Last April, Michael Govan, director of the Dia Center for the Arts, was piloting a small rented plane to western Massachusetts, where he was to discuss a joint venture with the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, Mass., to exhibit works from the Dia collection. Mr. Govan decided on a flight path along the Hudson River to try and spot Dick’s Castle, a 19th-century building in Garrison, N.Y., that Dia had purchased as an installation site for artist Dan Flavin. As Mr. Govan swooped down over the river, he passed an abandoned Nabisco factory in Beacon, N.Y., and architect Richard Gluckman, in the seat next to him, said, “That’s the building that you should be moving the collection into.”
Less than a year later, on March 8, Mr. Govan welcomed Gov. George Pataki into one of the Dia’s West 22nd Street gallery spaces, where the Governor pledged $2 million toward the $20 million renovation of the very same former Nabisco factory, which was donated to the museum by International Paper Company, its current owner, thanks to some prodding by the Governor. Also present was Leonard Riggio, chief executive of Barnes & Noble and the chairman of Dia’s board, which will put about $10 million toward the renovation costs. The museum has also received $800,000 from other state agencies, Dutchess County and the city of Beacon.
Since 1994, when Mr. Govan took over as director of the museum, he has been trying to find a building to exhibit the entire Dia collection, a selection of offbeat, contemporary works by Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Richard Serra, Donald Judd and Dan Flavin, among others. To hear Mr. Govan tell the story, the deal for the upstate museum came together through a “mosaic of good will” and a series of unrelated events that coalesced in a mystical way that would have intrigued the Dia’s founders, Philippa de Menil, a Houston oil heiress, and her husband Heiner Friedrich, who were both sufi converts. But there was a key player in the deal who was absent from the photo opportunity on March 8: lawyer Ed Hayes, who was hired by Mr. Govan because he has the Governor’s ear.
“I hope I don’t have delusions of grandeur,” Mr. Hayes told The Observer . “But I think I was able to get through to the right people right away and have a lot of credibility with them. I mainly made phone calls. I called the Governor. I called the Governor’s wife. I called Charlie Gargano,” referring to Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Fund Corporation. “I am a mouthpiece,” he continued. “Nobody comes to me because they want to draw up complicated legal documents. I call up guys and I say, I think this is a good idea, and I better be right. I knew who to call. I knew who to get involved. The main thing was that Pataki said do it and everybody fell into place.”
It took Mr. Govan a little while to find Mr. Hayes. After his return from the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and a few trips to the abandoned factory, Mr. Govan met with Michael Rips, a special counsel to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom at the time, and Dia’s lawyer. “At a meeting with Michael, I said, ‘Isn’t there a way of keeping this in New York?'” said Mr. Rips. “He said, ‘Maybe, but we don’t have the money to do it.'”
Mr. Rips set up a meeting for Mr. Govan with a friend who worked in the Governor’s office. “I explained the project. I said, Here is a great building. It is in an area that needs help,” said Mr. Rips. “It is in George Pataki’s back yard. It is on the Hudson. He likes the Hudson River and the development on the Hudson River.” Mr. Pataki lives in Garrison, N.Y., a nearby city, and was mayor of Peekskill, N.Y., another neighboring city.
By the end of April, Mr. Govan was sitting down with Mr. Gargano; Ed Arace, regional director of the Empire State Development Corporation in Dutchess County; and Earle Mack, who was then chairman of the New York State Council on the Arts.
“We made a major effort to get this done because the Governor wanted to get it done,” said Mr. Arace. “The Governor has the power to make these kind of things happen. We went down to Dia and toured the museum, and saw that they were an institution that would be able to make a difference in Beacon. There were a number of factors that had to fit into place before it was a reality.”
Mr. Rips did some digging for Mr. Govan and discovered that International Paper, which owned the building and is the state’s largest private landowner, is also a client of Skadden Arps. Mr. Rips called Barry Garfinkel, a Skadden Arps partner who handles International Paper for the firm, and asked him to help. Mr. Garfinkel set up a meeting with some of the executives of the company. Mr. Govan knew that the building was on the market for $2 million and that several other parties were interested in purchasing it. He asked the company’s officers about donating it to Dia.
“I just set up a meeting,” said Mr. Garfinkel. “Michael Govan did all of the work.”
Mr. Govan was largely taking advice from Mr. Rips, who had left Skadden Arps but continued on as counsel to Dia pro bono. Mr. Rips advised Mr. Govan to hire Mr. Hayes, the inspiration for Tommy Killian, the wily fixer in Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities , to help shepherd the project to completion. “I am from Nebraska,” Mr. Rips said he told Mr. Govan. “What do I know about New York Republicans?” Mr. Hayes has not been as visible in the art world since a panel of judges found that he ripped off the Andy Warhol estate by millions of dollars in legal fees. But he is not about to be kept down by what he views as a biased decision on the part of a couple of vindictive judges. Dia hired Mr. Hayes last September.
“Somebody had to deal with the Charlie Garganos,” said Mr. Rips, referring to the temperamental director of the E.S.D.C. “There are various state agencies that would contribute to this project. … Once the basic structure was set, someone needed to follow it through. I thought Ed would be the right person to make sure that Pataki’s initial commitment was realized. He is somebody Pataki likes, he is conservative, he is very smart, and he knows the art world. If Pataki wavered, he is somebody who could say, look, this is important art. I may be criticized for going to Ed Hayes to reinforce that, but I don’t see other museum projects happening as quickly as this one.”
“I like Charlie. The guy has taste,” Mr. Hayes said. “Many people think of Charlie Gargano as a shady political opportunist. He is not. He is a classy political opportunist.”
Mr. Hayes maintains that it was difficult to get Mr. Pataki to commit to the project. Mr. Govan was asking for $5 million; Mr. Hayes got him $2 million. “Remember, I came to Pataki at the last moment. He was like, ‘Eddie, you are asking me for so much money,'” said Mr. Hayes. “I said, I promise you will make it back. He didn’t know what I was talking about. He said, ‘What museum?’ I told him. He says, ‘Everybody tells me that.’ I said, ‘I’m telling you the truth, this is going to be a good museum,’ and he went with it. He was like, ‘Eddie, are you out of your mind?’ I said, ‘This is a move-in deal.’ I said, ‘Listen, you are going to have bulldozers down there tomorrow. Guys will have a job. People will make a living. Tourists will be coming in and out.’ He is crazy for the Hudson River. He likes anything close to that river.”
Mr. Hayes also said that he did not try to convince Mr. Pataki to make the deal happen because it might be going to Massachusetts. “Pataki doesn’t work that way. I didn’t push the fact that it might be going to Massachusetts. You can’t do that with Pataki. I just said it is a good project. I don’t push the competition thing. I just say it is a good deal. You should do it. The art is there. It is very valuable.”
Mr. Hayes did, however, use the argument that the Dia’s presence in Beacon would make the town a major tourist destination because it is across the river from Storm King, a sculpture park in Mountainville, N.Y. “X number of people will come into an area to see one thing. But more people will come to see two things,” said Mr. Hayes, who sounded almost convinced himself. “Then a lot of people will say, let’s go. It is two things within one day. Within three hours, you can see some great art. I thought that would have a multiplying effect and I said that to the Governor.”
Mr. Hayes’ final appeal to the Governor was to get him to convince International Paper to donate the building. That took place in February, after all of the financing was committed from the other government agencies and the Governor had already committed $2 million to the project from his own discretionary fund.
Mr. Arace said the Governor was able to influence the paper company’s chairman, John T. Dillon, who attended the press conference on March 8.
“What did the Governor say to them?” Mr. Hayes asked rhetorically. “He said, You are going to get a nice deduction and your name is going to be in the paper for doing a good thing.”