Museum InfoMedia Room

DIA interior
DIA interior

The New Detroit Institute of Arts Opens November 23

Friday, October 12, 2007

Arts Alive! fundraising gala gives exclusive first-look Saturday, November 10
32-hour public opening with free admission and special events,
Friday, November 23 – Saturday, November 24


Oct. 4, 2007 (Detroit)—On Friday, November 23, the new Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) will open its doors after a six-and-a-half year, $158 million building renovation and expansion to present its world-class collection in a completely new light. Many exciting events will celebrate the long-anticipated opening of Detroit’s own national treasure.

“This is a day that we have been waiting for a long time and we are ready to celebrate,” said Graham W.J. Beal, DIA director.  “I invite the public to come and experience a beautiful new DIA with galleries designed to better engage them with one of the nation’s finest art collections.”

While the museum remained open in some fashion for most of the six-year project, it closed at the end of May this year to complete construction and the reinstallation of art into the galleries.

“After several years of construction and maintaining operations under less than ideal circumstances, we are approaching the finish line,” said Eugene A. Gargaro, Jr., Chairman of the Board, Detroit Institute of Arts. “We could not have accomplished this amazing project without the support of our generous donors – from individuals, corporations, foundations, the City of Detroit, the State of Michigan, DIA members and the general public. Thank you all for your continuing support of your DIA.”

Grand Opening, Friday, November 23
The museum will open with an official grand opening ceremony at the Woodward entrance at 10 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving, and stay open for 32 consecutive hours, closing Saturday, November 24 at 6 p.m.  Free admission and special extended hours will give more people the opportunity to be among the first to see the new DIA and experience its world-class art collection.

Throughout the grand opening celebration, the museum will offer special activities in galleries and public spaces designed to enhance their experience with the DIA’s magnificent collection. Many local artists will be on hand to perform, including live jazz in the American galleries, griots and dancers in the African galleries, and a basket weaver in the Native American galleries.

Arts Alive! Fundraising Gala, Saturday, November 10
Prior to the grand opening, Arts Alive!, the grand opening gala celebration of the new DIA, will be held on Saturday, November 10. Guests will preview the new DIA as they enjoy an extraordinary evening of art experiences on many levels. And while the new DIA will be the main attraction at Arts Alive!, a diverse line-up of international, national and local entertainment will excite and engage partygoers.

Arts Alive! entertainment will include performance painter Michael Israel; the Alex Donner Orchestra; Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet of New York; DJ Cassidy, a favorite of many A-list celebrities; Chris Nuñez, popular tattoo artist from the TLC hit TV show Miami Ink; and, Osadia, provocative hair art street theatre company from Barcelona.

Tickets to Arts Alive! range in price from $200-$600. For details, call (313) 833-7967.

Building Renovation Overview
The renovation project began in 2001, and has provided the DIA with extensive infrastructure upgrades, increased gallery space, expanded visitor amenities, an improved traffic pattern throughout the museum, and a new granite façade on the North and South Wings. Upgrades to the air handling, electrical, temperature and humidity control systems were critical to provide the optimal environment for the collection.

In total the project added nearly 58,000 additional square feet, including the new 31,000 square-foot South Wing addition.

Gallery Reinstallation
Because the DIA’s building renovation necessitated emptying all the galleries, then putting the art back when finished, the project afforded the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rethink how the DIA presents its collection to the public. As a result, more than 5,000 objects have been reinstalled in new and refurbished galleries in a way that will transform the public’s experience with a collection that ranks among the finest in the nation.

Instead of grouping objects strictly by time period or style, many galleries are arranged according to the stories the objects have to tell. Galleries explore themes that resonate with each visitor’s personal experiences, such as spirituality, travel, and the cycles of life. Some examples are:


* Art and the Cycle of Life, displaying objects from African cultures used to commemorate milestones that mark life’s journey: birth, adolescence, marriage and death.

* Grand Tour of Italy, which tells the story of the Grand Tour, taken by wealthy young men in the 18th century to complete their education. Paintings and sculptures from Venice, Florence, Naples and Rome are similar to those a “grand tourist” would have seen and purchased. 

* Images of Spiritual Power, showcasing Native American objects carved with faces and forms of humans and animals. These objects were made to evoke the power and personalities of spirit beings that control the life-giving forces, and played important roles in ceremonies that honored spiritual powers.

* The Dutch Golden Age, showcasing the DIA’s exceptional Dutch collection; here the works of Rembrandt and his contemporaries are installed around a half-dozen stories that convey the themes of faith and industry central to 17th-century Dutch society and culture.

Visitors can now find many more ways to make personal connections with the art, as the DIA’s renowned collection will be presented in its historical, social, political or spiritual context, with improved labels, hands-on activities, and some high-tech “interpretive” devices.

Integration of Technology
The DIA’s newly reinstalled galleries also thoughtfully integrate technology that responds to the needs and expectations of the 21st-century visitor, while enhancing their interaction with the art. Visitors can have a “virtual” dining experience in 18th century Europe or dance with a life-size video of an African ceremony. Digital books will allow the viewer to see multiple pages of a book that before would have only one or two pages displayed at a time. In addition, visitors will be able to use a handheld computer to take a multimedia tour of Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry murals at their own pace and level of interest.

Planning the Reinstallation
To plan the reinstallation, three cross-departmental teams were formed that included curatorial, education, conservation, marketing and development staff. The teams researched the collections, and determined what stories the objects had to tell, then developed ideas or storylines that guided the gallery installations. Art scholars and experts in other fields, such as visitor research, were called in to provide feedback and to vet the intellectual integrity of the teams’ ideas.

The museum also instituted several focus groups to test ideas and solicit feedback on a range of issues. People with a variety of backgrounds, ages, interests and familiarity with museum-going participated over nearly 18 months of discussions. DIA staff collected their perspectives and opinions and listened to the challenges they perceived or faced as museum visitors. This information was used to support new interpretive tools for the reinstallation itself—from touch-screens to concise and clear wall labels—and to address issues of visitor comfort, such as having more seating available in the galleries.

Highlights of the New Visitor-Focused DIA
The new DIA is a more visitor-focused museum with many new highlights designed to enhance one’s overall experience with the museum.  New labels, tours, classes and reading materials provide the widest possible range of ways to engage with art—from aiding the novice museumgoer, to contemplative spaces for the connoisseur. New amenities at the DIA include an expansive new Café DIA, more seating in the galleries, a larger museum shop, and improved way-finding and visitor information.

DFT Auditorium Renovation
The Detroit Institute of Arts' Auditorium, home of the Detroit Film Theatre, presented by JPMorganChase©, also underwent an “extreme makeover.” Renovations to the 1927 theater included repainting, new seating, and updated stage rigging, sound and lighting systems. Adapting the theater’s original 1927 specifications to the current technical needs of a dedicated film venue, the renovation restored the original color palette of gold, silver, deep blue and taupe. 

The refurbishment of all 1,117 original seats achieved the correct historic appearance coupled with modern comfort and safety features. The new seats match 1925 sketches made by Paul Cret, architect of the 1927 building. The original carved wood backs and armrests were restored and reused on new cast iron frames.

Campaign Update
The “Great Art New Start” capital campaign was launched in September 2006 to cover the costs of completing the renovation, expansion and collection reinstallation. To date, just over $100 million of the $180 million goal has been raised. This is an extraordinary accomplishment at a time when the fundraising climate has been challenging. Gifts have come from individuals, corporations and foundations throughout the metropolitan area. 

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Located in the heart of Detroit’s Cultural Center, the Detroit Institute of Arts was founded in 1885 and is recognized as one of the country’s premier art museums. The museum’s approximately 60,000 works of art comprise a multicultural survey of human creativity from prehistory through the 21st century. From the first van Gogh to enter a U.S. museum (Self-Portrait, 1887), to Diego Rivera’s world-renowned Detroit Industry murals, the DIA’s collection reveals the scope and depth of human experience, imagination, and emotion.

Media Contacts  Pamela Marcil 313-833-7899 pmarcil@dia.org
Brendy Barr 248-651-4858 bbarr@dia.org

NOTE: Photos of completed galleries and additional background materials are available upon request.