As an art lover, a previous art major and a creative person, an excursion to the “Museum Mile” along upper Fifth Avenue in New York City is an exhilarating experience. Choosing one of the famed museums along the route, e.g., the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cooper Hewitt, the Frick collection, the National Academy Museum and the Guggenheim is never easy. On a recent Saturday, a friend who is an artist as well as an art teacher, suggested a visit to a new museum venue. Neither of us had ever been to DIA in Beacon, NY. We do not share the same aesthetic in style: he likes surrealism and abstract expressionism, I like classical realism, impressionism, and all of the American schools of art, but we shared the same unexpected shock and disappointment during our day at DIA.
Whenever you exchange money, goods or services for an “agreed upon” return, you are disillusioned when, for your good faith offering, you receive nothing. A $12 admission fee is not much to gamble away to glean some enlightenment, however small; but include travel time, gasoline $, and factor in the realization that you have also been
intellectually scammed: now recalculate your losses. That feeling, together with a significantly greater financial injury, was similarly felt by those lured to purchase Facebook (FB) at the IPO. My analogy is simply with the feeling, not the endeavor. I had not done any prior research on the tone or presentation style of DIA. I was on board to see some form of art, i.e., new talent and/or creativity after a fashion. My friend and I entered the empty armory-like facility – there was no direction or guidance. Being but two of few souls physically present in the enormous expanses of white-washed and grey spaces with clerestoried 30/40 foot ceilings (once purposed industrially in the previous century), was much like being adrift at sea without land or ship in sight.
Is an artistic experience one that also detracts, subtracts, and offers nothing? My understanding of “minimalism” is that it doesn’t go a great distance to produce a desired effect, yet is suggestive, giving shape to a concept, form or hue – “less is more.”
Exhibits of objects I quickly noted as offensive, depressing, and ugly, forced me to avert my eyes while removing myself from the area so that I didn’t retain any lasting impression. Random piles of garbage, e.g., crushed metal fenders and car parts compacted in a scrap metal yard; and colored, cut out shapes with no relationship to one another, do not make it in my world of insightful talent and beauty (in execution). This gutted one-time factory building continued to “un-amaze” me with its squandered use of space to harbor items that lacked any useful definition, such as the 4 deep holes of varying shapes, at least 14’ x 14’ with no way in or out. There was a
nightmarish quality to being quite alone in these vast undefined areas. You wanted to just wake up and find an exit – but you had endless traversing of monotonous wood or concrete floors before any egress was visible.
Surely, I cannot have been the only visitor to the DIA exhibits who felt this venue presented an updated telling of The Emperor’s New Clothes based on the offerings:
- Presentations that would not suffice to pass any reputable art school entrance exam;
- stuff you don’t need talent or innovation to create;
- randomly scattered debris;
- amorphous grey shapes, repetitively laid out on floors or walls;
allowed to be viewed as “significant” or “thought-provoking” or, dare I say, “inspiring.”
The upside – The spaces have wonderful potential for:
- Catered events: parties, dinners, weddings, sweet sixteens, etc.
- Practice space for aerial acts/trapeze artists.
- Ballroom dancing.
- Dance and staged performances.
- Studio space for any form of dance or exercise class.
However harsh and definitive this may sound, I recommend no one go to DIA, Beacon, NY, for its current usage. But, should you feel a perverse need to try something new and potentially toxic, consider the above list of contraindications – forewarned is forearmed.