Dia to Revitalize Its Constellation of Sites

Posted June 5, 2018 9:06 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK — The Dia Art Foundation helped pioneer the use of industrial spaces to exhibit contemporary art when it opened in New York City in 1974. Then it flirted with idea of opening new buildings in 2005 and 2012, but both proposals were abandoned following the departures of two former directors.

Now Dia is renewing its mission, with plans to renovate and expand its existing industrial spaces, in Chelsea and SoHo in Manhattan and in Beacon, New York, to shore up its future programming.

“The idea of new architecture is so antithetical to Dia,” said Jessica Morgan, its director since 2015. “The unique thing about Dia is precisely the constellation of these industrial sites that allow the artist or artwork to speak much louder than architecture.”

Overseen by Architecture Research Office, the project calls for unifying Dia’s three contiguous buildings, including a former marble-cutting facility, on West 22nd Street in Chelsea and integrating them into a street-level exhibition and programming space with a bookshop. The two existing galleries will retain their raw character but will receive an infrastructure upgrade.

In SoHo, Dia is reclaiming a 2500-square-foot gallery loft space at 77 Wooster St., long rented out to retail shops. It is also installing climate control in its nearby permanent installations by Walter De Maria — “The New York Earth Room” (1977) and “The Broken Kilometer” (1979) — so they can remain open during summer months for the first time.

In upstate Beacon, architects are reconfiguring the lower level of the former Nabisco factory to gain an additional 11,000 square feet of gallery space, which will open the back of the building to the nearby landscape. Work on all locations will begin next year.

Dia has completed 80 percent of its fundraising campaign of $78 million, a quarter of which will cover all the costs of upgrading the sites. The rest will be invested in its endowment to support artists, programming and acquiring new works.

“I wanted that to be the focus of our fundraising and not spend the money on real estate,” said Morgan, adding, “We’ve thought very carefully about trying to keep those costs to a minimum and keep our endowment at a maximum.”