Detroit Institute of Arts
Location Name: Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan)
Location Type: Museum (Art)
Year Completed: 1927 with 1966, 1971 and 2007 additions
Architect(s): Paul Philippe Cret (Original Building), Gunnar Birkerts, Michael Graves and SmithGroup (Additions)
The Detroit Institute of Arts is a world-class art institution in Detroit’s Cultural Center Historic District. The museum began as the Detroit Museum of Art in 1885. The museum was funded by many wealthy benefactors interested in creating a cultural institution in Detroit; most notably James E. Scripps, a local newspaper magnate. The first painting acquired by the museum was donated in 1883 and the collection grew quickly in the following years. The museum’s first home, a beautiful Romanesque style building on East Jefferson Avenue at Hastings Street in 1888, was demolished in 1960 to make way for the Chrysler Freeway. In 1919 the name of the museum was changed to the Detroit Institute of Arts and it became property of the City of Detroit; ever since the museum and its collections have belonged to the people of Detroit.
With a growing collection, thanks in large to the generosity of the automobile barons of Detroit, the museum soon needed a larger place to display their art. In 1922, Horace Rackham donated a casting of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker which was exhibited at the site of the current building when its construction began. The new building was designed in the Beaux-Arts Italian Renaissance style by architect Paul Philippe Cret. Covered in a white marble exterior, the building was dedicated on 07 October 1927. In 1932, Edsel Ford commissioned the Detroit Industry mural inside the Grand Courtyard (which was covered to protect the work). The museum’s Main Hall became home to William Randolph Hearst’s armor collection. The wealth of artwork on the walls soon outgrew this new home and several additions were added. First, the North Wing (later renamed for Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh) was built in 1966, and the South Wing (later renamed for Edsel and Eleanor Ford) opened in 1971; both were designed by Gunnar Birkerts. Noted theatre architect C. Howard Crane designed the 1,150-seat Detroit Film Theatre at the museum. In 2007 the museum completed a $158 million renovation which covered the exterior of the additions with white marble to match the original Cret building. The renovation also boosted the museum’s floor space to its current 658,000 square feet.
Today the Detroit Institute of Arts is the second largest municipally owned museum in the United States. Its collection has been rated the sixth best of all American art museums and it is valued at over $1 billion. From 2000-2009, the museum’s average attendance reached 393,000 (and this figure would surely have been higher had the museum not been running in a decreased capacity for over three years during the recent renovation). With the completion of the renovation and the recent passage of a tri-county millage to support the museum, the future of the DIA looks as bright as ever.Sources