DIA Presents ‘Detroit Collects: Selections of African American Art from Private Collections’

The Detroit Institute of Arts has introduced its new exhibition, “Detroit Collects: Selections of African American Art from Private Collections.” It includes loaned works from 19 collectors in the metro Detroit area and will run from Nov. 12, 2019 through March 1, 2020.
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"Soundsuit" by Nick Cave
“Soundsuit” by Nick Cave is part of “Detroit Collects: Selections of African American Art from Private Collections” at the DIA. // Photograph by Jackie Jones

The Detroit Institute of Arts has introduced its new exhibition, “Detroit Collects: Selections of African American Art from Private Collections.” It includes loaned works from 19 collectors in the metro Detroit area and will run from Nov. 12, 2019 through March 1, 2020.

“I want people to know that there are these collectors in the community that have invested in African American art, which of course, also give support to the artist,” says Valerie Mercer, African American curator at the musuem. “People should know these collectors played an important part in sustaining African American art.”

This is the first exhibition of its kind. Viewers will see 60 works of art of a variety of media including paintings, sculptures, film, photography, and more. Some works are on public view for the first time.

Furthermore, it highlights artists with local and national recognition ranging from the mid-19th century up to the 21st century. Works by Nick Cave, Carrie Mae Weems, Alison Saar, Romare Bearden, and Rashid Johnson are on display. Detroit native artists include Charles McGee, Mario Moore, Tylonn Sawyer, Allie McGhee, and more.

“I was one of the founders of this exhibition,” says Deborah Geraldine Bledsoe Ford, judge for the 36th District Court. “I wanted people to know that African American art is just art, and that black art is collected around the world.”

Some long-time supporters of the DIA are responsible for the new exhibition, including Maureen and Roy Roberts, who have a permanent contemporary African American gallery named for them at the DIA. Notable collectors include Nettie Seabrooks, the first African American female executive at General Motors and deputy mayor, chief of staff, and COO of the city of Detroit during Mayor Denis Archer’s administration; and Rhonda D. Welburn, attorney and former board member of the DIA.

“The DIA’s General Motors Center for African American Art is the first curatorial department dedicated to African American art in the U.S.,” says Salvador Salort-Pons, director of the DIA. “This exhibition builds on our history of collecting and displaying African American art and creates a new opportunity for our visitors to see themselves reflected in the museum’s galleries.”

The DIA is home to more than 60,000 works that comprise a multicultural survey of art from ancient times through the 21st century.

“We want to do this type of exhibition again with other collectors,” says Mercer. “Some collectors only have one painting or piece in the show, but their pieces make the show look strong.”

This exhibition will be free with general admission, which is free for residents of Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties.

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