To think that I almost didn't go. It would have been so easy to just jump in the rental car last week and head straight up the Thruway to Blue Mountain Lake, NY where turkey, mashed potatoes, a big glass of wine and my family were waiting. But instead I took the road less traveled thinking, 'what the heck, there are no pesky children or moody ex husbands in this car,' so why NOT drive across the Beacon-Newburgh Bridge and visit the Dia Museum in Beacon, NY.
I'm so glad I did. Dia Beacon is the finest setting for modern art I've ever seen. And that includes MOMA, The Guggenheim, and Mass MOCA. What makes this museum so stupendous is that so many of the art installations were created for the space, not shoe-horned into it. It just works beautifully.
Donald Judd boxes let you walk around, peer inside, and experience the
endless ways a plywood cube can be fashioned
Dan Flavin light sculptures are showcased in this gallery
Andy Warhol's "Shadows" takes up a gigantic room with comfy couches
so you can sit and take it in s l o w l y
The Dia Beacon space is an old Nabisco packaging plant on the banks of the Hudson River.
Built in 1929 by Nabisco (National Biscuit Company), the historic steel, concrete, and glass factory building, designed by Nabisco’s staff architect Louis N. Wirshing, Jr., is a model of early-twentieth-century industrial architecture. Its most recent owner, International Paper, donated the building to Dia in 1999. The design elements that advanced the work of the factory also create an outstanding environment for viewing works of contemporary art. These elements include broad spans between supporting columns and more than 34,000 square feet of skylights, which introduce exceptional amounts of reflected north light. At Dia’s instigation, the building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The museum is literally a 5 minute walk from the Beacon train station, which is only 1.5 hours north of New York City. Having lived in the river town Croton-on-Hudson and commuted daily into NYC, I can tell you that the ride is gorgeous and thrilling in every season and that I never tired of it. The trip to Beacon takes you even further north, where the real beauty of the river unfolds.
When you get to Beacon, there's another surprise -- downtown Beacon, also a 5 minute walk from the train station, has come back from the dead. It's practically Woodstocky...yet so much easier to get to and enjoy than the iconic Catskills town.
For most of the last 40 years, Beacon was an impoverished river town, famous for being the home of Pete Seeger and home port of the Sloop Clearwater. The Dia Museum has accelerated the gentrification and renewal of the city. Main Street now has shops and galleries and eateries and a vibrant street life. It's a place that's definitely on its way back to health and definitely worth a visit, even a weekend.