Detroit Institute of Arts Collection

Vincent Willem van Gogh; Self Portrait (1887); The Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Institute of Arts has assembled a collection of over 60,000 objects, encompassing an encyclopedic overview of world art. Since the museum collected American artists from its founding, the current holdings present a broad survey of American art from the Colonial period to the present, with acknowledged masterworks in all media. Other strengths include a distinguished collection of European art from all periods, as well as works from Africa, Oceana, the Americas, Asia, and the Middle East. The General Motors Center for African American Art was established in 2000 as a curatorial department in order to broaden the museum's collection of African American art. Selections from the Detroit Institute of Art's holdings are represented in Artstor with over 1,500 examples of paintings, drawings, sculpture, and decorative arts.

In 1881, James E. Scripps documented his family's 5-month tour of Europe in a series published in his newspaper, The Detroit News. The series proved so popular that it inspired William H. Brearley, the manager of the newspaper's advertising department, to organize an art exhibit and convince many leading Detroit citizens to contribute towards the establishment of a permanent museum. Among other donors, Scripps gave the largest gift, which enabled the Detroit Museum of Art to be incorporated in 1885. After its founding, the museum's collections expanded greatly, necessitating a larger space. So, in 1927, the renamed Detroit Institute of Arts moved into a new Beaux-Arts building designed by Paul Phillipe Cret, which was immediately referred to as the “temple of art.” Housing one of the largest art collections in the United States, the building also features Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry fresco cycle (1932-33), which Rivera considered to be his most important work in the US. The museum's extensive collections were augmented by William Valentiner, a scholar and art historian from Berlin, who served as museum director from 1924–45. Valentiner engineered the acquisition of Rivera's murals, as well as Vincent van Gogh's Self Portrait (1887), the first van Gogh painting to enter a public American museum collection. Two wings were added to the museum in the 1960s and 1970s, and a major renovation and expansion campaign that began in 1999 is set to be completed in 2007.