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Detroit Institute of Arts’ new “Guest of Honor” is large-scale painting by Julie Mehretu “Looking Back to a Bright New Future” on loan for two years

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

(Detroit)—The Detroit Institute of Arts’ newest “Guest of Honor” is a 2003 painting by African-born artist Julie Mehretu entitled “Looking Back to a Bright New Future,” on loan from a private collection for approximately two years. Visitors can view the painting in the second floor contemporary art galleries.

This Guest of Honor is the first in a series of loans highlighting the work of artists from diverse backgrounds, part of the DIA’s “Reflecting Our Community” initiative that aims to have the museum’s attendance mirror the region’s racial and ethnic demographics by 2020. Future loans include works by Robert Duncanson, Archibald Motley, Henry Ossawa Tanner and contemporary artist Sanford Biggers.

Mehretu has long been interested in the legacy of modernist visionary architecture, and “Looking Back to a Bright New Future” evokes a sense of speed, dynamism, struggle and potential associated with the early-20th-century utopian promise of a better future. This painting highlights the idealism of new urban planning in postcolonial Africa. Drawings resemble schematic maps of planned neighborhoods. Atlas markings of dots refer to economic centers, and colorful irregular shapes suggest countries in Africa. The density of imagery implies the range and complexity of issues facing African nations competing for a brighter future in the global economy.

“Mehretu’s rich personal history—she emigrated from Ethiopia to Michigan with her parents at age seven—is reflected in her work,” said Salvador Salort-Pons, DIA director. “Artists from diverse backgrounds tell stories that are often not highlighted in traditional art museums, and we are committed to elevating these stories and sharing them with all of our visitors.”

In 2007 the DIA hosted an exhibition of Mehretu’s work called “City Sitings,” the inaugural exhibition of the museum’s grand reopening following a six-year renovation and gallery reinstallation project.

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.