New York City Diary

Words and pictures from my interesting life in New York.

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Day Trip To Dia:Beacon

It is Sunday afternoon and I am at home in Brooklyn. Today Jenn and I took a day trip to Beacon, New York to go to a museum of contemporary art called Dia:Beacon. Here's a picture of me standing by the sign.

We have wanted to visit this museum for a long time, and today was finally the day. We woke up early and took an 8:51 a.m. Metro North train out of Grand Central Station. After a scenic ride up the Hudson River Valley we arrived in the town of Beacon, New York at 10:21 a.m. The weather was hot and sunny.

The museum opened at 11:00 a.m. and I have this thing about getting to museums early. The way I see it, even museums you are really excited about visiting tend to wear you down and make you tired very quickly. Therefore, it's a good idea to go early in the day to have your best energy and mental acuity. That way you'll appreciate and enjoy it more, and you'll also get back home at a reasonable hour so you can do something else with your afternoon if you want to. This is especially important on Sundays.

So Jenn and I walked from the Beacon train station to the museum, arriving at about 10:35 a.m. We looked around the outside of the museum and then waited in the coffee shop, which had opened at 10:30 a.m. It wasn't long before they opened the doors to the main gallery.

Dia:Beacon Riggio Galleries (that's the full name) houses the Dia Art Foundation's permanent collection and also hosts exhibitions. The current big name exhibition (or the one I've heard of, anyway) is an Andy Warhol show called Dia's Andy: Through the Lens of Patronage.

The first thing you can easily say about Dia:Beacon is that it's huge. It's a former printing factory and the gallery takes up 300,000 square feet. It's beautifully designed and has lots of excellent natural light. That enables Dia to present works of art that are physically gigantic.

There is no photography allowed inside the galleries, so I'm afraid I can't post any photos of specific works of art, but the Dia websites I've linked to above are very comprehensive and have at least one photo of each artist's work, so check them out if you're curious.

There are a few standout pieces that I can mention, however. Now, it's probably kind of cliche and typical to pick this as one of my favorites, but Richard Serra's Torqued Ellipses are wonderful.

It's a weird feeling walking inside them, like they could fall on you at any moment, but also the diverging angles and constant curvature gives you a strange perspective. Jenn and I walked through every one of them. The ones that have a second or third curved ellipse inside the first are the best.

There's so much art in Dia:Beacon that it's intimidating for me to even begin to write about any individual piece. We loved the Warhols, we loved John Chamberlain's auto body sculptures, we loved Louise Bourgeois's spider, and Dan Flavin's light sculptures.

The museum is so huge it took us nearly two hours of constant walking (at a brisk pace for a museum) to see it all. We easily could have stayed all day, but we were getting hungry and tired, so we freshened up and bid farewell to Dia:Beacon. It was about 12:45 p.m.

The plan was to walk along Main Street in Beacon and find a spot for lunch and maybe a beer, but sadly, the town of Beacon was a bit of a disappointment.

From our basic web researching we were expecting a nicely kept up, quaint Hudson River town, and many of the buildings and houses are quite pretty. But there were really very few choices for decent places to grab a snack, and no proper restaurants. There are a couple of galleries, (literally, like two galleries) and a tea shop and a sandwich shop.

And the town kept getting dodgier the farther along Main street we walked. Many shops and offices were abandoned, with boarded-up windows. A few people were hanging around on the sidewalk, killing time, drinking and smoking. Jenn and I decided to take the 1:50 p.m. train back to the city. Before we left, I took this picture of the clock on Main Street.

It was getting hot and we still hadn't eaten, so it was a quiet walk back to the train. There was a very rudimentary snack stand on the platform, so we got water and Snapple and a packet of cheese and crackers and a blueberry cereal bar to tide us over until we were home.

The train arrived on time and we got on and it felt good to rest our legs in air conditioned comfort. I was especially weary because I had a rough kumite class yesterday, and I was both sore and bruised.

I took this picture of Bannerman Castle from the train. And I didn't know it was named Bannerman Castle until I just now looked it up. I googled Hudson River Island Castle, it took like five seconds to find it.

We arrived in Grand Central Station and Jenn took this picture of me.

Then we took the 6 train to Union Square, where we hopped an L shuttle train to First Avenue and got bagels from David's. Yes, we were craving those David's bagels. Then we came home to Brooklyn and ate the bagels and showered and now we're catching up on things, blogging and such. It's 6:30 p.m.

Bottom line on the day: the town it's located in isn't much, but Dia:Beacon is great, and I definitely recommend taking a trip to check it out. We bought "package" tickets at Grand Central that included round trip train fare and museum admission for $27 each, a savings of a couple of bucks and some hassle.

As for the art (and the space) I'm sure I'll remember it for a long time. Yes, like much modern art, it was "weird," but it was also meaningful, powerful, and, in some cases, beautiful.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife and I are about to take the train to Dia Beacon this afternoon. I found this review helpful by downplaying the town and telling us to spend all our time with the art, and how much time it will take to negotiate 300,000 square feet. I'm a modern art freak so this will be a treat.

10:26 AM  

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