DIA eNews August 2011

In This Issue
Director's Letter
Jazz It Up
Adult Camps
Fash Bash

Director's Letter

Graham W.J. Beale, Director 

The DIA's been getting some national media attention recently from two very different directions that both focus on the art collection while giving a very good idea of the range of issues facing the art museum world today.

One is the Inside|Out program. As I've mentioned before, this originated last year with an idea stolen from the National Gallery, London, whereby we put forty high-quality reproductions of works of art in unusual spots in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw counties. The response was so favorable that we have expanded the program this year to ten exhibitions of seven or eight pieces each that will be seen in twenty communities this summer and fall and in another group next year. It represents the kind of things institutions are doing to connect with the general public and create the "museum without walls" posited by André Malraux decades ago in his book Le Musée Imaginaire. Of course, the internet has transformed things in our world in ways unimaginable in Malraux's times, but it is interesting to see evidence of how much value the actual object retains in an ever-expanding virtual universe. We hope that seeing the reproductions will inspire people to come and view the real thing, but the reproductions themselves, of a quality also unimaginable a few decades ago, are proving to be wonderful stand-ins. Only one of my fellow directors has expressed misgivings to me about using reproductions in this way but, in the end, it's obvious what they are, and a perfectly flat reproduction of, say, Monet's Gladioli, no matter how excellent, cannot substitute for the impasto surface of the real thing hanging on our walls. Google, by the way, came up with 2,160,000 results for "museum without walls."

The other issue involves changing the use of restricted funds. For more than a century, the DIA's priority was to build a proverbially world-class collection and, 126 years after its founding, we can claim to have one of the finest of its kind in the Western hemisphere, if not the world. Two individuals associated with the DIA in the years when the collection was being given its present standing--I'd say from 1920 to 1970--left considerable endowments to pursue this objective. But, at a time when the DIA is struggling for every penny to keep operating, collecting is no longer quite the priority it was. After much thought, I approached the trustees of the two funds and asked, given the current situation, whether they would consider the temporary diversion of income from the funds to operating costs for five years. (The principal would not be touched.) They agreed and, with all the legal "i's" and t's'' dotted and crossed, we now have $2 million a year to help us toward our formidable annual fund-raising goals. The DIA's business model was based on having considerable public funds every year for operating, and we either have to restore that model somehow or create a new one based on an unrestricted operating endowment--something not done overnight! If we cannot do so, the diverted funds in and of themselves will not be enough to keep us healthy, and I do not envision this diversion as anything other than a temporary expedient.

At a recent meeting of the Association of Art Museum Directors, a number of my colleagues questioned this tactic (the DIA is not alone in this) on the basis that the minds of deceased individuals cannot be second-guessed. In our situation, those involved felt comfortable that this is what their relatives would have done. In one case, there is evidence that the donor helped pay staff salaries in the Great Depression, after the city's Arts Commission had formally voted to dismiss all curators and educators. My high-school history teacher liked to say "all ages are ages of transition," and that is certainly the case today. Changing circumstances call for unusual measures, but I like to think the changes we're making are directly related to our mission: creating places for visitors to make personal connections with art.

Graham Beal Signature
Graham W. J. Beal

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Albrecht Dürer, Recumbent Lion


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

Through September 25, 2011
Schwartz Galleries of Prints and Drawings

Rosa Bonheur, Sketches of Rabbits

Rosa Bonheur, French; Sketches of Rabbits, mid/late 19th century; black crayon. Detroit Institute of Arts Collection


Artists have been depicting animals since the days of cave paintings. But just as there are many ways of visualizing creatures great and small, so too are there different ways for artists to study their subject matter.

Some went directly to the source, seeking out animals in the wild or in domesticated habitats and drawing them from life. The great nineteenth-century animal painter Rosa Bonheur was committed to direct observation from nature throughout her career, sketching rabbits found in neighboring gardens and fields (left) or traveling to stockyards to study the anatomy of livestock.

John James Audubon, on the other hand, took his work home with him. He headed out into the wilds armed with paint box and gun to hunt birds. Then, with skills learned as a museum taxidermist, he preserved the specimens and used wires to prop them into a natural position, unlike the more common practice of many ornithologists, who prepared and stuffed their finds into rigid poses.

Jane Hammond also works with specimens, but she didn't go out, net in hand, to catch the ones represented in her All Souls: Zungeru. She began purchasing specimens of butterflies years ago and now owns at least 300 different species. A specimen arrives in a cellophane envelope with its wings folded and she steams them open. She digitally scans the insects, both front and back; enlarges or reduces copies to fit her composition; and then cuts out individual butterflies by hand. She paints the white edges, glues on horsehair antennae, and rolls rice paper saturated with glue for bodies, to give the delicate creatures appropriate definition.

It isn't always clear where artists find their animal models. Did Albrecht Dürer see a live lion in late fifteenth-century Germany? It's possible. Lions could be found in European menageries (forerunner of zoos) as early as the 1300s. On the other hand, Dürer's woodcut of a rhinoceros was derived from a sketch and description that he obtained. The Recumbent Lion (above) included in this exhibition has some naturalistic details, but its face includes human features, making the animal look like, if nothing else, an eerily prescient version of the cowardly lion in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

Above: Albrecht Dürer, German; Recumbent Lion, ca. 1494/95; brush and brown ink, black chalk, watercolor. Gift of Abris Silberman

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Detroit Film Theatre

Verdi's Macbeth Courtesy Emerging Pictures 

Verdi's Macbeth. Courtesy Emerging Pictures


Check out two very different interpretations of William Shakespeare's drama Macbeth at the DFT this month. Start with Verdi's operatic version (left) of the timeless story of power and corruption on Thursday, August 11, followed by Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood, an ingenious adaptation of the play set in sixteenth-century Japan, on Saturday, August 13.

Verdi's evocative music brings Shakespeare's drama to life on the stage of London's Royal Opera House in a performance recorded in June before a sold-out audience. British baritone Simon Keenlyside stars as Macbeth, the titular tormented ruler of Scotland, and Martina Serafin as his villainously ambitious wife, who spurs him to murder for the sake of his career. Verdi thought the play "one of the greatest creations of man" and, along with his librettist, set out in 1847 to make "something out of the ordinary" on the operatic stage. The composer's masterstrokes include the macabre choruses for the witches and the increased role for the "ugly and evil" Lady Macbeth. Sung in Italian with English subtitles. (3 hours including one intermission)

Throne of Blood 

Toshiro Mifune in Throne of Blood. Courtesy Janus Films


Kurosawa's 1957 Throne of Blood (left) is the definitive example of not only Shakespeare's universality but also of how a classic can be completely reinterpreted in another medium without forsaking its soul. The celebrated actress Isuzu Yamada is mesmerizing as the Lady Macbeth character (you'll never forget her hand-washing scene), who goads her warrior husband (Toshiro Mifune) into murdering his warlord and seizing the throne for himself. Throne of Blood tells its tale with a swift, muscular narrative thrust with an ending as stylized as kabuki and as satisfying as a great American western. In Japanese with English subtitles. (105 min.)

Two documentaries from 2010 round out the summer season. In Nostalgia for the Light, director Patricio Guzmán (The Battle of Chile) travels 10,000 feet above sea level to the driest place on earth, Chile's Atacama Desert, where the sky is so translucent that it allows astronomers to see the very boundaries of the universe. The Atacama is also a place where the harsh heat keeps human remains intact: those of Pre-Columbian mummies; nineteenth-century explorers and miners; and the remains of political prisoners, "disappeared" after the military coup of September 1973. This deeply personal, cosmic odyssey melds the celestial quest of the astronomers with the earthly ones of families who still search for their dead. In Spanish with English subtitles. (90 min.)

!Women Art Revolution 

An entertaining and revelatory "secret history" of feminist art, !Women Art Revolution (left) deftly illuminates this underexplored movement through conversations, observations, archival footage, and works of visionary artists, curators, and critics. The film details major developments in women's art starting from its roots in 1960s antiwar and civil rights protests through the 1970s and explores the tenacity of pioneering artists Miranda July, The Guerilla Girls, Yvonne Rainer, Judy Chicago, Marina Abramovic, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Ingrid Sischy, Carolee Schneemann, and Miriam Schapiro, among others. (83 min.)

Eleanor's Secret 

Eleanor's Secret


New this summer is two evenings of the DFT under the stars at Stoney Creek Metropark. Summer Cinema Evenings, Friday, August 19, and Saturday, August 20, feature family friendly animated films shown on a sixty-foot screen at the metropark's Baypoint Beach, beginning at dusk. Friday's movie is Eleanor's Secret, (left) a tale of a magic library where all the characters from classic children's books come alive. On Saturday, the show is Mia and the Migoo, about the journey of a young girl, who must overcome her fears on a quest to find her father and save the world from destruction. The winning entries of the Romeo Student Film Festival 2011 will be shown both nights. Moviegoers can bring blankets, chairs, food, and beverages (no glass please) and concessions will also be available. Aside from the $5 per vehicle park admission, this event is free to the public. Stony Creek Metropark is located at 4300 Park Rd., Shelby Township, MI 48316 (on 26 Mile Road, west of Mound Rd.)

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

Primary funding for Summer Cinema Evenings comes from the Detroit Institute of Arts' Detroit Film Theatre and Mi Community Media in collaboration with the Huron Clinton Metroparks. Sponsors also include Romeo/Washington/Bruce Parks and Recreation Dept.; Macomb County Dept. of Planning & Economic Development; and Bruce, Shelby, and Washington townships.

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Jazz it Up

Jeff Tain Watts 

Get a preview of this year's Detroit Jazz Festival when the event's artist in residence, Jeff "Tain" Watts, performs with Kresge-grant recipient Haleem Rasul and his break-dancing collective Hardcore Detroit at the DIA's Friday Night Live on August 26 at 7 and 8:30 p.m. Watts has twice been voted "Best Drummer" by Modern Drummer Magazine and is one of the most influential drummers on today's music scene. He majored in percussion/timpani at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, but it was at the Berklee College of Music in Boston that he began honing his unmistakable style along with Kevin Eubanks, Greg Osby, and Marvin "Smitty" Smith. Beginning in 1981, Watts played for seven years with the Wynton Marsalis Quartet before spending three years with the Branford Marsalis Quartet. Watts has the distinction of being the only musician on all Grammy Award-winning jazz recordings by Wynton and Branford Marsalis.

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Adult Summer Camps

Why should kids have all the fun this summer? Check out the DIA's one-day summer camps for adults, where grownups are welcome to have their own summer fun with these midday art-making classes.

    Printmaking: Scratching the Surface
  • Thursday, August 4
  • 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Take inspiration from the DIA's rich print collection and explore simple printmaking methods from a selection of found and alternative materials. Class size limited to twenty people.
    Coil-Built Planters
  • Sunday, August 7
  • 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Make a clay pot that any plant would be happy to call home. Projects will be fired for pick-up at a later date. Class size limited to twenty people.

Cost: Members $36, nonmembers $48

Click here for more information or to register online.

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Still from the DIA's Catapult 

There's only a month left to see the DIA's current Inside|Out installations of high-quality reproductions of museum masterpieces. The art works will leave the streets and parks of New Baltimore, Romeo, Sterling Heights, St. Clair Shores, Rochester, Howell, Novi, Milan, Brooklyn, Manchester, and Livonia at the end of August so the outdoor galleries can be installed in other communities in September. The remaining free admission Sundays at the DIA for this first group of cities are Novi, August 7; Rochester, August 14; St. Clair Shores, August 21; and Sterling Heights, August 28. Residents who provide a driver's license or state ID on the designated date for their city receive four free general admissions to the DIA.

The next stops for Inside|Out displays are Armada, Warren, Macomb Township, Birmingham, Franklin, Holly, Milford, Lake Onion, Oxford, Belleville, and Detroit's Eastern Market and Dequindre Cut.

Check the DIA Web site this month and next for specific locations of art in your town and for the dates of free days.

Inside/Out 2011 is sponsored by DTE Energy Foundation.

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Fash Bash®

Celebrate summer nights and city lights with an evening of fashion, food, and frivolity as Fash Bash® is held for the first time in its thirty-five-year history at the DIA. The Founders Junior Council is partnering with Neiman Marcus for an Art of Fashion runway show in the Great Hall and festivities that spill outside on the museum's lawn and front stairs, giving passersby on Woodward something spectacular to see.

"It will be a street carnival theme with fun foods and cocktails, and beautifully dressed people," says event co-chair Lauren Rakolta. The celebration of art and fashion begins Thursday, August 18, at 7 p.m., with a late-night after party starting at 9 p.m. Tickets are $75 to $500, with all proceeds benefiting the DIA. Click here for more information or to purchase tickets.

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