Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Detroit Institute of Art

One segment of  Diego Rivera's huge mural, "Detroit Workers," so representative
of the times. www.dia.org.

DIA exterior, at dia.org
A group of seniors from Lourdes University's Lifelong Learning program took a bus to Detroit last week to visit the Detroit Institute of Art. The   group was lively, curious and enthusiastic, which made the trip lots of fun, even though we had to go back to the museum on the way home. “Oh no, I forgot my coat,” we heard over the din. No problem.  We understood.  It could have happened to any of us. Heck, I had forgotten my camera, of all things.

Great Hall, dia.org
The Art Institute is a great institution in the heart of the city.  Wayne State University is a few blocks over; the Science Museum, a huge Medical complex, and City Hall nearby. Detroit’s  been hard hit by the ups and downs of the economy, unemployment, the recession, so we cheered any signs of resurgence, led by our bus driver Dennis, who it turned out is from Detroit and shared his love of his city with us. Restoration of historic downtown buildings and a re-design of the famed Cobo arena are a few examples.

The museum itself, started in 1895, is a beautiful Beaux Arts building that has added wings and had lots of upgrades over the years.  It's noted for its fantastic mural by Diego Rivera, done in the 1930s.  The mural room has been cleared of fountains, a large skylight added, and the mural cleaned.  It’s as compelling and strong as I remembered it when I first saw it, over 20 years ago, a tribute to Detroit workers, and to workers everywhere..
Famous Durer etching, "The Hands,"
 at www.albrechtdurer.org (not in
collection we saw, but representative.)

We also had a private peek at an Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) collection, led by an informed curator who told us about his life and art.  Durer was born in Nuremberg, traveled around Europe, and was quite an entreprenuerial businessman as well as a great artist. The engravings and woodcarvings portrayed both religious and secular themes; they looked just as they did when they were created in the early 1500s, some of the best works of  the Northern Renaissance. 

The other parts of the museum are fascinating, too: We wandered through many of the galleries, the African, Islamic, European and  Contemporary collections.  A docent-led tour after lunch gave more information about what we were seeing, especially of contemporary sculptures and paintings by African-American artists. We could only touch the surface of this great museum, which is known for its diversity and its multicultural and multinational collections.  

I am again reminded that cultural gems like the Detroit Institute of Art are everywhere, near and far, and close to home!  
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