Detroit Institute of Arts

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The front entrance of the DIA on Woodward Avenue.

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. Its first painting was donated in 1883 and its collection consists of over 65,000 works. The DIA is a generalist museum, not a specialist one; its collections range from ancient Middle Eastern works to modern art. The DIA is located in Detroit's Cultural Center, about two miles (3 km) north of the downtown area.

Featured Holdings/Important Works

It claims to be ranked third in the country in the strength of its American art holdings including works by John Singleton Copley, George Caleb Bingham, Frederic Edwin Church, John Singer Sargent, Duncan Phyfe, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Paul Revere.

Important works at the DIA include James Abbot McNeil Whistler's Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket, a dragon from the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, Pieter Bruegel the Elder's The Wedding Dance, a Vincent van Gogh self-portrait, Hans Holbein the Younger's Portrait of a Woman, and Giovanni Bellini's Madonna and Child. Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry fresco forms the center of the museum. The Nut Gatherers by William-Adolphe Bouguereau is, by some accounts, the most popular painting in the collection.

The main hall of the DIA.
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The main hall of the DIA.

History

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, 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, with the sculpture The Thinker by Rodin sitting in front just as it does today at the Detroit Institute of Arts on Woodward Avenue.

In 1889, Scripps donated 70 European paintings, valued at $75,000 at the time. Later support for the museum came from the auto barons, especially Edsel Ford. Robert Hudson Tannahill of the Hudson's Department Store family left a European art collection and endowment to 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.

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