After a two-year renovation and expansion in three neighboring industrial buildings on West 22nd Street in New York, Dia Chelsea will reopen in April with new, internally connected rooms and a cohesive facade appearance. Entry is permanently free.
The $ 20 million project completes the first phase of the institution's master plan, overseen by the architectural research bureau, which includes a modernization of the slide rooms in SoHo and the lower level of the facility in Beacon, New York. Everything is being funded through a $ 90 million capital campaign, more than half of which is earmarked for equipment.
"From the beginning we tried to do this in an economical way and really not to overwhelm it," said Dia director Jessica Morgan. The pandemic has delayed but not changed the project, said Ms. Morgan, who raised about $ 80 million for the campaign. (It was originally supposed to open in September.)
Founded in SoHo in 1974, Dia was a Chelsea pioneer in 1987 before the galleries followed suit in the 1990s. She pioneered the use of raw storage spaces as a framework for contemporary art, especially for monumental projects by Walter De Maria, Donald Judd and Dan Flavin and other minimal and rural artists. Kim Yao, a partner in the architecture firm, said, “A found slide room can allow artists to come in and interact with it. It's very different from throwing a new building into a city. "
The architects redesigned two severely degraded facades of Dia's single-story gallery buildings in Chelsea with larger openings – for the movement of works of art and people – and brickwork to match the adjoining six-story building that houses the main entrance.
Inside, the lobby connects to a new flexible lecture and performance space and the two cave-like galleries. Each one retains its original character – the brick walls of a former marble factory, the vaulted wooden beam ceiling of an old car workshop – but is air-conditioned. The project has moved Dia's offices and education center to the fifth and sixth floors of the higher building (the middle floors are rented out) and expanded Dia's public program area by a total of more than 6,000 square meters.
Two new commissions from Lucy Raven, whose work examines the violence of developments in the American West, will open the exhibition space. In a darkened gallery, two sets of wall-mounted light sculptures pivot 360 degrees and project moving circles of light, each with a horizontal line. These spotlights form a crosshair when two circles converge.
"There's a tension when the lines meet and form an X, a spot that can be seen through from a gun to a surveyor's scope," said Ms. Raven, 43, who grew up in Arizona and lives in New York. She pointed to the importance of artists such as Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt and Mr De Maria in her work, who own long-term works of Land Art under Dia's direction.
In the second gallery, her new black and white film “Ready Mix”, which was conceived as an alternative type of western, is projected onto a 36-foot-wide, curved aluminum wall which is intended to serve as a reference for drive-ins. The film was shot in a concrete plant in Idaho and shows how stones extracted from the earth are transformed into an ubiquitous building material.
"Lucy is interested in what happened in Chelsea," Ms. Morgan said of all the building projects in the neighborhood. "This is a fascinating continuation for us of some of the problematic land art issues we face today."