
  21. 1 2 3 Randy Kennedy (November 12, 2013), Dia's Auction of Artworks Is to Proceed New York Times.
  22. FILED: NEW YORK COUNTY CLERK 11/07/2013 New York Supreme Court.
  23. Randy Kennedy (November 7, 2013), 2 Founders of Dia Sue to Stop Art Auction New York Times.
  24. Katya Kazakina and Philip Boroff (November 14, 2013), Warhol 'Crash', Steve Cohen's Richter Lift Sotheby's Sale Bloomberg.
  25. Walter De Maria The Lightning Field
  26. Walter De Maria The New York Earth Room
  27. Walter De Maria The Broken Kilometer
  28. Glueck, Grace (October 7, 1987). "Dia Foundation, Back From Brink, Opens New Center". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-28. Dia had supported the installation from 1980 to 1986 with more than $4 million. When it withdrew from the project, Mr. Judd threatened a lawsuit, contending the foundation had reneged on some provisions of a contract. As a way to avert the threatened lawsuit, an independent entity called the Chinati Foundation was set up, to raise funds on its own. Under this arrangement, Dia has contributed its art and real-estate interests in Marfa, along with nearly $800,000 over five years to complete certain projects.
  29. Joseph Beuys 7000 Oaks from the Dia Art Foundation website
  30. Robert Smithson Spiral Jetty
  31. Max Neuhaus Times Square from the Dia Art Foundation website
  32. 1 2 Ted Loos (October 18, 2013), Sotheby's Magazine: Dia Goes Back To The Future Sotheby's.
  33. Graham Bowley and Judith H. Dobrzynski (March 19, 2015), New Dia Trustees New York Times.
  34. Randy Kennedy (March 1, 2016), Dia Art Foundation Adds Two Board Members New York Times.
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