DIA eNews June 2011

In This Issue
Director's Letter
Detroit Film Theater
Military Families
Summer Camps

Director's Letter

Graham W.J. Beale, Director 

Many institutions, including the DIA, are taking advantage of the sudden multiplication of social media platforms to find ways to engage the public in museum programming. One tactic that's causing heartburn among a portion of art museum specialists is "crowd sourcing": among other things, seeking any and everyone's opinion about programs and exhibitions. The fear is, I suppose, that we will somehow weaken or--heaven forefend--even abdicate the expert control necessary for the maintenance of professional standards. As one author has recently lamented, "museums are indulging in behavior and activities that leave our institutions unable to sustain and demonstrate authority."* There is, as they say, a downside to everything, and resources are undoubtedly limited, but using these devices as tools to engage a wider public that we claim to serve does not automatically mean the wholesale--or even partial--abandonment of scholarship and the pursuit of knowledge. What excites me about these technical developments and attitudinal shifts is the opportunity to "demystify" aspects of our operations and engage a wide range of people in ongoing discussions about how we do business and make the decisions that determine our art programs and presentations.

Last summer, in an art museum renowned for its contemporary art programs, the public was invited to view a couple of hundred images from its collection of works on paper. Using a digital kiosk located in a gallery, visitors cast nearly a quarter million votes on which works should or should not be included in the exhibition 50/50: Audience and Experts Curate the Paper Collection. At the same time, a curator selected works by artists represented in depth in the collection. The two groups were hung, salon style, on opposite walls. The exercise was intended to start a discussion about the values and dynamics of popular and expert taste, as well as the relationship between an original work of art and a high-quality reproduction viewed on a screen. Some may question one or another aspect of this kind of thing, but there's no doubt that it's an effective way to engage visitors and introduce them to the decision-making process that underlies so much of what we do every day.

A fellow Midwestern art museum has in its collection a lovely Dutch seventeenth-century landscape painting that features in the foreground a small red-coated hunter. Putting a red-jacketed figure in the middle of all that greenery was not unknown in the seventeenth century, but it was a device the highly influential, early nineteenth-century English painter John Constable regularly deployed to supercharge his landscapes. Green and red are simultaneous color contrasts; each one enhances the other. And, sure enough, that is what is going on in the Dutch painting. Sometime in the nineteenth century, someone added the hunter, perhaps to juice up the subject matter for potential hunt-loving clients but more likely to give the picture a little more "oomph." The museum is polling its public whether it should remove the hunter or not and, as I understand it, committing itself to abide by the majority decision. As a firm believer in following the artist's original intent (where clearly discernible), I might want to know the general opinion as a matter of interest but would, after due documentation, have the figure removed. In the current case, if the vote is to remove the figure, the public made the right decision; if to keep it, no harm has been done and the correction can, if desired, be made at some later date. Either way, it's hardly the end of the world.

Graham Beal Signature
Graham W. J. Beal


* Tiffany Jenkins, Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections: The Crisis of Cultural Authority, (New York 2010).

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Edouard Manet; The Cats


ZooIt's A Zoo In Here! Prints and Drawings of Animals

Through September 25, 2011
Schwartz Galleries of Prints and Drawings

Adolph von Menzel; The Bear Pit at the Zoological Garden 

Adolph von Menzel, German; The Bear Pit at the Zoological Garden, ca. 1851; lithograph. Founders Society Purchase, John S. Newberry Fund


When was the last time you thought about ostentations of peacocks and lounges of lizards in addition to the better known gaggles of geese and armies of ants? Many of these collective names for animal groups date from the 1400s, when such lists were compiled to educate high-society hunters in the proper nomenclature for specific animals: sounders of swine, schools of fish, prides of lions, flocks of sheep. Some group names may have been chosen for their poetic value: bevies of doves, convocations of eagles, parliaments of owls. Still others derive from characterizations of the animals' behavior: memories of elephants, leaps of leopards, ambushes of tigers. And some are just whimsical: anyone who has shared a house with felines knows about a nuisance of cats.

Passels, pods, packs, and other animal groupings can be found throughout It's a Zoo in Here!, which features more than 170 prints and drawings by more than 100 artists who worked in Europe and the United States over the last 500 years. In his watercolor Vultures on Cactus, Diego Rivera depicts four of the birds, which constitute a colony of vultures. A sleuth of bears inhabit Adolph von Menzel's lithograph The Bear Pit at the Zoological Garden. Rosa Bonheur captures a warren of rabbits in her black crayon sketches, and a pod of dolphins populates the waters in Martin Lewis's Clear Weather. That's only the beginning of what's on view. Match the groups of animals you find with the lists of collective names that appear found on four large panels within the exhibition.

For more on the origins of animal group names, click here, and for a more extensive list of collective names, click here.

Above: Edouard Manet, French; The Cats, 1868/69; etching and aquatint. Gift of Gordon Beer

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Detroit Film Theatre

Two special programs mark the Detroit Film Theatre's summer schedule: "Double Features with Richard Chew" explores the work of this Oscar-winning film editor, and "From Britain with Love" showcases six new British films receiving their American premieres simultaneously in Detroit, New York, and a dozen other cities.

The four double-features in June consist of a classic film that influenced Chew, followed by one of his own works that best demonstrates that influence. Chew selected the pairs of films, making the Thursday evening and Saturday matinees a unique way to explore the cinematic consciousness and insights of one of the most renowned contemporary film artists while also getting a low-key but richly rewarding "crash course" in modern film history. Each program is followed by a discussion between Chew and the audience. Richard Chew's appearances at the DFT are made possible courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

On Thursday, June 9, at 6 p.m. The Bicycle Thief, one of the greatest of all neo-realist films, is shown with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, for which Chew was supervising film editor. A 2 p.m. Saturday matinee on June 11 teams the pioneering French New Wave work Breathless with I Am Sam, starring Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer, and edited by Chew. The Graduate, the film that first brought Dustin Hoffman into the limelight and became a touchstone for a generation, is paired with Risky Business, a bold and brassy comedy edited by Chew that performed the same feat for the young Tom Cruise, on Thursday, June 16 at 6 p.m. Finally, Medium Cool, a startling film about personal and political turmoil in America during the Vietnam War-era plays with Bobby, a kaleidoscopic portrait of the effect Robert Kennedy's assassination had on a number of characters whose paths cross in L.A. Medium Cool and Bobby play on Saturday, June 18, at 2 p.m.

Like all films in the DFT 101 series, admission is just $5 and free for DIA members.

Still from Toast 



"From Britain with Love" features new British cinema chosen by New York's Film Society of Lincoln Center. The series starts June 11 with Toast, based on the bittersweet autobiography of food writer Nigel Slater and co-starring Helena Bonham Carter, and continues for five more weekends in June and July. Other films in the series include In Our Name, the first British film to deal with the aftermath of war from a woman's point of view, and Africa United, a joyous and extraordinary tale of three Rwandan children who trek 3,000 miles to South Africa to attend the Soccer World Cup.

The complete DFT summer schedule is available online at dia.org/dft, or by calling 313.833.3237

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Coming to a street corner or park near you, for the second year in a row, are full-size reproductions of masterworks from the Detroit Institute of Arts collection. Beginning this month, a bigger and better Inside|Out project aims to again connect with audiences outside the museum walls, treating surrounding Southeast Michigan communities as grand, open-air galleries. Different this year is the number of images from the DIA's collection (eighty instead of forty), the length of time the project runs (four rounds of pictures over the course of a year), and a new type of installation (seven or eight reproductions concentrated in town centers or parks rather than spread across a wider area.) Each work will be displayed in an ornate frame, have a plaque with information about it, and list programs, such as guided bike tours, that are offered in selected towns.

Installation starts in June in Milan and then, during July and August, spreads to other communities, including Livonia, Rochester, Novi, Sterling Heights, and St. Clair Shores. For September, October, and November, the action moves to Warren, Birmingham, Lake Orion, Oxford, Belleville, and the Dequindre Cut and Eastern Market in Detroit, as well as other venues. Inside|Out continues in spring 2012 in Mount Clemens, Farmington, Troy, Wyandotte, Canton, and Grosse Pointe, among other cities. The project concludes in summer 2012 in locations that include Royal Oak, Ferndale, Ypsilanti, Dearborn, and Northville.

Centennial Park in Oxford, MI 

Centennial Park in Oxford


Some of the reproductions that were installed in 2010 included Orion Oaks Dog Park in Lake Orion (Chevy by Edwin Henry Landseer, which shows a dog protecting a hunter's prey), Centennial Park in Oxford (Vincent van Gogh's landscape painting Bank of the Oise at Auvers), and Detroit's Michigan Central Station (Syria by the Sea by Frederic Edwin Church).

An interactive map of the locations and works of art installed will be available later this month at www.dia.org.

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Military Families

For the second year, the DIA is offering free general admission to active military personnel and their families (military ID holder and five immediate family members) from now until Labor Day as part of the Blue Star Museums program.

Blue Star Museums is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts; Blue Star Families, a nonprofit organization that works to support America's military families; and more than 1,300 museums across the United States.

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Summer Camps

Summer Camp at the DIA

It's not too early to start thinking about summer activities for the kids because school will be over before you know it. The DIA offers an innovative studio art camp program in a museum filled with great art for children ages five through eight and nine through twelve. Teaching artists introduce campers to a variety of media and creative processes that encourage individual expression. Typical projects include clay masks, multimedia puppets, painted portraits, imaginative drawings, and wood sculpture. While exploring the galleries, participants exercise skills in interpreting art. By the end of the five days, everyone will have a personally meaningful portfolio to share with family and friends. All levels of experience are welcome! Camp size limited to twenty children.

    Session I: July 11-15 9 a.m.-Noon
    Cost: Members $180, Nonmembers $225
  • Ages: Youth 5-8
    Instructors: LaVern Homan & Elizabeth Sutton
  • Ages: Youth 9-12
    Instructors: Kathleen Rashid and Byron Nemela
    Session II: July 25-29 9 a.m.-Noon
    Cost: Members $180, Nonmembers $225
  • Ages: Youth 5-8
    Instructors: Kathleen Rashid & Elizabeth Sutton
  • Ages: Youth 9-12
    Instructors: Vito Valdez & Eric Gill

To register, click here.

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