Can't decide between a day trip out of the city and a cultural day at a museum? Why not both? Enter the town of Beacon, a small hamlet on the Hudson River a quick trip from Manhattan that holds a huge (literally) art-filled wonderland to explore. Beacon, NY is home to Dia: Beacon, a museum of the Dia Art Foundation showcasing their unparallelled collection of modern artworks from the 1960s to the present.
What makes the Dia: Beacon, Riggio Galleries truly unique is their site – an expansive converted Nabisco box-printing factory. The rooms are HUGE and flooded almost exclusively with natural light. Not only does this atypical space allow the museum to house works that could not fit or be hosted by a more traditional museum, but the visitor's experience of the artwork is elastic, with the light changing over the course of the day and the changing seasons of the year. With comfy couches, artworks that often invite you to step right into them, and minimal placards that you may choose to ignore if you want, Dia: Beacon offers a relaxing museum experience and encourages you to explore for yourself.
To give you an idea of the scale involved, one of their more famous long-term exhibitions is Andy Warhol's Shadows, 1978-79, originally a set of 102 large paintings. As many of these as are able (70-80) have been hung side-by-side in a huge 7,000-square-foot gallery. Walking into the space, you are able to experience this "disco décor" from within and also experience the random nature and placement of the differently colored screenprints. Richard Serra's giant rolled steel pieces and Michael Heizer's pit-like negative space sculptures have also found homes here. According to Dia: Beacon's website, regarding Heizer's North, South, East, West, "When the work was first developed, such dimensions had no precedent in the art of recent times." This is not the type of art you could see anywhere else.
Special exhibitions also rotate through the space, some even drawn directly on the walls, such as Sol LeWitt's Drawing Series, which will be up until November of next year. A list of the current special exhibitions can be found here.
With so much to see, a guided tour is a great way to get an overview of the museum and learn about its artists. While tours can be scheduled for school and private groups, every Saturday at 1:00 pm public tours are provided free with admission.
To add to the enjoyment of the factory gallery center, there is a wonderful bookshop and a café with delicious coffee, pastries, and a host of more substantial meal choices, including soups and sandwiches.
Beacon is an easy day trip from NYC, accessible by Metro North trains, which run hourly during museum hours out of Grand Central, and the galleries are open all year.
Best of all, the museum is not the only thing to see in Beacon. By welcoming the museum, the city was itself transformed into a thriving arts community. Beacon is NY's new hotspot for contemporary art and artists, with many galleries and studios. The city supports and celebrates this status with Second Saturday Beacon, a city-wide celebration of the arts held on the second Saturday of every month. Galleries and shops stay open late until 9 pm and arts events are regularly held for the public, including open studios, live music, artist talks, and performances. Check out the Beacon Arts Community Association for more information on Second Saturdays and events happening in town that could coincide with a trip.