DETROIT Institute of Arts

Julie Mehretu’s work is a part of the DIA Grand Eye-Opening. Her exhibition, “City Sitings” inaugurates the central special exhibition galleries at the DIA. Above: Stadia II, 2004, Ink and Acrylic on Canvas

Last night and this morning, friends and I visited the new DIA Grand Eye-Opening en masse with what appeared to be many thousands (19,000 by 9pm according to the Detroit Free Press) of other metro Detroiters and we were all gifted with an unmatched art museum experience. The newly hung collection, with additions, inside the beautifully expanded museum was a feast for the eyes.

It was certainly long overdue.

After all, we love our DIA. We’ve grown up together. As children we sang the song (“So what the heck’s the use of waiting, come down here now. If you never loved art…) and stared with fascination at Oldenburg’s enormous plug. We’ve marveled at our Cassat, our Degas, our Van Gogh. We’ve stood in awe surrounded entire by our Rivera. We’ve brunched with Bach. We’ve leaned forward in fascination – or recoiled in horror as the case may be – for the occasional controversial happening (the Jef Bourgeau curated “Van Goh’s Ear”, that kid’s gum on the Frankenthaler). Most people I know have a multitude of DIA memories.

Even when we don’t visit as often as we would like our love seemingly continues. Then again hasn’t it been said that an absent lover is a neglectful lover? While the collection of the Institute has long been revered as one of the largest and most respected in the country, the Institute itself has suffered from a deplorable lack of TLC. Whatever wrongs had been committed in recent years passed, they were clearly righted by what we saw at the DIA last night.

It has been gloriously restored and refitted. A $158-million renovation, including 30% more gallery space, and a fantastic re-installation of the museum’s collection were presented in stunning fashion, along with fun touches like a hot dog stand, DJs, and an all-night, free-to-all opening.

If the MOCAd or MoNA (among many others) are edgy mouthpieces for Detroit’s art scene and community, the DIA is the whole instrument. Check that. The whole orchestra. With a choir. And a jazz ensemble. And guards suited in armor to protect it all. What was formerly an institution with a world-class collection is now a world-class museum, period. I remarked to my friends last night that for me, great cities begin with great cultural institutions like art museums. Consider that. Which among your favorite metropoli around the world doesn’t possess a visit-demanding museum? Detroit should be, and now is, no different.

Thus, the justice here is that our treasured Institute now has the facilities from which to fascinate, facilitate and move forward with its fine art. The “This Section Closed” signs are finally gone and the museums 21st century hey-day can now commence.

(Note: if there’s any non-art-related element to last night’s event that really excited me, it was being able to stroll around looking at Clyfford Still at 3am. I hope that’s not the last time.)

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