New York Times
October 31, 2003
Good Numbers for Dia:BeaconBy CAROL VOGEL
Since Dia:Beacon, the $50 million art museum in a renovated factory on 31 acres along the Hudson River in upstate New York, opened on May 18, 100,000 people have visited. "Our original expectation was 60,000 visitors for the opening year; then we upped the number to 100,000," said Michael Govan, director of the Dia Art Foundation, which runs the museum. "We've already hit our target, and it's been open less than six months."
In a survey conducted by the museum last summer, about a third of the visitors said they lived in the Hudson Valley region, a third in New York City and the rest elsewhere. The survey also revealed that more than 10 percent of the audience had already made return visits.
Those coming back in the next few months will have something new to see. The museum is installing the second half of Sol LeWitt's "Wall Drawing No. 1085: Drawing Series Composite, Part I-IV, No. 1-24B," a monumental two-gallery installation from 1969. The first half was on view in time for the museum's opening. The second half is expected to be finished by December. The work was a gift from Melva Bucksbaum and Raymond Learsy, Manhattan collectors.
Besides Dia:Beacon's growing collection, the museum's endowment is now close to $8 million, up from its initial $5 million. "Operations are in the black, and Beacon is running on budget," Mr. Govan said.
Back in New York, the foundation is getting ready to announce a major capital campaign to renovate its Chelsea exhibition space at West 22nd Street, which hasn't been touched since 1987. (After Dia:Beacon opened, the foundation renamed its Manhattan home Dia:Chelsea.) Among the priorities will be the installation of a climate control system. "Right now, since we don't have air-conditioning, we close in the summer," Mr. Govan said.
"So far we have $5 million in a leadership pledge," he added, "but we're not ready to announce any details yet." Besides the renovations, the money will go toward building a larger endowment for Dia's programs in Manhattan.
The Chelsea space is to close in January for two years, reopening in spring 2006.
Five Feet Too Many
A 17-foot hanging scroll dating from 1310, on view in the exhibition "Goryeo Dynasty: Korea's Age of Enlightenment (918 to 1392)" at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, became something of a conservation challenge for the museum's staff.
The scroll, which is on loan from Kagami Shrine in Japan and has never before been seen in the United States, turned out to be five feet taller than curators expected.
Two months ago, when the museum registrars and conservators visited the shrine to prepare a condition report and organize the shipping of the scroll to San Francisco, they discovered that the work was too big to fit in the museum's galleries.
"It was so important that I knew we had to do something," said Emily Sano, the museum's director. "To me it's the equivalent of the Mona Lisa."
The scroll, which depicts a Buddhist deity resplendent in a pink robe and gauzy veil decorated with phoenix and cloud patterns, is so delicate that it will be on view only through Nov. 30, even though the exhibition runs through Jan. 11.
"Since we didn't have room in the galleries, we had to build space in our glass atrium," said Donna Strahan, the museum's head of conservation. But that was no easy feat. First they had to create a wooden box, 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide (the scroll is about 8 feet wide). Inside, conservators had to make sure there was space to conceal electronically run humidifiers and fans. Then, to protect the scroll from the sun, they created a tent made from black fabric to block out the daylight. "We created a micro-environment," Ms. Strahan said, adding that it is constantly monitored to make sure the scroll's environment always has 60 percent relative humidity.
Inventory for the Barnes
While the Barnes Foundation waits to see whether it will receive court approval to move its multibillion-dollar art collection from its cozy home in Merion, Pa., to downtown Philadelphia, it is concentrating on creating a catalog of at least some of its world-class holdings.
Since Dr. Albert C. Barnes, the collection's founder, died in 1951, only a small portion of the collection has ever been recorded. That was in 1993, when there was a catalog to accompany "From CÚzanne to Matisse: Great French Paintings From the Barnes Foundation," an exhibition that went on a yearlong international tour. But several foundations have given the Barnes support for what it calls the Collections Assessment Project, in which 37 consulting curators are compiling inventories and assessing its collection of American art and objects. They include furniture, ceramics, glass, textiles and metalwork as well as paintings and works on paper.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has given the Barnes three grants over the last three years totaling $1 million. The Pew Charitable Trust has given a total of $1 million in two grants, one in 2001 and another in 2002. In 2001 the Henry Luce Foundation gave the Barnes a $500,000 grant toward the project.
Last week the Barnes announced that the Luce Foundation had donated an additional $150,000 for research, writing and publication of a catalog of its American paintings and works on paper.
About one-third of the American holdings have never been on public view. They include works by American masters like William Glackens, Maurice and Charles Prendergast, Charles Demuth and Marsden Hartley.
"Barnes was good friends with many of these artists, so we have a rich trove of archival information," said Emily Croll, director of the Collection Assessment Project. Richard J. Wattenmaker, director of the Archives of American Art in Washington, is writing the essay for the catalog, which is to illustrate about 100 works in color and 200 others in black and white.