DIA News October 2010
In This Issue
Director's Letter
Detroit Film Theatre
For Halloween
Spoken Word
Double DIscount
Save the Date

Director's Letter

James Pearson Duffy (1923-2009)

Graham W.J. Beale, Director 

The DIA and Detroit lost a great friend of the arts late last year with the passing of Jim Duffy. For many decades Jim had been a notable feature on the art scene, supporting artists by purchasing their work as well as by directly covering their living expenses. Among the heart-warming things awaiting me when I arrived at the DIA was a six-figure "director's discretionary" cash gift from Jim, which subsequently helped fund a number of projects and art acquisitions that fell within Jim's areas of interest--as well as a couple that didn't!

The son of a successful businessman, Jim marched, as they say, to the beat of a different drummer. His artistic interests were wide and the collection that filled his Grosse Pointe apartment to the bursting point ranged from Asian ceramics to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century academic portraiture; from American landscape paintings to contemporary light sculpture. That said, the core of his collection was contemporary art, but even here, the range of his interest was wide. Alongside gutsy works by such established artists as Philip Guston and Al Held could be seen early pieces--so early as to be almost unrecognizable--by Elizabeth Murray and Joel Shapiro; pieces acquired, so to speak, hot off the easel.

James Pearson Duffy 

James Duffy, 2001


The DIA is the major beneficiary of Jim's estate. His will stipulated that the museum could select from his collection whatever we wanted, and the curators and I had, under the sad circumstances, a pleasant time making our choices. In all, the DIA's collection will be enriched by more than eighty works of art covering the areas outlined above but also including individual works by Georges Braque, Marsden Hartley, and Stuart Davis. The majority of the objects from the bequest was formally accedpted into the collection last month. The DIA also receives more than 70 percent of the residue of the estate, with the proceeds going to increase our undersized, unrestricted operating endowment. It is, in some ways, a model gift; an enlightened patron's understanding of the ongoing needs of this institution: building the collection and supporting the infrastructure that houses it. The other major beneficiary of Jim's estate is the art department of Wayne State University, which is now named after him. Similarly, in recognition of Jim's enormous financial contribution to the DIA, we have named our contemporary department the James Pearson Duffy Department of Contemporary Art.

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Goya's "Folly of Fear"


In Your Dreams: 500 Years of Imaginary Prints

Schwartz Galleries of Prints and Drawings
September 8, 2010--January 2, 2011

"Swamp Flower" 

Odilon Redon, French; Swamp Flower, a Human and Sad Head (La Fleur du Marécage une tête humaine et triste), 1885; lithograph. Founders Society Purchase, Drawing and Print Club Fund, with funds from Mr. and Mrs. Alan E. Schwartz, Mr. and Mrs. David Handleman, Mr. and Mrs. K. P. Sogoian, and Mr. Gilbert Frimet


In Your Dreams: 500 Years of Imaginary Prints celebrates the life of the mind. Regardless of the period or culture, artists have been inspired to create imagery that has no place in the real world but rather reflects ideas that arise from the recesses of their imaginations. Sometimes disparate artists are linked together by their interpretations of the same theme, as can be seen in the pairing of a seventeenth-century Italian woodcut of Saint George killing the dragon with Salvador Dali's etching of the subject from 1949. In other instances, relationships between artists from different eras and backgrounds have a more direct connection, as is the case of Francisco Goya and Odilon Redon, both of whom are represented in the exhibition by major series.

The true meaning of the eighteen etchings in Goya's The Proverbs (Los Proverbios), published approximately forty years after the artist's death in 1828, remains mystifying. The exceptionally fantastic visualizations of apparent but unnamed horrors are a criticism of society. It is difficult, however, to know how specific Goya was in his attacks since so much time transpired between 1816, when he made the plates, and the mid-1860s, when they were first published. Some of the eerie subjects are easy to decipher, such as Plate Two, known as Soldiers Frightened by a Phantom. The faceless cloaked "monster" appears frightening until one realizes that it is really just a tall creature with a very silly head tucked up its right sleeve; what is seemingly sinister dissolves into nothing to fear--or perhaps, just one big apparition. Unfortunately, the soldiers miss this point, and are shown running for their lives.

Political circumstance forced Goya to flee his native Spain for Bordeaux, France, in 1824, where he died a few years later. By the late nineteenth century, his reputation as a modern and influential force in European art was great. Odilon Redon was born in Bordeaux in 1840. Although these two artists never met in life, they could not be closer in attitude. In 1885, Redon paid overt tribute to his hometown artistic predecessor and ideological mentor in a series of lithographs he called Homage to Goya. Each of the six prints is based on visions from Redon's own dreams, including Swamp Flower, a Human and Sad Head (La Fleur du Marécage une tête humaine et triste).

Redon's and Goya's works are shown with another one hundred prints by fifty other artists, all exploring two-dimensional worlds recreated from dreams, nightmares, illusions, and visions. Although many prints are linked to literary texts, such as William Blake's engravings for Dante's Divine Comedy, others are intentionally "unreadable" images meant to be provocative visual stimulants for all viewers.

Above: Francisco Goya, Spanish; Folly of Fear (Disparate de miedo), Proverbios Plate 2, ca. 1816; etching, burnished aquatint, and drypoint. Founders Society Purchase, John S. Newberry Fund

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Detroit Film Theatre

The Circus 

Films by two masters of the medium--Charlie Chaplin's The Circus and Jean Renior's Rules of the Game--mark the beginning of the DFT 101 series of Saturday matinees of cinematic classics from around the world.

Called "perhaps the quintessential Chaplin film" by New York Times' critic Vincent Canby, The Circus is a marvelous balance of hilarity and pathos featuring Chaplin's own musical score and a pre-credits song sung by an octogenarian Chaplin that dates from the film's 1970 restoration. Chaplin's 1918 short comedy, Sunnyside, rounds out the program. Rules of the Game has been cited by critics the world over as one of the greatest films of all time. Renoir's brilliantly conceived comedy of manners is both a scathing criticism of French society as well as a celebration of it. Admission to films in the DFT 101 series is a special matinee price of $5 or free with museum admission.

The Queen of Spades 

The DFT remains the exclusive home to the series of full-length opera productions from the great concert venues of Europe. New this season, all opera films are shown Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. Come early because pre-curtain coffee and bagels are included in the ticket price. The opera this month is Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades (left), called by music historian Richard Taruskin "the first and possibly the greatest masterpiece of musical surrealism." Seats are $20 general admission, $18 for seniors, students, and DIA members. For the complete schedule of dates and times or to purchase tickets, click here.

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For Halloween

Drop-In Workshop: Halloween Masks 

Halloween falls on a Sunday this year and the DIA has a weekend full of spooky and not-so-spooky programs and events to get you, your family, and your friends in the proper mood. All activities are available throughout the weekend of Friday, October 29; Saturday, October 30; and Sunday, October 31, with the exception of the music performances, which are Friday night only. Check the DIA Web site for exact times and locations.

Start with the Museum Mystery Tour for a chance to commune with the spirits of long-departed artists in the American art galleries. Guides tell tales and secrets about the artists whose work haunts the DIA. You've never seen the galleries like this: eerie lighting and sounds in the dark, but we'll keep it fun and family friendly, so bring the kids (in costume or not), ages five and up. Tours leave from the Great Hall approximately every ten minutes.

Then wander over to the Drop-in Workshop to make a spooky or kooky Halloween mask using tag board, markers, beads, and other art-making materials. Children 12 and younger must be accompanied by an adult.

For a change of pace, catch the film playing at the DFT, House (Hausu), a psychedelic ghost tale that follows seven schoolgirls who have been summoned to an old woman's possessed country home, only to come face to face with evil spirits, bloodthirsty pianos, a murderous lamp shade, and one truly demonic cat. Too absurd to be genuinely terrifying, yet too nightmarish to be merely comic, the film was born to played at Halloween.

As part of Friday Night Live on October 29, celebrate the Day of the Dead, the Mexican holiday that coincides with Halloween, with Mexico's innovative and progressive rock band Cabezas de Cere. Using a variety of unusual instruments to create its unique sound, the trio features Mauricio Sotelo on guitars, bass, and Chapman stick; Ramses Luna on wind instruments, including flutes, saxes, and clarinet, and Francisco Sotelo on percussion.

While not specifically a Halloween-related activity, In Your Dreams: 500 Years of Imaginary Prints and Drawings certainly is appropriate for the occasion. According to the Detroit News, the exhibition brings out the mostly scary side of artist's imaginations, with works populated by devils, leering imps, bat-winged humans, and flying eyeballs.

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DIA Moment: The Spoken Word

The DIA has teamed up with the InsideOut Literary Arts Project to add poetry readings to select Friday Night Live lineups. InsideOut places professional creative writers in school classrooms to engage students in creative self-expression and provides opportunities for students, from kindergarten through twelfth grade, to perform or publish their poetry.

On Friday, October 15, poet Matthew Olzmann takes to the stage in Rivera Court to present some of his works, which have appeared in the Kenyon Review, New England Review, Salt Hill, Margie, Atlanta Review, and elsewhere. He has worked as a writer-in-residence for InsideOut since 2003, working in classrooms, coordinating an afterschool program, and coaching members of the InsideOut slam team.

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Double Discount

Members receive 20 percent off museum shop purchases Friday, October 15, through Sunday, October 24, double the normal 10 percent discount. Select from decorative arts, textiles, educational items, craft kits, paper products, and publications. The discount for volunteers and educators is 10 percent above their usual amount.

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DIA Gala: Celebrating 125 Years

Save the Date

November 13, 2010

Visit dia.org or call 313.833.7967 for tickets and details.

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Detroit Institute of Arts
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