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DIA: Beacon of Detroit Culture for More Than a Century

Mar 28, 2008
Located in the heart of Detroit's Cultural Center and founded in 1885, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) began its life on Jefferson Avenue in Detroit, but due to its rapidly expanding collection, moved to a larger site in 1927. The Beaux-Arts building, designed by Paul Cret, was referred to as "the temple of art." Over the years, expansion and renovations created what is today one of the largest, most significant collections in the United States, ranging from prehistory through the 21st century.

The intensive European contacts of William Valentiner, one of the museum's early directors, along with support from generous patrons, enabled him to acquire many important works that established the framework of today's collections. Some of his most notable collections include Mexican artist Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry frescoe cycle, considered Diego's most important work in the U.S., as well as Vincent van Gogh's Self Portrait, the first van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum collection.

The museum's hallmark lies in its diverse collection of 60,000 works, ranging from classic to cutting-edge works. The Department of American Art ranks third in the country and contains leading works by John Singleton, John Singer Sargent, and John Sloan. The DIA's collection of European art is one of the large and most distinguished in the United States. It includes vast holdings of Italian, Netherlands, Dutch, Flemish, and French works, including a fine group of post-impressionist pictures by Degas, Cezanne, and Seurat. The Modern Art collection encompasses a wide range of impressive works in painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the first half of the 20th century in Europe. Pablo Picasso, Max Beckham, and Henri Matisse, and Andy Warhol are just a few of the artists highlighted. Important sculptures by Henry Moore and Max Ernst are also included.

Following a six-and-a-half-year, $158 million building renovation and expansion, the DIA re-opened its doors in Fall 2007 to present its world-class collection in a completely new light. While the museum remained open in some fashion for most of the six-year project, it closed at the end of May 2007 to complete construction and the re-installation of art into its galleries. At its gala grand opening, the new 657,650-square-foot DIA received an astounding 57,554 visitors through its doors. An average of 1,438 visitors each hour packed themselves throughout the museum during a 40-hour span over the weekend. Never before had the museum entertained that many visitors at one time.

New interactive elements including "Art of Dining" video in the 18th-century European galleries, the "Mixing and Serving Wine" silhouette video in the ancient art gallery, as well as the Detroit Industry murals Multi-Media Tour and digital books. Children in particular enjoy the new "Please Touch" labels, "Eye Spy" panels, and self-guided "Yikes" tours, as well as audio tours written and recorded especially for them.

The DIA's renovation also includes a complete re-installation of the galleries that provide visitors with a more comprehensive and engaging experience of the museum's exceptional collections. The project included major infrastructure upgrades to the 1927 building designed by Paul Cret, as well as renovations to the South and North Wings, which were added in 1966 and 1971.

In addition to its permanent collection, the DIA hosts special exhibitions throughout the year. In the past, they have presented the art of Ansel Adams, photographic works by celebrated photographer Annie Leibovitz, sculpture by Rodin, and the printmaking work of Durer, Rembrandt and Picasso.

Taking in the DIA's amazing collections can work up an appetite. The CafeDIA features a number of fabulous food stations featuring fresh salads, sandwiches, or sweets, along with Starbuck's coffees and more. The DIA is open Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The museum is closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Detroit also features other notable museums: The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History was Detroit City's first International Afro-American Museum. Located in Detroit's Cultural Center, the 120,000-square-foot facility is one of the largest African-American history museums in the world. In Bloomfield Hills, Cranbrook Art Museum and Institute of Science is an internationally acclaimed center of education, art and science. The campus includes a contemporary Art Museum, House and Gardens, and Institute of Science. The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, along with other attractions on the campus of The Henry Ford, provides an unparalleled chronicle of American life and of the people and ideas that changed lives through innovation. In Farmington Hills, the Holocaust Memorial Center is the country's first free-standing Holocaust Memorial Center which has received international accolades for its mission in helping future generations in the maintenance of an open, free society.
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Checker Sedan provides limousine Detroit service from the Detroit Metro Airport servicing the Detroit Metro region. Detroit travel has never been easier with limousine Detroit service.
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