DETROIT — The Detroit Institute of Arts will examine and digitally photograph 13 full-scale drawings, known as cartoons, created by Diego Rivera in his preparation for painting the DIA’s internationally renowned Detroit Industry murals. The drawings have not been looked at in more than 30 years, and have never been digitally photographed. The project will take place now through Aug. 2 and is made possible by a grant from Bank of America’s Art Conservation Project. The grant will also fund any necessary conservation work on the delicate drawings.
Due to their fragility and size, the cartoons cannot be loaned to other museums and were last on view in the 1986 exhibition Diego Rivera: A Retrospective. When not on display, the drawings are housed in a climate-controlled custom storage space in the museum.
“Bank of America’s generous grant enables us to establish a much needed digital record of these significant drawings,” said Graham W.J. Beal, DIA director. “Because the drawings are too fragile to leave the museum, the digital photographs will provide researchers and scholars access to an important aspect of Rivera’s work.”
Rivera completed the Detroit Industry in 1933, and considered them to be his most successful work. The murals are based on the then state-of-the-art Ford Motor Co. River Rouge Plant. Rivera drew the 13 cartoons in 1932 in preparation for the murals and gave them to the museum upon completion of the work.
Five of the drawings will be part of a 2015 exhibition at the DIA featuring the work of Rivera and Frida Kahlo created during their time in Detroit. The cartoons will provide insight into Rivera’s working process and allow visitors to have a better understanding of how the Detroit Industry murals were created. The grant also provides for mounts with a custom-built lighting scheme and climate control that will make the cartoons suitable for public display.
The Bank of America Art Conservation Project is a unique program that provides grants to nonprofit museums throughout the world to conserve historically or culturally significant works of art that are in danger of degeneration, including works that have been designated as national treasures. Since 2010, Bank of America has provided grants to museums in 25 countries for 57 conservation projects through the Global Art Conservation Project. In 2012, the program supported the restoration of a diverse range of works, including Picasso’s Woman Ironing at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tintoretto’s Paradise at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; the reassembly and preservation of the illuminated manuscripts of the Anvar-I Suhayli at the CSMVS Museum, Mumbai; and five paintings by Marc Chagall at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. In 2013, the list of recipients has grown once again to include the restoration of 24 projects in 16 countries.
“As art conservation consumes ever greater portions of tightened museum budgets, the need for private arts funding has become even more critical,” said Matt Elliott, Michigan market president, Bank of America. “We are honored to help preserve a work of art that is culturally and historically significant to Detroit, a city in which we have done business for more than 120 years.”
Bank of America support for the arts is diverse and global, and includes loans of its art collection to museums at no cost, sponsorships, grants to arts organizations for arts education, and the preservation of cultural treasures.