Adding new hues and historical associations to its canonical collection of American minimalism, the Dia Art Foundation has acquired six works by Anne Truitt that will go on long-term view at Dia:Beacon in upstate New York in May. The five sculptures and one painting belonged to the estate of the artist, who died in 2004, and have been selected to show together in a grouping that represents significant developments in Truitt’s work between 1962 and 1974.
“When we bring an artist into our group, which is not very large, we want to bring them in at least at the level of those who have come in in recent years,” Dia’s director, Jessica Morgan, told ARTnews. “We can’t replicate what we’ve done with Dan Flavin, John Chamberlain, and other artists [in the original collection] with more than 100 works. But we want to represent a significant series or tell a story about development of work over time, which is what I think we are achieving with Truitt. Our thinking around acquisition is that we are quite literally acquiring an exhibition.”
The works date back to the early years of Truitt, whose 1963 show at André Emmerich Gallery in New York counts among the first presentations of minimalist sculpture of the era. “A sense of radiance informs this work,” Jill Johnston wrote in a review in ARTnews at the time.
The newly acquired works include White: One (1962), a columnar sculpture with bisecting planes of stark white wood, and North (1963), a large 5-by-8-foot rectangular mass marked by gradations of dark green and black. Other works, including a painting, Echo, from 1973, signal a shift in Truitt’s evolution toward softer colors like pink, mauve, and pastel blue.
The pieces will be placed in galleries at Dia:Beacon currently devoted to Agnes Martin, whose paintings there have been on view in natural light since the museum’s opening in 2003 and thus are ready, Morgan said, for a resting period and a conservation assessment. The natural light stands to accentuate the subtlety and sensuality of Truitt’s work, Morgan said. “To discern it, one has to really look—her work teaches you about the importance of looking. I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time on the ground, on my hands and knees, looking at sculpture.”
The introduction of Truitt into the Dia stable, which is associated with the likes of Donald Judd, Walter De Maria, Fred Sandback, Michael Heizer, and Richard Serra, also addresses a formidable gap in a sculptural history of the ‘60s and ‘70s that skews markedly male. “I’ve been making a very concerted effort to bring women artists into the collection,” said Morgan, who assumed her directorship of Dia in 2015 and has since added Jo Baer and Joan Jonas. More acquisitions are planned, aimed at offering a fuller picture of developments in postwar art, she said. “Because we have this incredible concentration on a period of time, we have a unique position insofar as Dia is positioned more than other institutions to really change history in a way.”
In Truitt, that history has a worthy new investment. “She was on a par with what was happening with Judd and Serra in the ‘60s,” Morgan said. “We’re bringing her to a place where she rightfully belongs.”