Tag Archive | Detroit Institute of Arts

Detroit’s Bankruptcy Breaks an Art Lover’s Heart.

I don’t normally post on current events.  I decided when I started this blog that I didn’t want to provide commentary on the state of affairs of our country or our world.  I wanted this blog to be cheerful and upbeat.  But this news makes me sad.  Detroit, Michigan has declared bankruptcy.  What was once one of the grandest cities in the nation, if not the world, with its majestic art deco architecture and auto industry money.  A city that has lately been much more known for its grand photo essays of urban decay.

But a bright spot in all that blight has always been the Detroit Institute of Arts.  If you live in one of the counties immediately surrounding Detroit, it is free to visit.  We visited there in September, 2012 and I wish I could have spent days wandering its galleries – I blogged about my visit here.  Quite simply put, this museum is amazing.  And not just when you compare it to its surroundings.  The DIA and its collections stand up as one of the finest art museums in the world.  The museum is housed in a 1927 Beaux Arts building that is just as spectacular as the art it contains.  The DIA received its first piece of art as a donation in 1883 and since that time, has grown to a collection of over 65,000 pieces.  The DIA is the second largest municipally owned museum in the world.  The art it contains is valued at an impressive $2.5 billion.

The DIA has works by Picasso, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse and numerous other painters.  It contains priceless artifacts from Egypt, the New World, tribal art, religious artifacts, blown glass, and woodworking.  There is a mural by Diego Rivera that spans all four walls of a huge room.  There are pieces of antique furniture, vases, baskets and masks.  The collections span the globe and all throughout human history.

Unfortunately, with Detroit’s bankruptcy, creditors have begun to eye the DIA’s collections – you can read about it here.  No one knows yet what will happen, but selling off the museum’s priceless works of arts to the highest bidder would be such a shame.  There would be no way to know what would happen to the pieces; if they would end up in a private collection locked away from public view.  Michigan’s Attorney General has issued a legal opinion arguing that the DIA’s art collection is held in a charitable trust for the people of Michigan, and therefore, the city of Detroit doesn’t own the art to sell it.  I hope that legal opinion is upheld in the courts, if it comes to that.  The DIA has been providing the public with access to art for over 130 years.  I hope that it can continue.

Detroit: The Detroit Institute of Arts

After we left the Motown Museum, we headed to our next downtown Detroit destination – the Detroit Institute of Arts. The DIA was built in between 1923 and 1927 in the Beaux-Arts, Italian Renaissance architectural style. The museum is made of white marble, and is absolutely beautiful! It provides a stark contrast to some of the nearby urban decay. After a renovation of the building in 2007, the museum contains over 100 galleries and 658,000 square feet of gallery space. The building and collections are technically owned by the City of Detroit, but an endowment and foundation are responsible for fundraising and paying the museum’s expenses now. It truly is a success story in a city that has had more than its share of troubles.

So, the collections… First, let me say that it would be impossible to see all of it in one day. This would be a great museum to be a member of if you lived in the area. We started off perusing some of the collections on the first floor, which include Native American baskets and pottery, Mayan and Incan figures, and masks. Then we headed upstairs, where we walked into a gallery with a series of two-story Diego Rivera murals covering all four walls. If you see nothing more in this museum, these murals make it worth the price of admission (and if you live in the three closest counties – you can go for free!).

The murals explore the story of the manufacturing industries in Detroit. Rivera was known for depicting the indigenous cultures of Mexico, and the DIA murals are considered to be a depiction of industry and technology as representing the indigenous culture of Detroit – an interesting way of seeing the auto empire of the 1930s!

One Wall of the Diego Rivera Mural at the Detroit Institute of Arts

One Wall of the Diego Rivera Mural – With Sunlight

The museum also has several lithographs and etchings by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, and paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh, Monet and Rembrandt. They even have a giant Andy Warhol self-portrait.

Vincent Van Gogh – Self-Portrait With Straw Hat – Painted 1887

They have a motorcycle carved from one piece of wood, which is extremely intricate, and an exhibit of beautiful blown glass pieces.  Near the blown glass is their modern art area.  If you have been following this blog for long, you know that modern art isn’t really my thing.  However, they had some pretty cool modern art pieces (I can’t believe I just said that)!

Motorcycle Carved From One Block of Wood – Someone is WAY More Patient Than Me

Modern Art – Blown Glass Prescription Drugs – For the Baby Boomer Who Has Everything!

So, here’s the sad thing about the Detroit Institute of Arts.  We were mostly alone…  Some of the popular exhibits had maybe a half dozen people looking at the artwork, but in the permanent collection areas, we were generally by ourselves (except sometimes an attendant).  We went down to lunch in the cafe, and Jon loved the pay by the ounce salad bar, and I had a delicious sub sandwich.  The cafe was crawling with people and I thought all the patrons had just gone to get a bite to eat, until I noticed that about 80% of the people in the cafe had employee badges around their necks.  It struck me as pretty sad that there would be so few people taking advantage of seeing all this amazing artwork – especially when it is free for county residents!  I know it was a Thursday and all, but…  I would love it if we had a museum like this at home!

Radio Silence

Again, we’ve been out of communication for awhile and for that, I apologize.  But we had the opportunity to travel again – this time to Michigan – home to most of my extended family!  It was a crazy week, trying to get ready to go, and the night before we were supposed to fly out, I had to work until almost 8:30 when we decided to keep working on a contract negotiations that was so close to a settlement!  After work on Wednesday, September 5, Jon and I drove down to Seattle, had a delicious dinner with Jon’s sister and brother-in-law, and flew out on a non-stop red-eye to Detroit, due to arrive at 6:10 am. Our flight was completely booked!

The purpose of the trip was two-fold – my cousin was getting married in East Lansing on the Michigan State University campus, and my grandmother is 95.  It worked out that I could squeeze a week’s vacation in between my coworkers’ time off and get enough of a reprieve from union negotiations to get 5 full days with no negotiations at work.  Once I had those days scheduled I had to guard them with my life though – there were several times I was asked about these dates – not available!

Obviously, the red-eye has its drawbacks, one of which is not getting a great night’s sleep on the plane.  We learned on our trip to the South that we can make it through the day without much sleep, as long as we don’t have too long of a drive after we get there.  The days leading up to the trip were really busy, so we didn’t have that long to research a few things to do.  I did have a few things on the itinerary, for the couple of days we had before meeting up with the family.

The Motown Museum – Jon is a music fanatic, and this has been on his list for a long time.  Motown is the record label founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. with an $800 family loan.  The tour includes the studio where Motown hits were recorded in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Detroit Institute of Arts – We were debating about either visiting this world renowned art museum, or the Titanic artifact exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum.  The Detroit Institute of Arts won out.

Sandhill Crane Vineyards – I won a gift certificate to their new cafe on a contest on a wine blog back in April.  I was pleased, but we didn’t have a trip to Michigan scheduled at that time – so I had to wait until I would be visiting!  So we made sure we would be able to visit!

And for Jon, Encore Records in Ann Arbor – Again Jon is a music fanatic, and on his bucket list is a goal to visit each of the top 25 best independent record stores in the nation (actually he only has to visit 24 now – since one has since closed).  This record store would be his third.  I just found out about this unique goal the other day – so I suppose I will be visiting record stores even more than I already do!

The rest of the trip would be played by ear – fitting in what we could in between visiting family and traveling to the next location.  Now that we are home, I’ll tell you all about what we saw and did in upcoming posts!  Stay tuned!