The DIA creates experiences that help each visitor find personal meaning in art.
More than a year ago, I received a phone call informing me that the DIA’s Rivera murals, Detroit Industry, had been nominated as a National Historic Landmark. Concerned about the practical implications of the designation, I tried to find out what effect it might have on the museum. (The eminently reversible architectural changes I made in the renovation of the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, I was told by a Nebraska state official, would not have been allowed had the building been designated as historic.) In sporadic conversations and some lengthy e-mails with people at the National Park Service over the next few weeks, I was given to understand, in no uncertain terms that, as the City of Detroit was the owner of the murals, Detroit Institute of Arts Inc. (the private organization that operates the museum for the city) had no legal standing in the matter and that my request for a delay in the proceedings had been denied. By this time, the furor over the Detroit Emergency Manager’s implicit threat to sell DIA art was at its height, and I didn’t want additional emphasis on the “value” of the collection.
Twelve months later, the circumstances could hardly be more different. The state attorney general issued an opinion that the DIA’s collection is held by the city of Detroit in trust for the people of Michigan and a multifaceted solution that both saves retired city workers from savage cuts to their pensions and secures the DIA’s collection, building, and grounds in perpetuity, is moving forward. I hope I am not tempting fate to say that we can, perhaps, return to talking more about the art collection’s intrinsic worth. Certainly, the outpouring of feelings for the murals has been both astounding and moving. The museum’s Facebook posting of the announcement elicited more than 2,000 “likes” (as opposed to the more normal few hundred) and over 150 comments. These comments are powerful testimony to the meaning of art in peoples’ lives and the need to preserve this kind of legacy for our children and our children’s children:
“It’s Detroit on a wall! Anyone who went on field trips to the museum as a kid remembers the WOW you felt when you first saw it. Even today I’m amazed at the beauty of it!”
“The first time I saw these amazing images was probably in 5th grade on a school field trip. My grandfather, dad, and all of my uncles worked in the auto factories. I was and still am in awe of the detail and compassion Mr. Rivera was able to convey.”
“Just visited recently after 25 years. I cried, then got my picture taken with my kids in front of it.”
The murals were the source of considerable controversy when they were revealed in 1933 and central to it was the nature of the subject matter. At the time, quite a few viewers were appalled by the subject matter–auto manufacturing in the heart of an art museum!–but just as many, if not more, rejoiced in the sight of themselves in such august surroundings, exactly as our viewers do today.
Through June 1 Special Exhibition Galleries: South
Tapered Flower Basket with Arrow Shafts, 20th century, bamboo, old arrow shafts, rattan, lacquer; Tanabe Chikuunsai II, Japanese. Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The John R. van Derlip Fund; purchase from the collection of Elizabeth and Willard Clark
Quiver with Design and Arrowroot and Pampas Grass, 1500s, lacquer, wood, paper, gold powder; Unknown Artist, Japan. Founders Society Purchase with funds from an anonymous donor
What happens to the samurai warrior and all his regalia when the fighting ends? As warfare became less prevalent during the Edo period (1603-1868), samurai military equipment, including razor sharp swords with intricately worked trappings, helmets, and armor, were seen as powerful displays of warrior heritage, pride, and power.
The samurai were essentially swords for hire in the service of Japan’s nobility. They underwent intense military training to wield a sword with unwavering focus and respect but were also expected to be patrons of the arts immersed in literature and painting. The exhibition covers both sides, presenting weaponry, armor, and fierce face marks alongside painted silk screens and finely crafted tea ceremony objects.
The samurai were officially disbanded in 1876 and were no longer permitted to carry swords. Weapons and decorative fittings were recycled and given new purposes–arrow shafts were crafted into baskets (left), sword sheaths refashioned as bonsai basins, tiny ornaments on sword handles, originally intended to improve grip, became small pill boxes and water droppers.
Only four weeks remain to see Samurai: Beyond the Sword. Through May 18, adults can use our coupon to receive $4 off the regularly priced $16 ticket. The coupon is only available online and must be printed out. Use the code on the coupon for online or telephone orders.Tickets for ages 6 to 17 are $8. Purchase at the DIA Box Office, dia.org, or 313.833.4005. A $3.50 charge applies to nonmember tickets not purchased at the DIA. Tickets are timed, and advance purchase is recommended.
Members, as always, see the exhibition free, but reservations for complimentary timed tickets are necessary and are available by calling the Membership Helpline, 313.833.7971, or online. There are no handling charges when ordering member tickets.
Above: The Battles of Ichinotani and Yashima (detail), mid-1600s, ink and gold on paper; Unknown Artist, Japan. Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Gift of Elizabeth and Willard Clark
This exhibition is organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts, based on the original exhibition Lethal Beauty, curated by Dr. Andreas Marks for the Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture, with tour organized by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.
In Detroit, the exhibition is generously supported by Toyota, DENSO International America, Inc., E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, and Yazaki North America, Inc.
Let Me Show You What I Saw American Views on City and Country, 1912-1963
Schwartz Galleries of Prints and Drawings Through June 29
Untitled, 1949, pen and black ink over graphite pencil; Saul Steinberg, American. Gift of the J. L. Hudson Gallery
The personal visions of city and country by numerous artists in this exhibition are brought full circle by Saul Steinberg‘s humorously critical pen and ink drawings tracing life from the hectic metropolis to a bucolic rural existence. The five drawings that conclude the show were selected from 25 that Steinberg, a noted New Yorker cartoonist, was commissioned to create for a large mural included in the DIA’s 1949 exhibition For Modern Living.
In the first of the five drawings, Steinberg presents a quirky city filled with interesting shops, a cinema, car-filled streets, and clever architecture suggesting an energetic and bustling place. The second contrasts long rows of monotonous city blocks, factories, power lines, and a supermarket to several cottages and a Victorian mansion in a landscaped setting. The third is dominated by a huge skyscraper, where a tiny figure is seen plummeting from its heights. The fourth drawing shows “city people” unloading modern furniture into the rural Victorian mansion. This story concludes with a scruffy dog basking in the sun and seemingly content people lounging in hammocks and other comfortable furniture both outdoors and inside.
The mural was the only graphic element to be found in For Modern Living, which was filled with glass, pottery, textiles, and furniture that exemplified modern design. Installed in a niche at the beginning of the show, the mural was crafted from photographically enlarged details taken from the set of drawings, although not all scenes and details were included. The mural was destroyed after the exhibition and no photographs exist of it installed in the galleries. Panels from the mural were reproduced in the exhibition catalogue.
In his charming and funny drawings, Steinberg manages to create a strong statement about quality of life issues. Like all of the works in the exhibition, these drawings ask viewers to pause and to question exactly what the artist was attempting to convey about the spirit of the times.
This exhibition, organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts, is free with museum admission.
Walter Gibbs Gallery, Wayne and Joan Webber Education Wing Through June 8
Mommy with Her Babies, mixed media; Enrique Rocha, Academy of the Americas, Grade 1
More than 400 imaginative works of art created by Detroit Public Schools students are on view in and around the Gibbs Center gallery for the Seventy-seventh Annual Detroit Public Schools Student Exhibition. Kindergarteners through high school students from twenty-six schools submitted paintings, prints, drawings, photography, ceramics, videos, jewelry, and other types of work for consideration by a jury of local artists, school officials, and a DIA representative..
The Seventy-seventh Annual Detroit Public Schools Student Exhibition was organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Detroit Public Schools and is made possible with support from the Ruth T. T. Cattell Education Endowment Fund.
This exhibition, organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts, is free with museum admission.
The final weeks of Samurai: Beyond the Sword are filled with all manner of related activities–martial arts demonstrations, an evening of Japanese drumming and a samurai film, a talk on modern-day puppets based on older Japanese examples, a fashion show of samurai-inspired garments, double-discount for members on purchases at the exhibition shop, and a guest appearance by the DIA’s samurai at a Tiger game.
The DIA celebrates Japanese Boys Day, a tradition that honors boys’ personalities, on Sunday, May 4, from noon to 4 p.m. Local martial artists practice judo and kendo, a modern Japanese sport using bamboo swords and protective armor. Traditional Japanese kite making methods are also demonstrated.
Puppeteer Tom Lee (at right in photo), who worked the complex equine creations in the Broadway play War Horse, discusses the history of Japanese bunraku puppets before demonstrating how his work synthesizes Japanese traditions with western performance art on Saturday, May 10, at 2 p.m.
For Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 11, catch Michael Chikuzen Gould (left) perform the shakuhachi, a Japanese flute made of bamboo, from 1-4 p.m. in Kresge Court and sample the Japanese cuisine and beverages on the menu.
On Friday, May 30, enjoy the Los Angeles Matsuri Taiko, one of the country’s premier taiko drum ensembles, present their powerful sounds, challenging technique, exciting movement, and visual flair in a performance in the DFT prior to the evening’s screening of The Twilight Samurai. Both the concert and film are free with museum admission.
Visitors can browse authentic Japanese mementos from the exhibition shop, located at the exit of Samurai: Beyond the Sword. The shop boasts many handmade products from Japan, including beautifully decorated kites, miniature reproductions of samurai helmets, silk scarves made from recycled kimonos, lacquered boxes, tea sets, and vases. DIA members receive a 20 percent discount, double the usual amount, between May 2 and May 11.
On Tuesday, May 6, look for the samurai from the DIA’s TV commercials to make a guest appearance at Comerica Park and throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Tigers game against the Houston Astros.
Designed by Bonnie Pearce, Northville, College for Creative Studies student
See what ten local fashion designers came up with when they created garments inspired by Samurai: Beyond the Sword in a fashion show on May 17 at noon. The winner of the “Beyond the Armor” competition, sponsored by the DIA and the Detroit Garment Group Guild (DG3), will be announced.
Local designers were challenged to fashion a complete outfit based on artworks in the exhibition. They visited the show in March for inspiration and submitted portfolios for review. Ten finalists, chosen by the DIA and DG3, spent the next month designing their outfits. The finalists also wrote entries and posted videos of their works in progress on the DIA’s blog.
The viewing public determines the winner by voting at one of three showings of the finished garments in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties or see all ten outfits online and then vote for a favorite through May 12. While the Oakland County viewing was in April, all ten outfits are on view at the Warren Community Center, 5460 Arden Rd., Warren, until May 4, and at Ikea, 41640 Ford Rd., Canton, May 5 through 12.
The DFT closes out the regular season with The Twilight Samurai, the final in a series of films related to the exhibition Samurai: Beyond the Sword. A low-ranking samurai living in the fading days of the nineteenth-century shogun era takes on a last, dangerous mission–killing a renowned warrior, who is on the wrong side of a power struggle. He pursues the task as a means of supporting his two daughters and elderly mother, who have been living in poverty. The film, the winner of twelve Japanese Academy Awards, shows only once, on Friday, May 30, at 9:30 p.m. The Twilight Samurai is in Japanese with English subtitles and runs 129 minutes. Free with museum admission.
Only just added to the schedule is the 2014 documentary Cesar Chavez, detailing the life of the civil-rights activist and labor organizer. Chavez, a migrant laborer, founded America’s first successful union of farm workers. Chavez was widely acknowledged to have done more to improve the lot of migrant farm workers than anyone else. A joint venture of the DIA and the Wayne County Department of Health and Human Services, the screening is Tuesday, May 27, at 5:30 p.m., and is free and open to the public.
Two out-of-the ordinary performances grace the Friday Night Live schedule in May. On May 2, child piano prodigy Naomi Yamaguchi plays the music of Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy and others, as well as her own compositions, while on May 23, the 1970s urban dance style known as the Detroit Jit makes a reappearance on stage and in film.
Naomi began playing piano at age four and won her first award at the Albion College Young Artist Competition when she was six. At age seven, she had her debut at Carnegie Hall, where she performed twice in one week. Among her many other accolades, Naomi was the youngest winner of the James Tatum Foundation’s Millennium Arts Scholars, resulting in a March solo performance at Orchestra Hall.
In addition to performing challenging compositions by some of the world’s greatest classical composers, Naomi enjoys writing her own musical pieces. Her 2012 composition “Rainbow Fantasy” placed first in the National Federation of Music Competition, and last year she performed her original “Cinderella Suite” in a program by Detroit’s Tuesday Musicale organization.. Click here for a video of a 2013 performance.
Rediscover the Detroit Jit, a 1970s urban dance style created by three brothers known as Jitterbugs with the May 23 screening of a recent documentary on the craze. The Jitterbugs also perform, showing off their flips and kicks of their coordinated dance routines.
Haleem “Stringz” Rasul tracked down the three McGee brothers, the originators of the style and made the film The Jitterbugs: Pioneers of the Jit. Rasul, founder of the dance company HardCore Detroit, discovered the Jit in junior high. In the 1970s, when break dancing was developing on the East Coast and the West Coast went for its own dance style, known as popping and locking, “for some reason, Detroit gravitated to this (Jit) footwork.” Rasul told the Detroit News.
Click here for a trailer of the film and more on the McGee brothers.
From Friday, May 2 through Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 11, DIA members save 20 percent on purchases made online at diashop.org or at the museum. In addition to the main shop at the Farnsworth entrance, the retail space accompanying the Samurai: Beyond the Sword exhibition provides more savings opportunities on gifts, imported from Japan. If you are not already a member, now is a great time to join!
Look for the latest round of Inside|Out reproductions of museum masterpieces in public spaces around the metro area as the popular program enters its fifth year.
Cities and communities participating in the program for the first time this spring are Auburn Hills, Center Line, Imlay City, Lapeer, Ray Township’s Wolcott Mill Metropark, and two Detroit neighborhoods–the Cody Rouge and Focus Hope areas. Joining them are Pontiac, Romulus, and Southfield. Each community receives from five to twelve images clustered within walking or bike-riding distance. During the past four years, the DIA has installed more than 700 reproductions in 98 communities. Check this year’s map for specific locations and the Inside|Out Facebook page for local events.