If you’ve ever driven past an elegant home and wondered how it is decorated inside, you’re in for a treat. There’s a new exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) that gives a glimpse into the homes of some prominent locals. Detroit Collects: Selections of African American Art from Private Collections, runs until March 15, 2020.
The new exhibit features works by Romare Bearden, Al Loving, Charles McGee and Alison Saar, among many others. The collection features significant diversity in its media, styles, genres, influences and subject matter. Perhaps what makes it most unique, though, is that the collectors are featured alongside the creators. It is a rare example of the dance that artists and audience must undertake together in order for a piece to have lasting impact.
The walls of the collection are lined, not only with beautiful and at times poignant works, but with background and statements from the persons who chose to spend their hard-earned money to add these pieces to their own personal collections. It’s highly unlikely that every guest will be as moved by each piece as the person who was moved enough to own it, but you can gain real insight into a work by not only knowing about the artist’s vision, but by understanding the impression it made on another human being.
Representation features prominently within some of the pieces and in the motivation of many of those who came to own them. Collector Linda Whitaker touches on that in her statement, “I like Detroit artists because I am a Detroiter. Detroit art shows me my history; it shows me my present, and sometimes it might even show you what’s going to happen in the future.”
African American children viewing this exhibit will see themselves not only in art displayed on the walls, but perhaps more significantly in the faces of those who have become collectors. In many ways, that is the lesson for any patron, of any race, young or old. All too often fine art is perceived as being out of reach for the average person’s home. Yet, that is not necessarily true, if it is something that really matters to you.
In the words of collector, Nettie Seabrooks, “I felt that African American artists were not getting the respect that they should, and being African American myself, I wanted to support them. I didn’t have unlimited resources, so with a limited budget, I studied the artists, bought what I liked, and bought what I could.”
Access to this exhibit, which is located in Special Exhibits South, is included with General Admission to the museum. Museum admission is free for residents of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties who show ID. Otherwise, admission is $14 Adults, $9 Seniors, $8 Students, $6 Youth (6-17), and free for children 5 and under. The Detroit Institute of Arts is located at 5200 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48202. Hours are: Tue-Thu 9am-4pm; Fri 9am-10pm; Sat-Sun 10am-5pm; closed on Monday.