Art and Lasers at Dia Fall Night

by Ben Diamond Photographed by Benjamin Lozovsky/
Monday, November 6, 2017

More than 440 art world notables gathered at ArtBeam in Chelsea last night for the Dia Art Foundation’s annual Fall Night benefit. As co-chairs Maya Lin, Raf Simons and Sara and Evan Williams attested, the evening’s guests were a diverse group, united by nothing more than a shared love of art. And when I say diverse, I mean it—Roger Goodell was there.

But all that should come as no surprise; Dia has been motivated by an eclectic, experimental spirit since it was founded in 1974. “We work with artists and commit to projects with them in a way that’s unusual,” said curator Alexis Lowry. “It’s been our mission from the start to support ambitious projects that fall outside the traditional scope of a museum. We give artists the opportunity to realize ambitious projects they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.”

The night began with a viewing of two ambitious new exhibitions of works by François Morellet and Rita McBride. Morellet, who died last May, is well-known in France for his proto-minimalist paintings and installations, but remains largely the United States. “I was embarrassed that I had never heard of him, but I talked to other people and realized they had never heard of him, either,” said one artist. Yet the exhibition—Morellet’s first in the United States in over 30 years—ought to change that. McBride’s piece, Particulates, was similarly conversation-inspiring. In a darkened room, criss-crossing lasers created a wormhole-like shape, as three misters caused the beams softly vibrate and blur. Standing before it was a transcendent, sometimes eye-straining experience that mixed art and science fiction. A low fence stopped guests from getting too close, though. “I was told it burns,” said a docent, when I asked why.

After that came dinner, and a tribute to the artist Walter De Maria on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of his projects The Earth Room, The Lightning Field and The Vertical Kilometer. De Maria is having a something of a moment right now—Peter Brant is busy renovating the artist’s old studio into an exhibition space, and an all-day cafe specializing in grain bowls named after him just opened in SoHo. Speaking in the shadow of a bigger-than-life photograph of De Maria spanning his arms across a crevasse in the Arizona desert, friend and collaborator Terry Winters told stories about the artist’s experimental spirit—about his tenure in a band called the Primitives, which would later morph into the Velvet Underground, and about a trip the two had taken to Las Vegas, when they were turned away from Caesar’s Palace.

But the best tribute came from De Maria’s contemporary Michael Heizer. Heizer, whose dog could be heard barking throughout the evening, walked up to the lectern accompanied by a John Lee Hooker song, raised his arms in triumphant homage to the photo behind him and then…promptly walked away. It was experimental, reverential-without-being gushy and a little bit weird. Just like Dia.

Others in attendance included Charles and Rita Bronfman, Mary Kate Olsen and Olivier Sarkozy, Ashley Olsen, Fisher Stevens, Glenn Ligon, Brice Marden, Louise LawlerTom Sachs, Sarah Sze, Dominique Lévy, Amalia Dayan and Adam Lindemann, Roland Augustine, Susan and Francois de Menil and Kathryn and James Murdoch


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