The origins of the Dia Foundation go back to 1974, when Philippa de Menil, daughter of Dominique and Christophe de Menil (Menil Foundation in Houston), her husband Francesco Pellizzi, the art dealer Heiner Friedrich and Helen Winkler (art historian) brought to life the Lone Star Foundation. Their focus was to collect works of art by artists such as Joseph Beuys, John Chamberlain, Walter De Maria, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Imi Knoebel, Blinky Palermo, Fred Sandback, Cy Twombly, James Turrell, Robert Whitman, La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela.
They commissioned (and still own) The Lightning Field, completed by Walter De Maria in 1977 near Quemado, New Mexico. In addition, 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.
After some unsteady times in the eighties, in which everything shifted, from the people in charge, financials and buildings and the name Dia Foundation (meaning ‘through’ in Greek and referring to the foundation’s aim of enabling special artists’ projects that otherwise might not be realised) only the original aim of initiating, supporting, presenting and preserving art projects remain a constant.
The group of artists from the 60s and 70s continue to be the main focus, while adding and maintaining long term site specific projects, such as the Dan Flavin Art Institute, Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970) and in New York: Max Neuhaus’s Times Square (1977), Joseph Beuys’s 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks), inaugurated at Documenta in 1982, and Dan Flavin’s Untitled (1996).
The Dia Foundation is now also turning to younger generations, working in several venues, in particular, their two well known projects in New York: Dia Chelsea for temporary exhibitions and Dia Beacon in the Hudson Valley 2003: for its major collection.