DIA eNews November 2010
In This Issue
Director's Letter
New Acquisition
Detroit Film Theatre
125th Anniversary
Brunch with Bach

Director's Letter

Graham W.J. Beale, Director 

Our current exhibition, Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries, has been characterized as an exercise in cost-saving and, while it is true that drawing on our own collection for all but two objects cuts down on shipping costs, the idea has been talked about since I arrived here eleven years ago and began to learn about the DIA's collections in detail.

One of the concerns, of course, is that the museum--its staff, anyway--would look inept: raising such questions as "well if they were wrong about that Rembrandt, how can they be sure about the one hanging in the galleries?" But, for many of the items, it is not so much a question of being fooled as one of scholarship, connoisseurship, and science coming together to enhance the understanding of the artist or culture under consideration. When experts are fooled by out-and-out forgeries, it's almost always the case that the successful forger produced something that fit the ideas and tastes of his time. The forger confirms wishful thinking, so to speak. But, as time goes by, the very taste that made the work so appealing causes it to look more and more like the era in which it was forged rather than the one it was imitating. The (beardless!) faces of Jesus in the famous forged Vermeers of the 1930s, for example, now look far more like Greta Garbo than the ostensible subject.

There's often a sense of malicious pleasure in seeing the experts fooled, and it's not unusual for the forger to become a folk hero. That was certainly the case for a couple of British forgers a few decades ago and, more distressingly so, with the Vermeer forger whose duping of Hermann Goering completely obscured the painter's hugely profitable collaboration with the Nazis. It's also not unusual for successful forgers to posses a great deal of charm. With modern scientific advances, it's become more and more difficult to forge anything, but equally important is research into the provenance. One forger (British again!) went so far as to alter catalogues and documents in art museum libraries to "prove" that the work he was hawking had been in such and such an exhibition. His long career, described by Scotland Yard as "the biggest art fraud of the twentieth century," resulted in the long-term, perhaps even permanent, contamination of major art museum libraries and archives.

Quite a few of the pieces in our exhibition are mysteries--some solved, some not--rather than forgeries, works bought as being by one artist and now attributed to another. Here, too, there can be an element of wishful thinking on the part of the experts but, more often than not, it's scientific and scholarly research that creates or solves the mystery; the very same expertise that helped create our fabulous collection. We do get it right almost all the time.

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An XRF spectrometer scans a painting


Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries

November 21, 2010-April 10, 2011
Special Exhibition Galleries: South

Who done it? And when and why? Those are the questions raised by this exhibition, which looks at the art historical research, science, and technology behind the authenticity of works in the DIA collection. Examples have been pulled from all areas of the collection--painting, sculpture, works on paper, and decorative objects--from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.

Everyone makes mistakes, and curators and other art experts are no exception. Sometimes a work of art entered the collection attributed to one artist but was subsequently assigned to another. A sixteenth-century depiction of Christ as savior of the world (Salvator Mundi) was identified as being by Leonardo da Vinci when it came to the DIA in 1889. In 1907, a noted art historian said it was by Marco d'Oggiono, a follower of Leonardo. Nine years later, the same scholar changed his mind, saying the painting was by Giampetrino, another follower of Leonardo. Through the years, the attribution has gone back and forth between the two followers, depending on who was looking at the work. Today, the only sure thing that can be said is that it's not a Leonardo.

Such mysteries are not limited to who created old master paintings but continue on much more recent works: is it a Monet or not a Monet, a Van Gogh or not a Van Gogh? The most modern technical investigations have yet to provide a definitive answer for two DIA paintings.

Then there are outright forgeries, works created specifically to deceive buyers as to their origin. Forgers mimic the style of an artist or culture and try to convince buyers of the works authenticity. The practice can be extremely lucrative, as the demand for works by famous artists or from certain cultures grows, prices soar, and forgers seize that opportunity to make a profit.

Member preview days are Friday, November 19, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday, November 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Contributor through Chairman's Associate level DIA members are invited to a SneakPeek look at the exhibition and a special reception in Prentis Court on Thursday, November 18, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Invitations will be mailed. Members-only lectures by exhibition curator Salvador Salort-Pons are scheduled Friday and Saturday. A talk open to the public is Sunday at 11 a.m. Complimentary reserved, timed tickets are available beginning October 27 at the DIA Box Office, online at www.dia.org, or by calling, 1.866.DIA.TIXS (866.342.8497). Remember, there is no handling or service fee when ordering members' tickets. For more information, call the Membership HelpLine at 313.833.7971.

Bring your cell phone to access Director Graham Beal's audio commentary on the exhibition. Audio reception has been improved over the last such tour. Using the system is as easy as dialing a telephone number and then entering the item number that corresponds to a particular image. More than one image may be viewed per phone call. The cell phone gallery guide is provided free of charge; however, you will use your cell phone minutes while connected, regardless of your carrier. A printed copy of the tour is also available.

Above: The presence of nineteenth-century pigments, revealed by this x-ray fluorescence spectrometer, mark the canvas as being painted by a modern imitator of a fourteenth-century style.

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An Intuitive Eye: André Kertész Photographs, 1914-69

Albert and Peggy de Salle Gallery of Photography
November 24, 2010-April 10, 2011

André Kertész "Shadows of the Eiffel Tower" 

This exhibition celebrates the photographic achievements of André Kertész (1894-1985), whose groundbreaking work achieved a delicate balance between technical perfection and lyrical beauty. Kertész originated a style that combined the "snapshot" compositions of photojournalism with the aesthetic sensibilities of early twentieth-century modernism, which is evident in the more than seventy works on view. The exhibition also includes a section on the work of his contemporaries--Eugčne Atget, Ilse Bing, and Brassaď--to place Kertész photographs in the context of the times.

Kertész obtained his first camera at the age of eighteen and began photographing the countryside outside his native Budapest, focusing on the details of daily life. A self-taught photographer, he took pictures on weekends, working at the Hungarian stock exchange during the week. His earliest photographs were intended for publication in periodicals, and he continued to work for magazines throughout his career.

In 1925, Kertész moved to Paris to concentrate on a career in professional photography. Then the international center of the art world, the city provided many opportunities for young talent. With fellow émigrés artists, he learned the tenets of abstraction with its skewed, unsettled perspective and dramatic shifts between light and shadow. His photograph of the base of the Eiffel tower exemplifies these modernist qualities, presenting an unconventional view of the Parisian landmark. He shot the photograph from a high vantage point, resulting in flattened spatial relationships and an abstract patterning of the structure.

Lecture: Author and former New York Times picture editor Philip Gefter discusses Kertész's work, Friday, November 19, at 7 p.m. in the Lecture Hall. Free with museum admission.

Above: André Kertész, American, born Hungary; Shadows of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, 1929; gelatin silver print. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Noel

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In Your Dreams: 500 Years of Imaginary Prints

Schwartz Galleries of Prints and Drawings
Through January 2, 2011

Dürer's "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" 

Five hundred years of interest in monsters and other bizarre creatures as metaphors of our hopes and fears abounds in this exhibition celebrating the imagination as a never-ending source of inspiration. Some of the more than 120 prints from the DIA collection reflect the often nonsensical, but seemingly real experiences from dreams and nightmares, but another significant portion of the exhibition is devoted to visionary compositions born from the recesses of the artists' minds. Many prints illustrate fantastic texts, such as William Blake's otherworldly engravings for Dante's The Divine Comedy or Marc Chagall's colorful lithograph of a flying horselike beast from Four Tales of the Arabian Nights. Selections from Durer's frightful interpretation of The Apocalypse from the 1490s introduce the show and five, full series--Piranesi's Prisons (1761), Goya's Los Proverbios (1816 printed in 1864), Roberto Matta's Centre Noeuds (1974), and Odilon Redon's Homage to Goya (1885) and Temptations of Saint Anthony (1888)--act as anchors uniting works by another fifty artists.

Above: Albrecht Dürer, German; Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 1497/1498; woodcut. Gift of Mrs. James E. Scripps

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New Acquisition

Dirck van Baburen's The Concert

Baburen's "The Concert" 

The newly acquired The Concert by Dirck van Baburen bridges the DIA's Italian and Dutch collections, illustrating the celebrated art of Caravaggio as seen through the eyes of a Dutchman. It is also the first example of Dutch international Caravaggisim to enter the permanent collection, enhancing the museum's outstanding holdings of seventeenth-century Dutch art.

Baburen received his early artistic education in Utrecht but soon set off for Italy, settling in Rome. He became fascinated with the art of Caravaggio and the Italian master's use of realistic models and dramatic lighting. In about 1620, Baburen returned to Utrecht, rapidly gaining fame for his new stylistic and iconographical patterns in genre and history painting. His innovative ideas were quickly assimilated by his Utrecht Caravaggist fellows Gerrit van Honthorst and Hendrik Ter Brugghen and other Dutch painters in later generations.

Baburen painted the DIA's The Concert about 1623. Its composition relates well to Caravaggio's The Musicians (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), painted about 1595. Both pictures have the same number of figures represented very realistically, packed into a shallow interior. The Concert depicts a group of actors performing music around a table. The man in the foreground, dressed in a seventeenth-century outfit, plays a contemporary Amati violin. On the far left, a man dressed "all'antica," in a tuniclike robe, plays a traditional lute. In the background, a woman crowns the lute player with flowers. Because of the way the male figures are dressed, the type of instruments they play, and the female figure's act of crowning the lute player, the subject of this image can be understood as a "quarrel between the art of the Ancients and the Moderns"--a dispute often argued by intellectuals and artists since the Renaissance. In the DIA painting, Baburen grants superiority to the Ancients (the lute player) over the Moderns (the violinist).

Another version of Baburen's The Concert hangs in the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. Recent art historical and technical analysis has successfully demonstrated that Baburen created the DIA's painting before the one at the Hermitage, which must now be considered an autograph replica of the museum's version.

Above: Dirck van Baburen, Dutch; The Concert, ca. 1623; oil on canvas. Museum Purchase, Robert H. Tannahill Foundation Fund

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Detroit Film Theatre

This month, the DFT and Windsor International Film Festival team up to present the 2010 Can/Am Grand Prix of Cinema: four current films, two Canadian and two American, all to be screened in Detroit and Windsor. Audiences in both cities then select the winner of the Peoples' Choice Award.

James Franco in Howl 

Scheduled at the DFT on Thursday and Friday, November 4 and 5, are the Quebec film Route 132, a powerful and affecting examination of grief and rebirth; Howl, starring James Franco as the young counter-culture poet Allen Ginsberg (upper left); Leave Them Laughing, the glad, sad story of a Canadian comedian and singer diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease facing death with wit, wisdom, courage, music, and love; and Marwencol, a new American documentary that looks at the world through the eyes of crime victim Mark Hogancamp, who, unable to afford therapy, creates his own (lower left).

Later in the month, the DFT's focus shifts to Mexico with another film in the series celebrating the bicentennial of the founding of the Republic of Mexico. Enamorada is the story of a revolutionary general who falls in love with a wealthy landowner's daughter while confiscating her father's assets. The film, showing November 20 at 4 p.m., will be introduced by Stephany Slaughter, professor of Spanish at Alma College.

This screening of Enamorada is made possible through the generous assistance of the Consulate General of Mexico in Detroit. Admission is free to the public.

For the full DFT schedule or to purchase tickets, click here.

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125th Anniversary

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Incorporated in 1883, the Detroit Museum of Art opened its doors to the public in 1885. As part of our celebration Director Graham Beal and the curators picked 125 pieces that embody the strength, breadth, and depth of our collections. Some were included for sentimental reasons as much as for artistic significance: Francis Davis Millet's Reading the Story of Oenone was the very first piece to enter the collection; William-Adolphe Bouguereau's The Nut Gatherers is a favorite of many visitors. All the selected works are of the highest quality. Alongside Henri Matisse's great painting The Window, acquired in 1922 and the first Matisse to enter a U.S. museum, you'll find such recent acquisitions as an Art Nouveau Hallstand by Hector Guimard and a wall relief by Ojibwa artist George Morrison.

It's always hard to make the final cuts, and there are many fine works--enough to make another 125 great choices, in fact--that we excluded for one reason or another. We've included one of our most famous pieces, Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare, even though it will be out on loan for a portion of the year; and if you're surprised that Picasso's Blue Period painting Melancholy Woman isn't on the list, that's because it will be on loan for most of the time of our 125-year celebration. Even though, as Beal points out, as a modern art museum we hold all sorts of programs, including music and storytelling, "our great collection lies at the heart of all we do. It is, literally, an irreplaceable resource for our community as well as the museum world, and the collection could not be assembled today for any amount of money."

125 Anniversary Marker 

Look for the blue Key Object signs by each of the 125 works, scattered throughout the museum. Also check out Celebrating 125 Years of Art in Our Community, in one of the Special Exhibiton-Central galleries, to see how the DIA has changed over the years.

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Brunch with Bach

This popular music series returns November 7 with a performance by harpsichordist Martha Folts and a new dining option. Folts plays French music for the harpsichord, along with compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach and Dominico Scarlatti. New this fall is the continental breakfast menu offered for the 11 a.m. concert. The full brunch, including a hot entrée, is available at the 1:30 p.m. performance. Tickets are $20 and $35 respectively, and include museum admission. For a complete schedule or to purchase tickets, click here.

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DIA@125 Gala

There's still time to purchase tickets to DIA@125, a Gala, the DIA's annual formal fundraising event, which this year celebrates the museum's 125th anniversary. Limited tickets for the full evening, including a three-course dinner, are available for $2,500 or $1,500. Plenty of $125 tickets remain for the less formal, late-night party, featuring a dessert buffet, drinks, savory bites, and dancing. For tickets, call 313.833.7967.

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Detroit Institute of Arts
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