DIA News January 2011

In This Issue
Director's Letter
Detroit Film Theater
On the Road Again

Director's Letter

Graham W.J. Beale, Director 

Institutions facing serious, ongoing financial challenges constantly struggle to cover expected and--even worse--unexpected costs in a variety of ways. At the DIA, this means aggressive fundraising month after month to meet ambitious annual goals that ensure the continuation of our excellent programs, exhibitions, and a high level of service to the community. As a public institution, we also work to make certain that city, state, and federal officials are mindful of our needs, and as a not-for-profit "business," it is important that we continually review our operations to ensure that we run at maximum efficiency.

The calendar year just ended was marked by several financial achievements for the DIA, some unexpected but all of them good. The 2010 gala celebrating our 125th anniversary can only be described as a smashing success and netted us $1 million, a first we think. This result was thanks to the generosity of our individual and corporate sponsors, as always, but also because of a $300,000 matching grant from an anonymous donor in honor of Alan and Marianne Schwartz, themselves longstanding patrons of the DIA. The $1 million from the gala will help us balance this year's budget.

This is not the case with our other year-end achievements, which are restricted to specific activities. Many reading this letter will recall the shock in 2004 when, in the middle of our renovation, we discovered far more asbestos hidden behind walls and ceilings of our modern wings than originally estimated. As we are a public building, we sought help from the city and the state of Michigan in meeting the estimated $40 million cost of abating the asbestos and rebuilding the wings. Our requests were not immediately successful, but instead laid the seeds for a later infusion of capital support in the form of a recent $10 million grant from the state. Even though we completed our renovation in 2007, aging buildings inevitably present new problems and our capital needs are ongoing. The state money will help meet such costs as those associated with replacing a disintegrating perimeter heating system and changing the way heating and air conditioning are maintained--both changes, by the way, that will result in reduced energy needs and costs. These state funds are specifically targeted for building needs and do not help the perennial challenge of meeting annual operating costs

Finally, what we came to call "Custer's Last Flag" sold at auction for $2.2 million, an enormous price for a flag. The flag was identified as an auction candidate during a comprehensive review of the DIA's collections, designed to determine that everything we have in storage contributes to the intellectual and aesthetic mission of the museum. Accepted museum practices mandate that net funds from the sale of objects in the collection can only be used to enhance it through the purchase of additional art and cannot fund operations. In the process, I learned a lot about Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. I also learned what strong feelings can be aroused by such a sale. But, as I said here a few months ago, the flag was "lost" at the DIA, where it had not been on view since 1927. It is now back out in the world, currently in the hands of a collector but, I feel sure, on its way to a destination in an appropriate museum.

So while we end the year somewhat richer, we are still working toward a museum that is financially stable as well as programmatically and artistically excellent. My thanks to so many of you who helped move us closer to that goal with a year-end gift. Please know that we do our best to be exceptional stewards of your generosity and to identify and secure support from every possible avenue.

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The Virgin and Child (detail)


Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries

Through April 10, 2011
Special Exhibition Galleries: South

The Virgin and Child 

Anonymous, German; The Virgin and Child, early 17th century; oil and gilding on oak panel. Gift of James E. Scripps


Remember learning in elementary school that you could tell the age of a tree by counting the rings inside the trunk? A similar, although vastly more sophisticated method, called dendrochronology, can be used to help ascertain the authenticity of a painting.

This Virgin and Child (left), painted on an oak panel, entered the DIA collection in 1889, attributed to an anonymous, late-fifteenth-century Flemish artist. By 1928, the panel had been reattributed to a German painter known as the Master of the Life of Mary, who was active from 1460 to 1490. Since then, the date that the picture was painted and, by extension, who painted it, have become a matter of debate. This is where dendrochronology comes in.

When an artist needs a piece of wood for painting, a panel, about one-quarter-inch thick, is cut from the bark to the center of a tree, and an image is created on the flat surface. The two thin sides of the board, cut against the wood grain, are a cross section of the interior of the tree, and it is there that growth rings can be counted. More importantly, the spaces between the rings can be measured: thicker spaces indicate wetter seasons and the thinner areas drier ones. The data from the panel is than compared to a master timeline of tree rings and patterns, created from wood samples taken from buildings and other structures with known dates of construction.

The master timeline, which covers Northern European tree growth for the past six hundred years, was compiled by a team of scientists from the University of Hamburg, led by Peter Klein, a professor of wood biology. Klein came to Detroit to examine the Virgin and Child panel. Using a high-power magnifying glass, he counted 310 growth rings. The pattern of rings is consistent with trees originating in southern Germany at the end of the 1500s. When the panel was crafted, some parts of the tree were lost, along with the corresponding rings, so a few years are added to the date to compensate, establishing 1610 as the plausible year for the felling of the tree. A few more years are added to take into the account the time it takes for the drying and seasoning of the wood. Thus, the earliest date for creation of the painting is 1613. The DIA painting, whether by a Flemish or German artist, clearly does not date from the late 1400s as originally thought. The painter remains unknown, but was probably an artist working in the 1600s in an earlier style.

Timed tickets are necessary to view the exhibition. Click here to purchase them. Members see the exhibition free. Don't forget to 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.

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An Intuitive Eye: André Kertész Photographs, 1914-69

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

Melancholic Tulip 

André Kertész, American; Melancholic Tulip, 1938; gelatin silver print. Founders Society Purchase, Acquisitions Fund. © Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures


André Kertész (1894-1985) had a long and impressive career as a photographer working in Hungary, Paris, and New York. Born in Budapest, he obtained his first camera at the age of eighteen. He frequently photographed the landscape of his native countryside and its farmers, along with family and friends. During World War I, he joined the Hungarian army and continued to take photographs, although he did not depict the horrors of war and instead made casual pictures of fellow soldiers. A selection of these early works, on loan from the Museum of Art at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, is included in the exhibition.

Kertész is best known for his work in Paris, where he moved in 1925 to prove himself as a serious photographer. He found great success there, having his pictures included in exhibitions and frequently published in magazines. In 1936, Kertész moved to New York, intending to stay in the United States only a short time. The outbreak of World War II, however, prevented his return to Paris.

The early years in New York were difficult for Kertész, who was having problems making professional connections in the city. His photograph Melancholic Tulip was made just two years after his arrival. Using distortion mirrors, a technique he had experimented with in Paris, he created the work as a self-portrait representative of his disillusionment over a stalled photographic career and a difficult transition to life in America.

Eventually he signed a contract with House and Garden magazine to photograph building architecture and interiors. His personal photographic output declined during the years he worked at the publication. The DIA has a few rare photographs from those years, including one of Washington Square Park, a frequent and familiar subject that he captured from his twelfth-floor New York City apartment. It was not until he retired from the magazine in 1962 that he enthusiastically returned to making his own photographic work. He also had finally achieved the recognition that had alluded him for years when a renewed interest in his work led to international exhibitions and publications.

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Detroit Film Theatre

Michael Imperioli 

Michael Imperioli


The DFT schedule for January is marked by two special events: Michael Imperioli, star of the current ABC series Detroit 1-8-7, presents The Hungry Ghosts, a feature film he wrote and directed, and an evening with renowned film editor Richard Chew, who discusses the invisible art of his profession. The winter season begins January 14 with Mesrine, an acclaimed two-part French gangster saga.

Detroit 1-8-7, filmed in Detroit, has made Imperioli a welcome fixture in the city. He has built an impressive career with performances in HBO's The Sopranos, Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Spike Lee films, and even an episode of The Simpsons. The Hungry Ghosts is an unusual and provocative drama of interlocking stories set over one 36-hour period. The Sunday, January 30, showing is the area premiere of this 2009 release. An onstage discussion with Imperioli follows the screening. Presented in cooperation with the Michigan Film Office. Tickets are $12, $10 for students and DIA members.

Perhaps best known as a co-editor of the original Star Wars, Chew's extraordinary body of work includes One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Conversation, Risky Business, Clean and Sober, My Favorite Year, Goin' South, Shanghai Noon, Waiting to Exhale, I Am Sam, and That Thing You Do! A presentation of clips from his work is followed by an onstage discussion of his career, his cinematic influences, and the uniquely important art of film editing in storytelling. The evening concludes with a screening of one of the films Chew found most influential, Michael Roemer's 1964 Nothing But a Man. The evening is made possible thanks to the cooperation of the Department of Communication at Wayne State University. Tickets for the Thursday, January 27, event are $12, $10 for students and DIA members.

Orson Welles and Oja Kodar 

Orson Welles and Oja Kodar


F for Forgery, a perfect cinematic companion to the Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries exhibition, is Orson Welles's dizzying, free-form documentary (and we use that term loosely) that sets out to examine the thin, often invisible line between art and illusion--as well as the very nature of fakery. This late example of Welles's cinematic work is stuffed with ingeniously conceived diversions and digressions about the very nature of cinema and what it really means to "believe our own eyes." The film, part of the DFT 101 series of matinees, is introduced by Salvador Salort-Pons, DIA associate curator of European paintings and curator of Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries.

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

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On the Road Again

Fuseli's The Nightmare at the Louvre 

Selected masterpieces from the DIA's world-class collection are on the road again in exhibitions that span the globe. Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare is the centerpiece of Antiquity Rediscovered: Innovation and Resistance in the 18th Century at the Louvre through February 14, 2011. The painting is on the banners outside the museum announcing the show (left). The Nightmare was a key image in the 2006 exhibition Gothic Nightmares: Fuseli, Blake, and the Romantic Imagination at Tate Britain, appearing on the cover of the exhibition catalogue. Also currently in Paris is Jean-Léon Gérôme's polychromed marble sculpture Seated Woman, part of the exhibition The Spectacular Art of Jean-Léon Gérôme at the Musée d'Orsay through January 23, 2011.

Two works are in exhibitions in Italy: Van Gogh's Bank of the Oise at Auvers is part of the exhibition Vincent van Gogh: Timeless Country--Modern City at the Complesso del Vittoriano, in Rome, and Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin's Still Life is at the Palazzo dei Diamanti, in Ferrara. In February, the latter show moves to the Prado in Madrid. Picasso's Melancholy Woman is on loan to a retrospective of that artist's work in Zurich and next goes to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam for the exhibition Picasso in Paris, 1900-1907. Edgar Degas's Dancers in the Green Room is returning from an exhibition at the Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama, Japan.

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In The Art Studio

There's still space available in the studio class Mysteries of Paint Revealed, a mini-CSI lesson, DIA style. The class combines time in the art studio exploring color and expressive brushstrokes, a tour of museum galleries to see how artists from different times and places used paint, and a visit to the rarely seen conservation laboratory for a behind-the-scenes look at 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.

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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