Tour of Beauty

Updated June 2005

Dia:Beacon, the Nabisco factory turned contemporary-art museum.Photo: Richard Barnes, courtesy of Dia Art Foundation

If there’s a signature American travel experience, it’s the road trip. Kerouac hit the highway for spiritual enlightenment. Blues fans take to the road in search of every juke joint Robert Johnson set foot in. Gastronomes travel the country’s byways to find the perfect barbecued ribs. Here, we’ve outlined the ultimate driving itinerary for New York art lovers. Up the Hudson Valley, into the Catskills, and north to the Berkshires, a quartet of contemporary museums has taken over abandoned farms and former factories, forming a sort of countryside Chelsea gallery loop. Try this three-day itinerary.

Stop one is the Storm King Art Center, a former Hudson Valley farm turned postwar sculpture park an hour north of the GWB. On 500 acres of rolling green fields, oversize metal works by Richard Serra and Mark di Suvero stand side by side with pieces by emerging sculptors like Chakaia Booker (currently showing edgy works crafted from recycled tires). For dinner, try the dining room at the Thayer Hotel in West Point, specializing in regional dishes like Long Island duck with rum coconut sauce.

On day two, cross the Bear Mountain Bridge to Dia:Beacon, the one-time Nabisco factory refashioned into a 240,000-square-foot museum, where works by contemporary artists from Andy Warhol to Louise Bourgeois are on permanent display in huge, loftlike galleries. Three of Richard Serra’s Torqued Ellipses are among the most popular works, as is Bruce Nauman’s basement-level video installation. When you’re done ogling, head northeast about 90 minutes to Canaan, New York, and check into the Inn at Silver Maple Farm (518-781-3600; from $90), a bed-and-breakfast with home-baked cookies and Wi-Fi. The Blue Plate, a diner-cum-bistro in nearby Chatham, is a local favorite for dinner.

After breakfast at Silver Maple (lemon-ricotta pancakes are the specialty), visit nearby Art Omi, featuring more than 80 large-scale abstract sculptures from artists like Donald Lipski and Beverly Pepper as well as 100 acres of ponds, meadows, and wooded trails. Through the end of October, catch “Public Notice: Painting in the Sculpture Park,” six painted billboards by New York artists. Next, pick up gourmet sandwiches at the Old Chatham Country Store and head for Mass MoCA, an hour away. The museum opened in 1999 with about 250,000 square feet of former factory buildings converted into cavernous galleries, plus performing arts spaces. Shows rotate every few months and feature mostly young artists. On your last night, try the sleek New American restaurant Eleven, then stay at Porches (413-664-0400; from $160), a stylish hotel in renovated factory workers’ houses across the street from MoCA.

See also:
The Four Best Places to Rent a Car

Summer 2005 Weekend Getaways

Tour of Beauty