Conservation Science

After a short and very much enjoyed holiday break, I returned to work last week and started to catch up with our very exciting initiatives for 2020. I also had lunch with one of our patrons, who is a keen art collector and a very committed DIA supporter of our education work. He just got back from London where he saw beautiful art shows at the British Museum, National Gallery, and the Victoria and Albert Museum among other institutions. We had a very animated conversation, speaking about our upcoming work in the areas of public programs, art and education.

On his mobile phone he showed me some images of the exhibitions he visited in London, especially images of labels explaining the conservation or restoration work done to some paintings and other art objects he saw. From what he showed me, there is a lot of interest, at least in London, for art conservation and science. I, of course, immediately thought about our current Bruegel exhibition and invited him to join me on a walk through the galleries. As I mentioned to him, the project is a collaboration between our conservation, curatorial and education departments. It explores the purchase history, the life and creation of one of our most celebrated paintings, The Wedding Dance by Peter Bruegel the Elder — there are only two works of this scale and importance by this artist in the U.S., and the other one is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Patrons in the exhibition, Bruegel's "The Wedding Dance" Revealed

The exhibition space is beautifully designed and in the galleries we found numerous visitors deeply engaged with the materials and display. In fact, the experience of looking at this work in its newly installed form is extraordinary and innovative in many ways. It was reassuring to see that the work and research that our teams are doing in Detroit is cutting edge and aligns well with what other great museums in the world are doing for their audiences. After experiencing The Wedding Dance in a new light, we went to our Albert and Peggy De Salle Gallery of Photography to see the current Michigan’s Great Lakes exhibition featuring works by Jeff Gaydash. This Detroit-area photographer has captured very inspiring images of our natural wonders, showing them in silent majesty. It is really a not-to-miss show, as it underscores our local artistic talent and raises awareness of our unique freshwater resources, which we must safeguard for the well being of our planet.

I was grateful for the opportunity to spend time with our patron in the galleries and see our visitors enjoy beautiful art with relevant information for all. There are, of course, other compelling exhibitions on display, and our program for 2020 is very exciting and ambitious. Opening in early February, we will have a small and very lovely show including works by Frida Kahlo and Salvador DalÍ. Our two major exhibitions for the year will be Detroit Style: Car Design in the Motor City, 1950-2020 and Van Gogh in America. The first project will explore the creative process of car designers and the contributions of Detroit — the city that put the world on wheels — to the automotive industry, among other aspects of our local history. “Fasten your seat belts” because we will be bringing to the DIA 12 cars (some of them prototypes) designed and made in Detroit, and the museum will be transformed by their installation. With regard to Van Gogh in America, the DIA was the first civic museum in the U.S. to acquire a painting by Vincent van Gogh in 1922. The show will tell the history of collecting Van Goghs in the U.S. (we started it!) and will bring to our audiences at least 67 works by the artist. Only institutions with the caliber and the expertise of the DIA can organize these kinds of exhibitions and many museums around the world are sharing their Van Goghs with us. This is very rare, special and generous because museums like to keep their most popular works for their visitors.

We believe that by accomplishing these projects and bringing great art from around the world, the DIA provides great value to our city, our region and the entire state of Michigan. At the DIA, our community can experience top of the line exhibitions that you might see in London or any other world capital. The DIA makes southeast Michigan a great place to live, work and raise a family and I hope all our families to come to the museum in 2020 to enjoy some of the most memorable experiences of this year!

Categories:  From The Director