The DIA: A Top Art Museum in Danger of Losing Treasures.

Detroit Institute of Arts

The DIA is one of the top six art museums in the country with an encyclopedic collection that spans centuries. From Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry cycle of frescoes to Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait the DIA has an amazing collection.

But this year the museum is in danger of having to sell off some of its treasures.

The History of the Museum

A major American art museum, the DIA is renowned for its collection of American paintings and sculptures and for its encyclopedic holdings of European art. The museum was founded in 1885 and moved into its present Neoclassical building in 1927. Its collections encompass a wide range of artistic periods and movements, from ancient Greek and Roman and Egyptian works to modern and contemporary art. Its collections of paintings from the Renaissance and Baroque periods are especially strong. The DIA also houses Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry cycle of frescoes and William Randolph Hearst’s personal collection of armor.

In the early 1900s, a series of gifts and acquisitions transformed the DIA into one of the leading art museums in the world. Among the major acquisitions were a set of paintings by Van Gogh, and a gift from pharmaceutical magnate Frederick Stearns led to an important collection of German Expressionist art. Its collections of Asian, African, Oceanian, and Native American art are also significant.

The Modern Art Collection

The DIA’s encyclopedic collections include art from every continent. Its collection of American paintings is ranked as one of the best in the nation. The museum also holds significant works of European, Asian, African, Oceanic and Islamic art as well as contemporary artworks.

In 1881, newspaper magnate James E. Scripps led his family on a five-month tour of Europe. He kept a journal of his observations which was widely read and reprinted in book form as Five Months Abroad. The popularity of the work prompted Brearly to start collecting art to create a museum in Detroit.

The DIA opened in its current Neoclassical building on Woodward Avenue in 1927. Its most distinctive feature is Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry cycle of 27 frescoes in the Rivera Court. The museum is among the first in the United States to establish a curatorial department devoted to African American art, the General Motors Center for African American Art. It is also the first to acquire a Van Gogh painting, Self-Portrait.

The European Art Collection

The DIA’s renowned collection of European art spans over 1,400 years. Admire masterful sculptures in marble, terra cotta and wood; encounter delicate tapestries; experience refined interiors and knightly armor. From the earliest Christian art to modern and contemporary masterpieces, the museum’s holdings are a testament to human creativity.

The collections are centered in the DIA’s historic Neoclassical building, designed by Paul Cret. The museum’s burgeoning collection was enlarged by gifts from Detroit philanthropists, including Charles Lang Freer and the auto barons: a collection of European paintings from the Dodge family; artwork and funds donated by the Firestones, the Fords and Edsel Ford.

A cultural destination for all, the DIA is recognized as one of the top six art museums in the United States. DIA curators work to ensure the museum’s collections reflect the diversity of its metro area and its global perspective. The DIA is home to Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry fresco cycle and Vincent van Gogh’s Self Portrait, the first painting by the artist in a U.S. museum collection.

The African Art Collection

The DIA’s collection is considered among the most comprehensive in the nation. Its encyclopedic holdings include works of art from all over the world, ranging from ancient Greek and Roman to Asian and African and Islamic artwork.

One of the most interesting parts of the DIA is its extensive collection of African art, including the Kongo Nail Figure and the Bamenda Throne. The museum was also one of the first to curate a gallery dedicated to African American art with its General Motors Center for African American Art.

The DIA has many events and fundraising efforts to help fund the museum’s collections. Some of these include Bal African, which is one of the largest annual fundraisers for the DIA and Hot in Havana, which celebrates Afro-Cuban culture. The DIA Shop is another source of revenue, with proceeds going toward the purchase of new works for the museum. Membership in the DIA is $65 for an entire year and includes free museum entry, discounts at the DIA Shop, and one free ticket to a ticketed exhibition.

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