Dia was founded in New York City in 1974 by Philippa de Menil, Heiner Friedrich, and Helen Winkler to help artists achieve visionary projects that might not otherwise be realized because of scale or scope. To suggest the institution’s role in enabling such ambitions, they selected the name “Dia,” taken from the Greek word meaning “through.”
Today, Dia is a constellation of sites, from the iconic permanent, site-specific artworks and installations in New York, the American West and Germany; to an exhibition program that has commissioned dozens of breakthrough projects; to the vast galleries of Dia:Beacon; and finally the programs of education and public engagement.
From the beginning, Dia demonstrated a willingness to follow and support artists’ ideas. Many of Dia’s early, major projects are sited outside the museum or gallery. These projects are open to the public and continue to be maintained by Dia today.
Dia commissioned and maintains The Lightning Field, completed by Walter De Maria in 1977 near Quemado, New Mexico. Additionally, De Maria’s installations The New York Earth Room (1977) and The Broken Kilometer (1979) in New York City and The Vertical Earth Kilometer (1977) in Kassel, Germany, have been on view for over 30 years.
Occupying a former Nabisco box printing factory on the banks of the Hudson River, Dia:Beacon presents Dia’s collection of art from the 1960s to the present as well as special exhibitions, new commissions, and public and education programs. Since its opening in May 2003, Dia:Beacon has helped transform the city of Beacon into a vibrant arts destination for visitors from the region, New York City, and beyond.