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DIA exterior at night
DIA exterior at night

Detroit Institute of Arts showcases renowned Collection of Italian Sculpture and Decorative Arts in presentation at Italian American Cultural Society

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Contact: Pamela Marcil 313-833-7899 

DIA Senior Curator Alan Darr to speak about how the DIA’s stellar collection was developed

(Detroit)—The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) brings a taste of its stellar collection of Italian sculpture and decorative arts to the Italian American Cultural Society in Clinton Township in a talk on April 10 at 7 p.m. Alan Phipps Darr, DIA senior curator of European art and curator of European sculpture and decorative arts, will illustrate the fascinating story of how the DIA’s collection of Italian sculpture and decorative arts, one of the top three outside of Europe, came together. 

The event is free, but registration is required, and seats are expected to fill quickly. To register, call 313-833-7971.

Darr will share the compelling story of how the Italian collection was built during the tenures of some of the DIA’s great directors, primarily German art historian, curator and scholar William Valentiner, director from 1924 to 1945. Darr will also talk about the importance of major DIA patrons and curators in amassing such an impressive collection throughout the years..

“While hundreds of thousands of visitors enjoy art at the DIA every year, most are not aware of how our collections came together,” said Darr. “I’m delighted to be able to share how the Italian sculpture and decorative arts collection was formed over the past century by relating the stories of the people, market factors, key exhibitions and other events that contributed to making this collection among the top in the country.”

The DIA’s collection of Italian sculpture contains outstanding works from the first to the early 20th century, displayed with related works in period–style galleries. Artists represented read like a “who’s who” of Italian master sculptors, among them Nino Pisano, whose marble sculpture Virgin and Child is one of his masterworks; Luca della Robia, whose Genoa Madonna, an elegant enamel and gilded terracotta sculpture, is considered the best of its type; and Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, whose rare terracotta and stucco Model for Chair of Saint Peter is the only surviving sculptural model for the focal point of the apse of Saint Peter’s basilica in Rome. 

Darr has been with the DIA since 1978 and has organized major international exhibitions and co-authored catalogues for Italian Renaissance Sculpture in the Time of Donatello and The Medici, Michelangelo, and the Art of Late Renaissance Florence, among many others. Darr co-authored the DIA’s The Dodge Collection of Eighteenth-Century French and English Art in the Detroit Institute of Arts, the two-volume Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Detroit Institute of Arts and Italian Renaissance and Later Ceramics at the DIA. In 2007 Darr received the Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà Italiana (Knight of the Order of the Star of Italian Fellowship), awarded by the Italian government for 25 years of his valued contributions to Italian art and culture. 


The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), one of the premier art museums in the United States, is home to more than 60,000 works that comprise a multicultural survey of human creativity from ancient times through the 21st century. From the first Van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum (Self-Portrait, 1887), to Diego Rivera's world-renowned Detroit Industry murals (1932–33), the DIA’s collection is known for its quality, range and depth. The DIA’s mission is to create opportunities for all visitors to find personal meaning in art.

Programs are made possible with support from residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.