Recently I was fortunate enough to visit Dia:Beacon and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden within days of each other. In addition to viewing incredible art, I easily compared the difference between the bookstores for these two contemporary art museums.
Dia:Beacon’s bookstore is well stocked and fairly high brow. There is an impressive collection of journals, monographs, criticism, and unique publications. I was intrigued by the colorful shelf of journals in which each issue specialized in a specific type of animal. Who knew there was enough interest in the crow to dedicate an entire journal to it.
The selections were challenging. This isn’t the bookstore for the contemporary art novice, but what a treasure trove for people who are ready to go beyond The Shock of the New. While the store is compact, the choices available for felt overwhelming at times. I stared at the criticism shelves alternating between delighted and exhausted. There is a children’s section that offers a variety of fun and educational options. Even better, cases with actual art and art books are sprinkled through out the store. I wish more museum bookstores offered more original current art and less reproductions. While Dia:Beacon is a little remote for visit just for the bookstore, it is certainly worth carving out some time to peruse books about the art represented in the collection. Moreover, the Dia Foundation hosts an online store that is a good place to start any foray into contemporary art books.
The experience at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is significantly different. This is at a museum store, the space is divided fairly evenly between books and museum reproductions/jewelry/toys. While there are significantly less offerings at the Hirshhorn than at Dia:Beacon, these books are geared toward the lay person. In fact, there were so many books that I wanted that I couldn’t choose, so instead of buying any I just took a picture of the shelves to make a wish list for later. On the one hand, the store overall is a lovely museum store, but the book section is fairly sparse and normally not worth stopping by unless you’re already at the museum. On the other, I was surprised at how interested I was in the books that were on display. Unlike Dia:Beacon, this isn’t a store to explore contemporary art in depth; the Hirshhorn store sells books that take a reader from a basic understanding of contemporary art to a deeper level. If you’re walking down the Mall, meander over and drop by the art and maybe a book that will expand your understanding of contemporary art.
3 Beekman St.
Beacon, NY 12508
Independence Ave at 7th Street SW