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New exhibits fresh DIA during pandemic

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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The Detroit Institute of Arts reopened July 10, after a nearly four months of pandemic-induced pause.

But with two new exhibits starting on the same day, it feels like the museum is REALLY back in business.

On Sunday, Nov. 15, the DIA unveils "Detroit Style: Car Design in the Motor City, 1950-2020" and "Russ Marshall: Detroit Photographs, 1958-2008." Both were slated to open during the summer, according to DIA Director Salvador Salort-Pons, but after successfully adapting to new COVID-19 protocols including limited capacity and other restrictions it felt like the time was right to host some fresh content again.

"The museum experience is very controlled, so everybody's safe and can continue to visit the DIA," Salort-Pons explains. "Having these two exhibits open is great. It's kind of a next step."

"Detroit Style" is among the most unusual programs the DIA has presented in its galleries, and plays to the city's automotive heritage. The exhibit showcases a dozen vehicles four each from Ford, Chrysler and General Motors curated by a committee whose members came from the art and automotive worlds. They range from concept cars and prototypes to actual production models, and the exhibit includes sketches, drawings and other documents used in the cars' creation as well as paintings and other works inspired by them.

"Elevating car design to museum-quality product is what this exhibition is about," Salort-Pons says. "It's really a celebration of car designers. Really, the same creative process that artists used in the 16th, 17th, 18th centuries, car designers used in the 20th century."

"Detroit Style" runs a gamut from the imposing fins of a 1960 Chrysler to General Motors' rocket-styled Firebird III from 1958 to a Corvette Stingray Racer a year later. Ford's iconic Mustang is represented with a 1965 model.

"I think the exhibition emphasizes the importance of car design and manufacturing to Detroit," Salort-Pons explains. "This is the city that put the world on wheels. This is our history."

Russ Marshall, of course, captured some of that history in his photographs, more than 90 of which are featured in the DIA exhibit. "(The two exhibits) complement each other beautifully," Salort-Pons notes. "(Marshall) has photographs of auto workers, beautiful black-and-white photographs that are testimony to an entire generation of Detroiters that built this industry with their hands and their sweat."

Marshall's photos also include images of Detroit culture and architectures, including Thanksgiving Day parades, the 1967 Detroit Love-In on Belle Isle and the inaugural Detroit Blues Festival in 1977.

Salort-Pons and the DIA staff expect the new exhibits to be the first of a regular stream of new content for the museum, though they'll keep pandemic protocols in place. Most important to the director is that DIA survived its enforced closure and continues to operate and even advance as time moves on.

"The top priority has been to protect our staff, protect our collection and have the museum open as soon as it was safe for our visitors," Salort-Pons says. "It's been challenging, but we keep rolling and ... serving our community. That's what's most important to us."

"Detroit Style: Car Design in the Motor City, 1950-2020" and "Russ Marshall: Detroit Photographs, 1958-2008" open Sunday. Nov. 15, at the Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward Ave. Both run through June 27. Reservations are required for museum visits. Call 313-833-7900 or visit dia.org.

Web Site: www.dia.org

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