Midwest Living Review
What's not to love about this world-class museum? Since obtaining its first piece in 1883, the Detroit Institute of Arts has steadily grown as one of the country's best art museums. In the words of director Graham W.J. Beal, "it's one of the great universal collections in the Western Hemisphere." We have toured the museum several times during the past few years, and the sheer breadth of the museum's collections--from African art to the Impressionists--never ceases to wow us. Its European collection, in particular, has benefited from many important donations over the years, including 100 Old Masters paintings from newspaper magnate James Scripps and works by Picasso, Matisse and Beckmann from collector Robert A. Tannahill. Perhaps one of its best-known acquisitions is "Detroit Industry," a series of murals done by Mexican artist Diego Rivera in the 1930s. The work was commissioned by Edsel Ford, son of Ford Motor Co. founder Henry Ford, and depicts the history of Detroit's auto industry and labor force. It is, quite simply, a national treasure. When the museum expanded a couple of years ago, Beal directed the complete reorganization of all 130 galleries. Every piece of art was removed, relabeled and reinstalled. Instead of continuing the past practice of displaying pieces in the staid and arcane art history model, Beal decided to emphasize the human relevance of each piece--why it exists, how it functioned or what it means. The museum also decided to use modern technologies in its new interpretations. An exhibit on ancient Greek wine vessels, for example, includes a life-size silhouette projection of a slave mixing and serving wine to his master. This is quite a departure from the traditional, long accepted approach to exhibits, but somfar, other museums are not following that lead. The DIA admission fee of $8 for adults and $4 for children (including free guided tours in the afternoon) is a bargain compared to prices charged by other large-city art museums. There's also an on-site caf that serves very good sandwiches and has an excellent salad bar.