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Dia Plans a NYC Homecoming, Looking for Architect

November 11, 2009

By David Sokol

Dia Art Foundation is having a homecoming. On November 6 the nonprofit organization announced it will construct an exhibition space at 545 West 22nd Street, just steps from a facility it shuttered five years ago. Currently Dia’s staff and board are writing a program for the new building. Its director, Philippe Vergne, says architect selection should take place within several months. 

Dia Art Foundation
Photo courtesy Dia
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Dia was established in 1974 to support large-scale, site-specific art, such as installations by Donald Judd and John Chamberlain in Marfa, Texas, and Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field in New Mexico. The foundation initiated a new exhibition program in 1987 at 548 West 22nd Street: Artists were offered an entire floor of a warehouse converted by Richard Gluckman Architects where they could present existing work or create an all-new commission.

That venue closed in 2004 for repairs, and instead of improving a structure that officials determined were unsuitable for its needs, Dia sold it in 2007. A year earlier, too, the foundation had abandoned plans to develop a new home at the foot of the High Line park. The Whitney Museum of American Art has since taken over that site, and it is constructing an 185,000-square-foot satellite designed by Renzo Piano.

Dia has owned 545 West 22nd Street since 1992. The one-story industrial structure currently houses a gallery of the 20th-century art dealer PaceWildenstein, which will vacate upon the conclusion of its lease; it is not yet determined whether the original building will be expanded or demolished and redeveloped. Upon completion it will serve as a location of site-specific art commissions. “Dia really provided artists with the possibility to produce work that never existed before,” Vergne says, “and for me Dia should revisit this dialogue between the organization and the artist.”

It will also house exhibitions, long-term installations, public programs, and performances. Dan Graham’s Rooftop Urban Park Project, located on the roof of 548 West 22nd Street, will be reinstalled there.

Vergne says he would like “a space that will provide artists with the largest amount of flexibility” as well as architecture that integrates with the streetscape. Although he has not yet determined a shortlist of architects, the project could partner an artist to an architect similar to Robert Irwin and OpenOffice’s collaboration on Dia:Beacon, a refurbished printing plant in the Hudson River Valley where the foundation’s permanent collection has been displayed since 2003.

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