Curating a community through art

My tenure at the DIA started in February 2008 (10 years ago!), when I was appointed Assistant Curator of European Paintings. As a DIA curator, I researched our extraordinary painting collection, enhanced our permanent galleries by displaying our artwork in new ways, curated temporary exhibitions, visited private and public art collections with our patrons, and identified new works for acquisition among many other things -- the work curators perform is one of the most interesting in the museum profession because of the multiplicity of duties that it entails.Of all these activities, some of my fondest memories relate to finding new artwork to add to our European collection. Exploring art auctions, visiting art galleries and attending art fairs were some of the ways I would find new paintings the DIA acquired for our community. It was also a way to share our knowledge and insight with patrons and advise them on their own art collecting activities, which eventually would secure future art gifts for our collection. The DIA is one of the few museums in the country that has significant endowments for art acquisitions. We created these endowments with very generous monetary gifts from philanthropists who wanted the DIA to continue growing its collections, providing funds that can be used only for purchasing art. Among these special funds, it is worth noting the ones designated by Robert H. Tannahill and by Rosemarie Kanzler for the benefit of the DIA and its community --- though there are many others.

In January we opened a new gallery, “Out of the Crate: New Gifts and Purchases,” where we showcase some of the new art objects that have entered our collection, including African, African American, American, Asian, European, Islamic, Latin American and Native American art among other collecting areas. Of course, we will not be able to show everything at once, but it will be a place where our visitors will have a sense of the growth, richness and diversity of our collections in which all our communities can see themselves reflected. In this space we also shed light on the thorough processes that we follow before acquiring any art or accepting any gift -- the extensive research that conservators and curators undertake as well as the logistics related to bringing art into our building, which involves the work of many different teams.

Sidliks 2
Purchasing art for the DIA is a much more complex activity than one might think and this new gallery allows us to be transparent about one of the lesser known but extraordinarily fascinating parts of our operation. It has also been a nice treat for me to go back to my curatorial roots and pull together this display. In the meantime, our curators continue doing their research, bringing great masterpieces on loan to the DIA, exploring the art market in search for new objects and helping our patrons with their collecting activities. And while our art acquisition endowments will continue supporting the growth of our collection, we are very pleased to announce a new contribution to our operating endowment to support the work of our curatorial team. DIA patrons and long-time members, Tom Sidlik and Rebecca Boylan, have named the position of curator of European Art (1850 – 1950), which from now on will be the Rebecca A. Boylan and Thomas W. Sidlik Curator of European Art (1850-1950). We are extremely grateful for Rebecca and Tom’s support. In giving back so generously to the community, their gift will help us secure strong curatorial talent and bring extraordinary art to the DIA for the benefit of everyone in Detroit, the tri-county area, our state and beyond.


Categories:  From The Director