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DIA interior
DIA interior

Detroit Institute Of Arts Presents “Greatest Hits” From The Collection

Monday, September 20, 2004

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) showcases masterpieces from its renowned collection in the special installation Remix. The presentation is an innovative response to space challenges created by the construction necessary for the DIA’s renovation and expansion project. Breaking with the tradition of displaying art chronologically and strictly by geography, paintings, sculpture and decorative objects from different regions and eras are arranged according to shared themes. These installations reveal the depth and range of the DIA’s collection and encourage viewers to examine works across time, nationality, and media to find new connections in the art. Remix is on view for the duration of the museum’s building project, scheduled for completion in 2007. The DIA will also maintain an active schedule of special exhibitions during renovations.

“The DIA’s renovation and expansion project is about helping our visitors freely approach, enjoy and learn from art, and we’ve applied the same principles to Remix,” said Graham W. J. Beal, DIA director. “We’ve pooled our creative energy and developed a new, interim strategy to present the collection around themes that have immediate meaning to most people. We’re pleased to offer visitors a different experience with masterpieces they love while we prepare to re-open the expanded museum with an entirely new installation of the collection in 2007.”

Remix features masterpieces such as Pieter Bruegel’s The Wedding Dance, the Nigerian Palace Door, Benny Andrews’ Portrait of a Collagist, and the Korean Head of Buddha in renovated, thematic galleries, allowing for the most engaging display of as many important works as possible. Ten galleries juxtapose art from the African-American, American, European, and Modern and Contemporary collections according to the following themes: art and the natural world, art and spirituality, everyday life, fantastic imagery, and the individual. An additional 10 galleries showcase important works from the African, Asian, Islamic, Indian and Southeast Asian, Ancient Near Eastern, Greek and Roman, Native American, and Ancient American collections according to themes such as: animals as symbols of power, privilege and social power, art and cultural traditions, and divine and earthly power.

The renovation and expansion underway at the DIA is designed by architect Michael Graves, and will provide new gallery space and an enhanced visitor experience. The project will enable the museum to display more art from its collection and offer additional programming that connects the community to its exceptional resources. A centerpiece of the project is the reinstallation of the DIA’s permanent collection and the introduction of new interpretive tools for visitors that will encourage direct engagement with the art. The project also includes a 35,000 square-foot addition, as well as upgrades and new amenities in the existing building.

About Remix

The DIA’s “greatest hits” installation showcases approximately 600 works from the museum’s comprehensive collections. Remix is the result of intensive collaboration between the DIA’s curators and educators. The process involved curators selecting the strongest pieces in the collection, then working in teams to develop themes and interpretive strategies that would allow viewers to see the art from multiple perspectives.

“Through Remix, DIA scholars have been impressed anew by the quality and depth of our permanent collection, and invigorated to reveal more of the stories held within the collection,” said George Keyes, DIA chief curator. “Some of the juxtapositions in Remix will appear natural and seamless, while others may seem unusual and startling. We hope Remix will encourage discussion and deeper understanding of art across time and region.”

Art and the Natural World

Among the topics explored in this section are: man versus nature, nature’s diversity, idealized visions of nature, nature as symbol, nature as inspiration, and the passage of time in the natural world. Jacob van Ruisdael’s The Jewish Cemetery (1655–60) symbolizes the notions of time, decay, and resurrection. Other works in this section include: Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Tall Case Clock (1882–83), Willem De Kooning’s Merritt Parkway (1959), George Seurat’s View of Le Crotoy from Upstream (1889), and Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure (1939).

Art and Spirituality

A section exploring Western spiritual themes from the medieval period to the present day illustrates how ideas of spirituality have changed and remained the same over time. Works such as Joos van der Beke van Cleve’s The Adoration of the Magi (ca. 1525) illuminate how artists have played a major role in helping Christians live by the moral codes dictated by church doctrine. By contrast, Mark Rothko’s Orange Brown (1963) color field painting illustrates how modern and contemporary artists have developed an approach to spirituality not associated with a specific religion. This section also presents Rembrandt van Rijn’s The Visitation (1640) with Paula Moderson-Becker’s Old Peasant Woman (1905–6), Wassily Kandinsky’s Study for Painting with White Form (1913), and Kiki Smith’s Lot’s Wife (1997).

Everyday Life

This section explores elements of everyday life—from furniture to rituals to leisure time. Works include Pieter Bruegel’s celebrated The Wedding Dance (ca. 1566), which depicts an ancient customary dance done as part of wedding celebrations in the Netherlands. A popular leisure-time activity for the French elite, attending horse races, is illustrated by Edward Degas’ Jockeys on Horseback before Distant Hills (1884). Visitors will recognize a familiar everyday object in Claes Oldenburg’s Giant Three-Way Plug (1970), a wooden sculpture included in this section.

Fantastic Imagery

This section demonstrates the range of ways artists create images of unknown worlds, imagined creatures, or stories that have been heard but never seen. Two works included in this gallery are Henri Fuseli’s The Nightmare (1781), an embodiment of unpredictability and the occult, and Max Ernst’s Moonmad (1944), a sculpture of an android-like figure with abstract shapes standing in for human body parts.

The Individual

This section reveals how painters and sculptors have used the immediacy of facial expressions to connect us with their time and place. Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait (1887) is presented along with Max Beckmann’s Self-Portrait in Olive and Brown (1945), Andy Warhol’s Double Self-Portrait (1967), and Pablo Picasso’s Seated Woman (1960). This section also features works by Rembrandt Peale, Otto Dix, Joan Miró, Franz Kline, Paul Cézanne, Alberto Giacometti, Henri Matisse, Thomas Gainsborough, Giovanni Bellini, and Richard Pousette-Dart, among others.

Animals as Symbols

This theme runs through works in the African, Native American, Islamic and Asian galleries and shows how animals have been used as symbols to assert individuality, collective identities, hierarchies, forms of spirituality, and leadership. This section includes a Ceremonial Costume (20th century) made by the Gurunsi people of Burkina Faso in West Africa , possibly for religious purposes. The installation also includes a Birdstone (ca. 1500–1000 BCE) from the Great Lakes region made of banded slate and resembling a seated bird, created to bring success to hunts.

Privilege and Social Power

Art from ancient Mexico, Central America and Perú made by artists who served kings or royal families offers insights on privilege and social power. Works date as far back as 2,500 years. A ceramic Figurine of the Moon Goddess and an Old Man (ca. 700), from the tomb of Mayan royalty, symbolizes the journey of the royal dead through the underworld. A Mace Head (ca. 300) from Costa Rica illustrates how leaders in ancient Central America symbolized their political and religious authority through images of powerful animals.

Art and Cultural Traditions

The intersection between art and cultural traditions is represented through exquisite works of ceramic, painting, sculpture, and lacquerware from China, Korea, and Japan. The Chinese Palace Bowl with Garden Scenes (ca. 1426–30) is a superb work of blue and white porcelain, a renowned Chinese art form developed as a result of cross-cultural contact within the Mongol empire that ruled China from 1279 to 1368. The Korean Tea Bowl with Incised Floral Designs and Metal Rim (ca. 1000–1100), which was called “incomparable under heaven” by the Chinese, is also displayed. In Japan, wood is preferred for making Buddhist sculptures, and a delicately carved Rakan, one of 500 disciples of Buddha, is featured in these galleries.

Divine and Earthly Power

An installation of Indian and Southeast Asian works showcases how art has been used to represent divine or earthly power, and illustrates cultural and philosophical connections throughout the traditions of India and Southeast Asia. Divine power is represented in the fine bronze figures of the Hindu god Shiva and his consort Parvati. Earthly power is expressed in secular objects in ivory, bone, and ceramic, decorated with symbols of royal authority. Works in this section also include an Indonesian Ceremonial Dagger (or Keris) Handle made in the 16th century out of carved antler, which embodied the owner’s spirit and power.

The Arts of Islam

Calligraphy is the most revered of all Islamic arts, and the installation features several Qur’an (Koran) manuscripts, as well as different styles of calligraphy on ceramics, glass, and tiles. Included is the manuscript Ardashir Battling Bahman, Son of Ardavan (ca. 1335–36), which is perhaps the earliest, most important Islamic manuscript to have survived to the present day. The installation also features exquisite textiles, which were highly prized by royalty.

About the Detroit Institute of Arts

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.

Visitor Information

Museum hours are 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Fridays, and 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

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Programs are made possible with support from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the City of Detroit