After a spring of being queued, herded, and rushed through blockbuster art shows (Matisse-Picasso, Manet-Velazquez, and Leonardo), the first thing a visitor to Dia:Beacon will notice is space—at 240,000 square feet, the Chelsea-based museum’s new Hudson branch couldn’t get crowded if it tried. And that’s the idea: The minimalist art collected by the Dia finally has the kind of breathing room it was made for, and the foundation finally has the ideal place to show its specialized holdings of painting and sculpture from the sixties to the present.
Twenty-two artists have been given solo galleries, so a trip to the museum is like seeing a series of simultaneous, and well-edited, retrospectives. Artfully renovated by artist Robert Irwin and architects OpenOffice, the former box factory (the brick exterior still says NABISCO) is serene and beautifully landscaped, but doesn’t compete with the art. Lit by rows of north-facing saw-tooth skylights, the interior feels like a mega artist’s loft: high ceilings, white walls, worn wood floors, constant illumination.
Three of Richard Serra’s massive Torqued Ellipses and one Torqued Spiral fill the former factory’s train shed. The interior galleries are devoted to smaller-scale works: a group of Robert Ryman’s cloudlike canvases, a series of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s awesome photographs of industrial architecture.
The 75-mile trip to Beacon takes about 90 minutes by car or 75 minutes on Metro-North (trains run hourly; the museum is a less-than-five-minute walk from the station). Make a day of it by wandering around town after visiting the museum. Galleries like the cooperative Collaborative Concepts and the year-old Beacon Project Space line Main Street. You don’t have to leave Main Street to eat, either. Café Maya is a brand-new offshoot of the popular Mexican restaurant down the road in Cold Spring, and the Piggy Bank dishes up southern-style barbecue in a renovated 1880s building. For caffeine and a wholesome snack (homemade spelt-flour cakes and twelve kinds of tea), try the three-month-old Chthonic Clash Coffeehouse. And for a less than wholesome end to the day, try the handmade chocolates at the Alps Sweet Shop.