DIA News December 2010

In This Issue
Director's Letter
New on View
Celebrate the Season
Gift of Art

Director's Letter

Graham W.J. Beale, Director 

Many of us enjoy making lists, and the longest running radio program in the world is the British Broadcasting Corporation's "Desert Island Disks," where well-known individuals are asked to select the six pieces of music they'd want to have with them if they were marooned on an island. Playing that game in my head, it's hard to whittle my favorites down to a mere six, and it was even more difficult to make a selection, as I once did for a magazine, of the six works of art I'd take, regardless of the current owner, for my own private collection. That was over ten years ago, and I'd change at least one of them were I to do it again today. The purpose of a list, of course, is a big factor in what goes into it. The Director's Favorites audio tour, for example, is designed to introduce the visitor to the breadth and strength of the whole collection, and while it does, indeed, reflect many of my preferences, some pieces in the Director's Dozen booklet are not among those included.

To pick 125 works that symbolize our 125th anniversary, I asked the curators to send lists from their areas of expertise that were, in some way, important to the DIA. (My original idea was to pick a work from each year that represented the growth of the collections, but I soon realized it would be far more labor-intensive than the results would justify.) As well as out-and-out masterpieces, we selected a few that were of special significance to the DIA's history. Francis Davis Millett's soft and sentimental Reading the Story of Oenone hardly ranks up there with Frederic Church's powerful Cotopaxi, but it was the first work of art to enter the collection. A perennial public favorite is Adolphe-William Bouguereau's The Nut Gatherers and, charming though his work may be, Bouguereau is a negligible figure in any history of art that values the contributions of Degas, Monet, Van Gogh, and Cézanne. And, thank goodness, we have plenty of those. If you're surprised not to see Picasso's Blue Period Melancholy Woman on the list, she was dropped because she's out on loan for most of the year.

I'm very happy to say that some other favorites are coming back on view. Two new installations open on December 22: a selection of puppets in newly constructed cases in the wall opposite the Marvin and Betty Danto Lecture Hall, and the Snake-Dragon in an installation of our Ancient Middle Eastern collection in a newly renovated gallery space that, for years, was converted to offices and, during the reconstruction of the north and south wings, used for a temporary store. I hope you'll visit us to see these new developments and, perhaps, to make a list of your own 125 favorites.

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The "Monet" under investigation


Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries

Through April 10, 2011
Special Exhibition Galleries: South

Monet or Not Monet

The landscape Three Figures Resting Under a Tree, signed by Claude Monet and dated 1871, came to the DIA in 2004 as part of a bequest. It didn't look like a classic Monet, but 1871 was early in his career when he was staying in England and developing his impressionist style. Scientific inquiry, including an examination of a cross section of the paint surface, showed the pigments and the canvas were consistent with those used by Monet at the time. But, in fact, it is not a Monet, but a painting by English impressionist Sir Alfred East.

Art historical research in different archives led to the discovery that the Monet signature was a forgery. A sticker on the back of the painting indicated it had been exhibited in Pittsburgh in 1910. But the Carnegie Museum of Art had no record that Three Figures Resting had ever been shown there. Another label on the back of the canvas pointed to the Knoedler gallery in New York, where records helped to determine that the painting had been sold as a Monet in 1947 under the title Tewkesbury Road. The new title resulted in a return check with Pittsburgh and the discovery of a catalogue from the 1910 exhibition that included Tewkesbury Road as a painting by East. A picture clearly showed East's signature. Somewhere between 1910 and 1947, someone removed East's name and painted in Monet's in a clear, and apparently successful, attempt to pass a legitimate work by a lesser known artist as one done by the much better known Frenchman.

This is just one of the stories told in Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries, an exhibition of sixty objects drawn from all times and places represented in the DIA collection, which provides numerous opportunities to explore issues of attribution and authenticity. Members get into the exhibition free, but timed tickets are necessary, available 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. Tickets for the general public are $12 for adults and $6 for children ages 6 to 17, plus a handling charge for any tickets not purchased at the DIA Box Office. For the month of December, buy one adult ticket and get one free with Web site coupon.

Bring your cell phone to access Director Graham Beal's audio commentary on the exhibition. 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: Clockwise from top right: The "Monet" under investigation; a miniscule paint sample atop a plastic mount for viewing under the microscope; magnified cross section of paint sample. The surface layer is at the top.

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An Intuitive Eye: André Kertész Photographs, 1914-69

Through April 10, 2011
Albert and Peggy de Salle Gallery of Photography

Andre Kertesz, Stairs of Montmartre 

André Kertész, American, born Hungary; Stairs of Montmartre, Paris, 1926; gelatin silver print. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Noel © Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures


Photographer André Kertész developed an innovative and signature style--casual, abstract views of urban settings and people on the streets--during the early twentieth century, a time when artists working in all media challenged traditions associated with previous generations.

Rejecting heavy narrative interpretations of life or painterly and impressionistic approaches to photographic work, Kertész worked intuitively and photographed the world around him as he encountered it throughout the streets of Paris in the 1920s and 1930s. He found subtle beauty in the ordinary experiences of modern urban life and effortlessly captured the sometimes quiet and contemplative character of a bustling international city. His ability to capture the unique essence of a time and place or even a particular neighborhood is seen in the iconic photograph Stairs of Montmartre, Paris, 1926. He took this photograph in either the early morning or late afternoon when the sun cast long shadows of the railings along the pavement of a pedestrian stairwell. Kertész accentuated the visual dynamism of the scene and emphasized only its most essential elements. The railings and shadows create pattern, texture, and movement within the photograph, while compressing and distorting the space and depth of the scene.

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In Your Dreams: 500 Years of Imaginary Prints

Through January 2, 2011
Schwartz Galleries of Prints and Drawings

Giovanni Battista Piranesi, The Drawbridge 

Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Italian; The Drawbridge,1761; etching and engraving. Founders Society Purchase, Hal H. Smith Fund and Elizabeth P. Kirby Fund


Only one month remains to see this exhibition populated by devils, leering imps, bat-winged humans, and flying eyeballs as envisioned by artists including Goya, Piranesi, Redon, Picasso, Miro, and Chagall. The approximately 120 prints on view represent these and other artists' fantastic interpretations of events, stories, sayings, personal recollections, and just simply made-up subjects from the last five centuries. Piranesi knew how to please his eighteenth-century audience hooked on imaginary views. The eighteen prints in his series Prisons create a "convincing architecture of horror like something out of the Spanish Inquisition--full of heavy stone arches, gangplanks to nowhere, and winches and pulleys that look designed for torture," as Detroit News art writer Michael Hodges described them.

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New On View

George "Punch" Irving, Punch and Judy 

George "Punch" Irving, American; Punch and Judy, late nineteenth century; painted wood, glass, cloth, leather, fur. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. W. H. J. McPharlin and Marjorie Batchelder McPharlin


PuppetsSome very important puppets (VIPS) go on view in December as the DIA unveils a new installation of hand, shadow, and string puppets from the Paul McPharlin Puppetry Collection. Rare American and Italian hand puppets and iconic string marionettes, including the original Howdy Doody used in the 1940s during the early years of broadcast television, are included in this opening exhibit. The array of puppets on view will change every six months as more of the collection is restored by the museum's conservation lab. McPharlin was a Detroit resident and prominent figure in American puppetry during the early twentieth century, most notably as an author and founder of the national organization Puppeteers of America.

The puppets can be found in innovative cases, which allow them to be displayed with their original stages and backdrops, near the Lecture Hall on the first level. The cases contain programmable lighting that can create unique scenic effects to fit the mood of each puppet group. The 300-seat Lecture Hall is being retrofitted with new stage equipment for live puppetry performances on Sundays, part of the Especially for Families programming.

This installation was made possible by an endowment fund established in 1951 by the McPharlin family and The Detroit News.

Babylonian, Snake-Dragon 

Babylonian, Iraq; Snake-Dragon, Symbol of Marduk, Patron God of Babylon, panel from the Ishtar Gate, 604-562 BCE; glazed earthenware bricks. Founders Society Purchase, General Membership Fund


DragonAlso opening in December is the new gallery of the arts of the Ancient Middle East, which includes some of the oldest objects in the museum. These works offer a glimpse of life in the earliest civilizations of the Middle East. On view are stone reliefs from the Assyrian Royal Palace at Nimrud, Iraq; the well-known dragon panel from the Ishtar gate of Babylon; Achaemenid reliefs from the palace complex at Persepolis, Iran; funerary carvings in alabaster from ancient Yemen; and ceramics from ancient Anatolia, Turkey.

The new gallery is centrally located in a basilica-like space stretching from CaféDia to the Albert and Peggy de Salle Gallery of Photography. Over the past thirty years, the area was subdivided for a variety of purposes, including offices, storage, and, most recently, the temporary museum shop, but all past architectural accretions were removed and the lighting and climate controls upgraded for the new gallery. The reinstallation was supported by a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts with matching funds from the Ernest and Rosemarie Kanzler Foundation Fund.

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Celebrate the Season

Ballerinas perform at Noel Night 

The holiday season gets under way with the Cultural Center's thirty-eighth annual Noel Night, Saturday, December 4, when more than sixty area venues, including the DIA, open their doors to the public free of charge. Holiday-themed performances at the museum include big band and swing from Rhythm Society Orchestra, the classical sounds of the CutTime Players, the Renaissance Dance Company of Detroit, and the blues and boogie-woogie of pianist Mr. B. There's a special drop-in workshop for creating puppets from decorated gingerbread cookies, and ice sculptures can be found outside on the Woodward Plaza. The DIA stays open to 9:30 p.m. to accommodate the festivities, but the exhibition Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries will not be open that evening and there will be no valet parking all day. For a complete list of participating institutions and a schedule of performances, click here.

The fun continues throughout the month with Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa stories on successive Sundays at 2 p.m., beginning December 5. Special puppet shows and puppet-making drop-in workshops are scheduled every day from Sunday, December 26 through Friday, December 31. The museum is closed Friday and Saturday, Dec. 24 and 25, and open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday December 26 through Friday, December 31, and closed again on Saturday, January 1. Check the DIA Web site for complete information on all activities.

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Gift of Art

Looking for a special art-themed gift this holiday season for a special someone? The DIA can help with some exclusive offers.

Treat your art lover to an after-hours, curator-led tour of the exhibition Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries. Salvador Salort-Pons provides insight into how the show was organized and the works of art investigated, revealing intriguing facts beyond the stories told in the galleries. Tickets for these tours, $75 per person or $125 for a couple, include complimentary valet parking, coat check at the Farnsworth entrance, wine and cheese reception, and a one-hour tour. The tours are scheduled in the evenings after the museum has closed to the public. For more information, including available dates, click here.

Mirror with Motown vinyl frame 

Someone you know nostalgic for those old 45 rpm records--the small ones with a big hole in the middle? Then the mirror surrounded by a collection of twelve Motown singles, available in the museum shop, may be just the thing. Vinylux created the hand-built wall hangings exclusively for the DIA, using a different set of colorful disks for each mirror. Twenty-two inches in diameter and weighing five pounds, the mirrors are priced at $145, $130.50 for members.

For other gift ideas in all price ranges, check out the museum shop in the Farnsworth Lobby or the exhibition outpost for items related to the current exhibitions Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries and An Intuitive Eye: André Kertész Photographs. Through December 31, get 20 percent off with the coupon on the museum Web site. Present it in person at the shop or use the discount code when ordering online. There's free shipping for all online orders through December 23.

A gift memership to the DIA provides art all year long. Until the end of the year, buy a $180 affliate membeship at the holiday discount of $125 and receive a $65 individual gift membership free. Just present the coupon on the the Web site at the Member's Services Desk in the Farnsworth lobby. Click here for all coupons.

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In The Art Studio

Get a mini-CSI lesson, DIA style, in the new class Mysteries of Paint Revealed, which combines time in the art studio, a tour of museum galleries, and a visit to the rarely seen conservation laboratory. In this January 22 class, explore color and expressive brushstrokes while creating a painting of your own, then take a walk through the galleries with one of our art guides and see how artists from different times and places used paint. Finally, get a behind-the-scenes peek at the DIA's conservation lab and see how conservators learn about and take care of museum paintings. The class is intended for families with children ages eight and older, with an adult..

Girl at throwing wheel in the DIA Studio 

The popular one-hour potter's wheel classes for children and adults returns with multiple small classes for absolute beginners, complete with plenty of individual guidance on Sunday, January 9, 2011. The class is open to aspiring potters ages five and older, with children five through eight accompanied by an adult. Classes are limited to five people and fill up quickly, so register early. A three-hour introduction to the potter's wheel for adults is offered Sunday, January 23, and an adult class for all levels of potters, from beginner to advanced, is scheduled for Sunday, February 27. Adult classes are limited to twelve participants. Preregistration and prepayment are required for all classes. The complete schedule of classes is available at www.dia.org/learn. To receive a printed copy of the full schedule or for more information, call 313.833.4249.

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Detroit Institute of Arts
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Detroit, Michigan 48202

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