Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Institute of Arts, known affectionately as the DIA, is a world renowned art museum. Founded by prominent Detroit citizens in 1885, the museum opened on September 1, 1888 in a building on Jefferson Avenue. In 1927 the museum moved to its current location on Woodward Avenue, just north of Warren Street.  The Beaux-Arts building, designed by Paul Cret, was immediately referred to as the “temple of art.” Two wings were added in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and a major renovation and expansion that began in 1999 was completed in 2007.



Exterior view




fountains outside




The beauty starts outside with sculptures and fountains.







outside close-up



exterior sculpture



sculpture outside detail



Exterior sculptures




front entrance



When you enter the museum, look up and notice the details of the building itself.



Enter DIA and look up at the ceiling





DIA ceiling



I even find the inside view of the entrance beautiful.



entrance outisde view




It’s a magnificent building with a vast collection and a jaw-dropping mural by Diego Rivera called “Detroit Industry”. An extremely diverse collection of art ranging from medieval times to modern and contemporary exhibits are all filled in this beautiful building. The DIA’s collection is among the top six in the United States, with more than 65,000 works. For example, below is a French ivory carving of the passion of Christ from around 1300 and a Van Gogh.



French passion of Christ abt 1300 ivory



painting Monet



I first went to the DIA back several decades ago. I have returned periodically for special short term exhibits such as art by Frida Kahlo or a Star Trek exhibit. I am always impressed by the magnificent building and the vast collection of beauty.


The Thinker sculpture



In particular, two things about this museum’s collection really stand out to me. Their African American art collection is one of the first curatorial departments dedicated to African American art at a major museum in the U.S. It was established in 2000, and it has some really amazing pieces. Pieces by Romare Bearden, Glenn Ligon, Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks, Benny Andrews, Dawoud Bey, and more are all a part of the museum’s collection of African American art. This collection is amazing and really separates the DIA from many other art museums.



African American art



African American painting 2



African American art2



African American art collage



The second thing that stands out is the Detroit Industry Murals by Diego Rivera. Never heard of it? It’s an entire room of murals or frescoes by Diego Rivera commissioned by the museum in 1932. Rivera spent 8 months on the project that includes 27 separate murals. Together they surround the Rivera Court in the Detroit Institute of Arts. These murals make the DIA unique among American art museums. Make sure you leave yourself enough time to take it all in. (Seriously, the admission fee would be worth it just to see this room.)


grand marble courtyard



Diego Riviero Detroit Industry 1932 33




Diego Riviero Detroit Industry 1932 33 collage



In addition to the African American art collection and the Rivera murals, this is just a great museum. It is huge with a great collection of interesting works. There are several places to eat (which is great, because you’ll want to stay all day).








Explore the beautiful rooms and galleries which vary in design and beautifully displayed art.



Virgin Mary






gallery of vintage furnishings



It has a movie theater (Detroit Film Theatre) where they screen interesting films several times a day. (You can see a film without paying to enter the museum as it has a separate entrance; we went on Friday to explore the museum and then returned on Saturday for just a movie). The admission fee is more than reasonable for an art museum of this size and importance ($14 for adults that are not residents of the area; residents of the three nearest counties can visit the museum for free).



gallery 2



gallery 2 b






Something else that I LOVE in an art museum: It’s open until 10 pm on Friday nights. There’s something about being able to explore a museum in evening/night when it’s less crowded that is just amazing. More than that – if you’re visiting Detroit for a short time, it allows you to see a lot of Detroit during the day and then when everything else is closed, you can go to the DIA!


gallery 3



DIA paintings



If you love stained glass like I do, check out this gallery which looks like an old church.



stain glass




I do love stained glass!



stain glass 2



No matter what time period or style of art you like, the DIA probably has something you’ll love.



horse sculpture




classic sculpture 2



classic sculpture



DIA modern art



Babylonian 6th Century BCE



When you’re in Michigan, you really should plan a day or two to explore the wonderful word of art at the DIA.



DIA art ceiling



DIA Asian sculpture



I’ll finish with more interesting and beautiful art.



DIA collage




DIA paintings collage



Rivera mural detail






triple painting



2nd horse sculpture



DIA art collage






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I was raised in Tennessee but have lived in Florida for many years. Love my small home in the Tampa Bay area and its developing garden. My decorating style is eclectic - some vintage, some cottage, all with a modern flair. Pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Spent many years in social services but am happily retired.

25 thoughts to “Detroit Institute of Arts”

  1. What a fabulous art museum this is Carol! And your photos are great. I don’t know so well American painters, but Diego Rivera I know. His mural room is a wow! And I noticed some Picasso and van Gogh as well. Thank you so much for taking me on this wonderful art tour!

    1. You’re welcome – I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Yes they have 2 Van Goghs, several Picassos and even a few Monets.

  2. What a surprise to me that Detroit has this art institute! My family lived near Detroit, but I missed this. I would go just to see that lovely Van Gogh. There’s a good variety of art represented, too. What a find!

  3. This is an awesome post about an incredible museum that I have never heard of. I would love to be in the murals room. Thanks for sharing.

  4. This is just amazing Carol. I had no idea this place even existed! It is wonderful and so is your post. Wow. What are you doing in Michigan? I am obviously way behind on my reading…off to catch up.

    1. I’m spending July and August with my sister here in Michigan. I’ll be back in Florida in September.

  5. It is so great when cities (and even towns like mine) put a priority on art. Our museum and art gallery aren’t anything compared to this but it is still an important part of our community. – Margy

  6. Carol – my husband and I had the opportunity to visit the DIA a couple of years ago, and what made it even more special was that a dear friend is a docent at the museum, and he gave us a personal tour. I recognize most of the rooms that you shared in the post, and certainly the murals. I join you in highly recommending this as a must-see when close to the Detroit area! Thanks for sharing with Mosaic Monday!

  7. Hello, beautiful art work and sculptures. Looks like a wonderful museum to visit. Enjoy your day, wishing you a happy new week ahead!

  8. We were in Detroit & I don’t remember seeing this. Well, we’ll just have to go back because that was definitely awesome. Thank you for sharing. The best piece I thought was naturally Jesus & the Blessed Mother etc., and the Lion killing his supper. How lifelike was that?!!! Very awesome. Thank you again for sharing.

  9. What a wonderful place! It definitely has something for everyone. I’m so glad you shared these great images and information with us! The statues are quite wonderful to see.

    Your post rocks at ‘My Corner of the World’ this week!

    My Corner of the World

  10. Wow! If I ever make it to Detroit, I want to visit the museum. The building itself has a lot of character. And, the exhibits and displays, oh my. I love a museum that offers a wide range of collections. Diego Rivera’s murals are a wonderful tribute to working people. May they never get lost or hidden.

  11. You have some wonderful treasures in the museum and gallery rooms. You could visit many times and enjoy them. The murals are amazing and the places to eat look comfortable. You’re fortunate to be able to take photos of the paintings. In some art galleries here it’s not allowed, which is a shame as there’s usually so much to take in and it’s nice to have a record when one has gone back home. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Well, you have to know I am a sucker for visiting the DIA! I’ve written about it a few times on Marmelade Gypsy, including the Diego mural and our kid’s presentation there a few years ago. I just love it and only wish it was a little closer! Was the current special exhibition by Impressionists open when you were there? I’m hoping to get down to see it before it closes this fall. I agree about how the layout is so nice with the rooms and such and like you, I adore the stained glass. Your photos are terrific. And I love that it’s free in those surrounding counties whose tax dollars help support it. It should be — but should doesn’t always happen everywhere!

    1. I do love the DIA! It calls to me with all its beauty and yes the Impressionists exhibit is fabulous.

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