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The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), originally named the Detroit Museum of Art, has one of the largest, most significant art collections in the United States. In 2003, the DIA ranked as the second largest municipally-owned museum in the United States with an art collection valued at more than one billion dollars. With over 100 galleries, it now covers 677,000 square feet (62,893 m²), a major renovation and expansion project completed in 2007 added 77,000 sq. ft. (7,153 m²).The museum building itself is highly regarded by architects. Its original building, designed by Paul Cret, is flanked by north and south wings covered with a white marble exterior. It is part of the city's Cultural Center Historic District listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Its first painting was donated in 1883 and its collection consists of over 65,000 works. The DIA is an encyclopedic museum, not a specialist one: its collections span the globe from ancient Egyptian works to contemporary art. The DIA is located in Detroitmarker's Cultural Center, about two miles (3 km) north of the downtown area, near Wayne State Universitymarker.The museum has also published an introductory visitor's guide. The Detroit Institute of Arts contains the 1,150-seat Detroit Film Theatre and hosts major art exhibitions.

Featured holdings and important works

The Nut Gatherers, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
The collection of American Art at the DIA is one of the most impressive, and officials at the DIA have ranked the American paintings collection third among museums in the United States. Works by American artists began to be collected immediately following the museum's founding in 1883. Today the collection is a strong survey of American history, with acknowledged masterpieces of painting, sculpture, furniture and decorative arts from the 18th century, 19th century, and 20th century, with contemporary American art in all media also being collected. The breadth of the collection includes such American artists as John James Audubon, George Bellows, George Caleb Bingham, Alexander Calder, Mary Cassatt, Dale Chihuly, Frederic Edwin Church, Thomas Cole, John Singleton Copley, Leon Dabo, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Thomas Eakins, Childe Hassam, Robert Henri, Winslow Homer, George Inness, Georgia O'Keeffe, Charles Willson Peale, Rembrandt Peale, Tom Phardel, Duncan Phyfe, Hiram Powers, Sharon Que, Frederic Remington, Paul Revere, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, John Singer Sargent, John French Sloan, Tony Smith, Gilbert Stuart, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Andy Warhol, William T. Williams, Andrew Wyeth, and James McNeill Whistler.

The early 20th century was a period of prolific collecting for the museum, which acquired such works as a dragon tile relief from the Ishtar Gatemarker of Babylonmarker, an Egyptian relief of Mourning Women and a statuette of a Seated Scribe, Pieter Bruegel the Elder's The Wedding Dance, St. Jerome in his Study by Jan van Eyck and Giovanni Bellini's Madonna and Child. Early purchases included French paintings by Claude Monet, Odilon Redon, Eugene Boudin, and Edgar Degas, as well as Old Masters including Gerard ter Borch, Peter Paul Rubens, Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. A Vincent van Gogh self-portrait and The Window by Henri Matisse were purchased in 1922 and were the first paintings by these two artists to enter an American public collection. Later important acquisitions include Hans Holbein the Younger's Portrait of a Woman, James Abbott McNeill Whistler's Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket, and works by Eugène Delacroix, Auguste Rodin, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux and Francois Rude. German Expressionism was embraced and collected early on by the DIA, with works by Heinrich Campendonk, Franz Marc, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Max Beckmann, Karl Hofer, Emil Nolde, Lovis Corinth, Ernst Barlach, Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paula Modersohn-Becker, and Max Pechstein in the collection. Non-German artists in the Expressionist movement include Oskar Kokoschka, Wassily Kandinsky, Chaim Soutine and Edvard Munch. Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry cycle of frescos form the center of the museum. The Nut Gatherers by William-Adolphe Bouguereau is, by some accounts, the most popular painting in the collection.

In addition to the American and European works listed above, the collections of the Detroit Institute of Arts are generally encyclopedic and extensive, including ancient Greek, Roman, Etruscan, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian material, as well as a wide range of Islamic, African and Asian art of all media.


The main hall of the DIA.

The museum had its genesis in an 1881 tour of Europe made by local newspaper magnate James E. Scripps. Scripps kept a journal of his family's five-month tour of art and culture in Italy, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, portions of which were published in his newspaper The Detroit News. The series proved so popular that it was republished in book form called Five Months Abroad. The popularity also inspired William H. Brearley, the manager of the newspaper's advertising department to organize an art exhibit in 1883, which was also extremely well-received. Brearly convinced many leading Detroit citizens to contribute to establish a permanent museum. Among the donors were James Scripps, his brother George H. Scripps, Dexter M. Ferry, Christian H. Buhl, Gen. Russell A. Alger, Moses W. Field, James McMillan and Hugh McMillan, George H. Hammond, James F. Joy, Francis Palms, Christopher R. Mabley, Simon J. Murphey, John S. Newberry, Cyrenius A. Newcomb Sr., Thomas W. Palmer, Philo Parsons, George B. Remick, Allan Shelden, David Whitney Jr., G.V.N. Lothrop and Hiram Walker. Scripps gave the single largest gift of $50,000, which enabled the Detroit Museum of Art to be incorporated on April 16, 1885. The original Romanesque style building on East Jefferson at Hastings opened its doors on September 1, 1888.

In 1889, Scripps donated 70 European paintings, valued at $75,000 at the time. Later support for the museum came from Detroit philanthropists such as Charles Lang Freer, and the auto barons: art and funds were donated by the Dodges, the Firestones and the Fords, especially Edsel Ford and his wife Eleanor, and subsequently their children. Robert Hudson Tannahill of the Hudson family, was a major benefactor and supporter of the museum, donating many works during his lifetime. At his death in 1970, he bequeathed a large European art collection, which included works by Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Edgar Degas, Georges Seurat, Henri Rousseau, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Constantin Brancusi, important works of German Expressionism, a large collection of African art, and an endowment for future acquisitions for the museum. Part of the current support for the museum comes from the state government in exchange for which the museum carries out state-wide programs on art appreciation and provides art conservation services to other museums in Michigan.
Rodin's The Thinker
In 1922 Horace H. Rackham donated a casting of Auguste Rodin's sculpture, The Thinker, acquired from a German collection, to the Detroit Museum of Art where it was exhibited while the new building was under construction. In 1927, when the new museum building, designed by the architect Paul Cret, was opened, this work was placed inside, in the Great Hall. Sometime in the subsequent years the work was moved out of the building and placed on a pedestal in front of the building, facing Woodward Avenue and the Detroit Public Librarymarker across the street.

In 1949, the museum was among the first to return a work looted by the Nazis, when it returned Claude Monet's The Seine at Asnières to its rightful owner. The art dealer they had purchased it from reimbursed the museum. In 2002 the museum discovered that Ludolf Backhuysen's A Man-O-War and Other Ships off the Dutch Coast, a 17th century seascape painting under consideration for purchase by the museum, had been looted from a private European collection by the Nazis. The museum contacted the original owners, paid the rightful restitution, and the family allowed the museum to accession the painting into its collection, adding another painting to the museum's already prominent Dutch collection. [61215]

On February 24, 2006, a 12-year-old boy stuck a piece of chewing gum on Helen Frankenthaler's 1963 abstract work The Bay, leaving a small stain. The painting is valued at $1.5 million as of 2005, and is one of Frankenthaler's most important works. [61216] The museum's conservation lab successfully cleaned and restored the painting, which was put back on display in late June 2006.

The building

Before 1920, a commission was established to choose an architect to design a new building to house the DIA's expanding collections. The commission included DIA President Ralph H. Booth, William J. Gray, architect Albert Kahn and industrialist Edsel Ford. W.R. Valentiner, the museum Director acted as Art Director and Clyde H. Borroughs was the Secretary. The group chose Philadelphiamarker architect Paul Philippe Cret as the lead architect and the firm of Zantzinger, Borie and Medary as associated architects, with Detroit architectural firms of Albert Kahn and C. Howard Crane contributing "advice and suggestions."

The cornerstone for new Beaux-Arts, Italian Renaissance styled building was laid on June 26, 1923 and the finished museum was dedicated on October 7, 1927.

Later the murals by Diego Rivera were added to what had been a courtyard, it was roofed over when the murals were executed, and although widely held to be great works of art today, this was not necessarily the case when they were done. Architect Henry Sheply, a close friend of Cret's would write:
:Unfortunately, some years later the Board of Trustees, in a misguided moment, employed Diego Rivera, the Mexican artist, to execute a series of murals on the walls of the garden. These are harsh in color, scale and composition. They were designed without the slightest thought given to the delicate architecture and ornament. They are quite simply a travesty in the name of art.

The building contained iron work by Samuel Yellin, tile from the Pewabic Potterymarker Works and architectural sculpture by Leon Hermant.

Master Plan Project

In November 2007, the Detroit Institute of Arts building completed an expansion and renovation at a total cost of $158 million. Architects for the renovation project are Michael Graves and associates along with the SmithGroup. The project, labeled the Master Plan Project, includes ongoing expansion and renovation of the South and North wings as well as a (now completed) restoration by EverGreene Architectural Arts of the original Paul Cret building, and adding 77,000 additional square feet, bringing the total to 677,000 square feet. The exterior of the north and south wings is covered with white marble. While the museum remains open to the public during the project, a significant portion of the museum's collection is not on display and will remain so until the project is completed. For a brief overview of the museum and more information on the project, watch this DIA video.

See also


  1. Corley, Irvin (April 30, 2003). 2003-04 Budget Analysis City of Detroit Memorandum to Graham Beal, Director, Arts Department. Retrieved on November 10, 2007. "The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is the second largest municipally-owned museum in the United States and contains an encyclopedic art collection worth over one billion dollars."
  2. Detroit Institute of Arts. History of the DIA.Retrieved on November 10, 2007.
  3. AIA Detroit Urban Priorities Committee, (1-10-2006). Top 10 Detroit InteriorsModel D Media
  4. Hodges, Michael H. (September 8, 2003). Fox Theater's rebirth ushered in city's renewal. Michigan History, The Detroit News. Retrieved on November 23, 2007.
  5. *The Architecture of the Detroit Institute of Arts, The Detroit Institute of Arts, 1928
  6. Ferry, W. Hawkins, The Buildings of Detroit: A History, Wayne State University Press, Detroit, Michigan, 1968
  7. White, Theo B., Paul Philippe Cret: Architect and Teacher, The Art Alliance Press, Philadelphia, 1973, p.33-34
  8. Ament, Lucy (January 22, 2008). The New DIA: The Architects. Model D Media. Retrieved on January 26, 2008.
  9. The Detroit Institute of Arts

References and further reading

  • Abt, Jeffrey, "A Museum on the Verge: A Socioeconomic History of the Detroit Institute of Arts, 1882-2000", Detroit, 2001
  • Peck, William H.,"The Detroit Institute of Arts: A Brief History", Detroit, 1978

External links

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