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DIA exterior at night
DIA exterior at night

Detroit Institute of Arts presents “Dance: American Art, 1830–1960” Vibrant history of dance in America through artists’ eyes on view March 20–June 12

Thursday, January 07, 2016

(Detroit)—The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) presents the multimedia exhibition “Dance: American Art, 1830–1960” from March 20 to June 12, 2016. The exhibition is organized by the DIA and presents more than 90 paintings, sculptures, photographs and costumes brought together for the first time to celebrate and explain the importance of dance in American culture. Works are from the DIA and other leading American and international museums as well as from private collections.

The exhibition brings together some of the greatest 19th-century American artists, including John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer and Mary Cassatt; spotlights the superstars of the Harlem Renaissance, such as Aaron Douglas, William Johnson and James VanDerZee, and features artists who shaped the aesthetics of modern dance, including Isamu Noguchi, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol.

“Dance has such a rich history in America,” said Salvador Salort-Pons, DIA director. “This exhibition provides an opportunity to see the variety of ways a wide range of artists interpret this important aspect of American culture.”

The artworks carry the theme of dance through diverse segments of American culture, among them sacred dances of indigenous North Americans, the history of African American dance forms; paintings from the turn of the 20th century featuring international female superstars; works by Harlem Renaissance artists who challenged negative stereotypes and sought to create and sustain a vibrant cultural identity; and modern objects that demonstrate a fluid dialogue between visual artists, dancers and choreographers.

Among the works featured are “The Jolly Flatboatmen” by George Caleb Bingham, Sargent’s “La Carmencita,” Homer’s “Summer Night,” Warhol’s “Silver Clouds,” Cassatt’s “Bacchante” and nine watercolors by Diego Rivera. Other artists in the show include William Merritt Chase, Florine Stettheimer, Thomas Hart Benton and Faith Ringgold.

Five videos in the exhibition highlight the performance aspect of dance and include historic footage and contemporary dancers discussing and demonstrating American ballet, tap and Detroit’s own dance legacies. These include Haleem Rasul and members of Hardcore Detroit; Michigan native Amber Neumann, currently with the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago; Russ Tallchief, Taildancer for the Greyhorse District of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma and great-nephew of ballet performer Maria Tallchief; Francesca Harper, a choreographer from New York; and Tommy DeFrantz, professor of Dance and African American Studies at Duke University who served as creative director for the videos.

A richly illustrated catalogue published by the Detroit Institute of Arts is the first major investigation of the visual arts related to American dance, offering an unprecedented interdisciplinary overview of dance-inspired works from 1830 to 1960. The book is edited by Jane Dini, associate curator of American art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and former assistant curator of American art at the Detroit Institute of Arts. It features 14 essays by renowned art and dance historians, including Dini, Thomas F. DeFrantz, Lynn Garafola, Dakin Hart, Constance Valis Hill, Analisa Leppanen-Guerra, Valerie J. Mercer, Jacqueline Shea Murphy, Kenneth John Myers, Bruce Robertson and Sharyn R. Udall.

Tickets are $14 for adults, $10 for Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county residents, $7 for ages 6–17, $5 for Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county residents ages 6–17, and free for DIA members. Admission is free for every Friday. School groups need to register in advance. For tickets go to or call 313-833-4005.

“Dance: American Art, 1830–1960” will travel to the Denver Art Museum, July 10–October 2, 2016 and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, Oct. 22, 2016–Jan. 16, 2017.

The exhibition has been organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts. Support has been provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support has been provided by the Marjorie and Maxwell Jospey Foundation and an ADAA Foundation Curatorial Award and the Association of Art Museum Curators.

Support for the catalogue has been provided by the Ida and Conrad Smith Fund.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Museum Hours and Admission
9 a.m.–4 p.m. Tuesdays–Thursdays, 9 a.m.–10 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. General admission (excludes ticketed exhibitions) is free for Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county residents and DIA members. For all others, $12.50 for adults, $8 for seniors ages 62+, $6 for ages 6–17. For membership information, call 313-833-7971.


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.