Recognized as one of the top six art collections in the United States, the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA) is a must see for art enthusiasts. Spanning more than 658,000 square feet, this impressive building is home not only to works created and gathered from far off places, but the structure itself has become part of the collection. Designed by Paul Philippe Cret in the Beaux Arts style, the structure is home to an insitu work by Mexican artist Diego Rivera.

His Detroit Industry fresco, found in the Institute's courtyard, has become a symbol of industry in the city and the time it was painted in the early 1930s. With a substantial collection comprised of more than 60,000 works from all over the globe, a trip to the DIA is time spent immersed in culture, creativity and community. The collections include European, American, Oceanic, Islamic, Asian, African, Native American and ancient art.



The origins of the museum date back to 1885, and quickly expanded in the early twentieth century. The Institute moved to its currently location in 1927, after the completion of the Cret designed building. Early admirers were quick to dub it a "temple of art," a reputation which only grew with the addition of two new wings in the 1960s and 1970s.

The collection continued to grow, leading to an expansion and renovation at the turn of the twenty-first century. The foundations of the global collection were established by one of the Institute's early directors, William Valentiner. Originally from Germany, his European connections enabled the DIA to acquire many noteworthy works.

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The collections of the Detroit Museum of Art span centuries and oceans, representing art from many genres, many countries and many eras. Works in the collection represent vital moments in history, capture the spirit of a people, commemorate a time and place. With one of the most substantial and significant collections in the country, the DIA is a formidable art institution.

Africa, Oceania and the Indigenous Americas

The works in the Africa, Oceania and Indigenous Americas section is further subdivided into art from Egypt, (the rest of) Africa, the Indigenous Americas and the South Pacific. African art highlights regions south of the Sahara desert, and houses more than 300 noteworthy pieces. Indigenous American art represents native cultures from North, Central and South America going back three millennia. Art from Oceania is a concentrated collection of works from the past century and a half, and includes items from Easter Island, New Guinea and Polynesia.

American Art

Works in the American Art collection includes furniture, pottery, ceramic and silver works, but the real star of the show is the Institute's painting collection. With pieces covering periods from the colonial era through the Second World War, the collection is a veritable timeline of the Nation's illustrative history. Artists ranging from John Singleton Copley, to John Singer Sargent and Diego Rivera can all be discovered here.

The Arts of Asia and the Islamic World

Pieces in the Arts of Asia and the Islamic World span the greatest time periods and land swathes of any in the Institute. With items dating back as far as 3,000 B.C.E., this historically significant collection is a must see during a visit to the Detroit Institute of Art. The collection is subdivided into the Ancient Middle East, the Islamic World, and Arts of Asia, which is further broken down to arts of China, Korea, Japan, and South/ Southeast Asia.

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3.European Art

European Art  

The European Art collection is a significant draw for any museum, and is no exception at the DIA. The collection includes paintings, sculptures, decorative arts and ancient western antiquities. With generous donations of works from patrons starting in 1880, the European Art department has become one of the most distinguished in the Country. Artists represented range from Renaissance masters Titian, Rembrandt and Rubens, to Impressionists Monet, Van Gogh, and Gaugin to more modern artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Beckmann.

Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Not all masterpieces are made from canvas and oil that dominated during the renaissance. The Prints, Drawings and Photographs collection at the DIA highlights those works made on paper. Hugely varied, this collection includes books, posters, drawings, photographs and watercolors, some dating back many hundreds of years. Some particularly noteworthy items include works or studies done in preparation, such as Michelangelo'sStudies for the Sistine Chapel.

General Motors Center for African American Art

Opened in 2000, the General Motors Center for African American Art pays particular homage to African American Artists, their perspective and perceptions. More than just a gallery, this department works to increase public awareness on the contributions of African American artists, hosting lectures, symposiums and exhibitions. The collection of more than 400 works, includes pieces by Allie McGhee, William T. Williams, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and many more.

The James Pearson Duffy Department of Contemporary Art

Featuring works of minimalism, abstract expressionism and even pop art, the James Pearson Duffy Department of Contemporary Art is home to a wide range of works. This collection focuses primarily on post-World War Two era pieces, and includes paintings, glass works, wood sculpture and more. Artists in these galleries include Andy Warhol, Jack a. Robinson, and Willem de Kooning.

Performing Arts

The Performing Arts collection at the Detroit Institute of Art honors not only performance art itself, but the auxiliary items that become part of it. These include original film and theater photographs, billboard sized posters, puppet theater handbills, and even the puppets themselves. The Paul McPharlin Puppetry Collection includes marionettes and other items from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries.

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The Detroit Institute of art is committed to more than just the display of their beautiful works, but to the conservation and preservation of them as well. Activities of the Institute's Conservation Department include examining artwork, investigating artists' method/ materials, assessing potential acquisitions, and much more. This vital team helps to verify the provenance of works, as well. Within the Conservation Department, several subdivisions specialize in conserving different types of works, including Paintings, Objects, Paper, Textiles and Imaging. Other departments, such as Scientific Research use laboratory instruments for analysis, while the Mounts Design and Fabrication Department creates displays for three dimensional artworks.

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The educational mission of the Detroit Institute of Art focuses on four key tenants: art is for every person, learning is life long, knowledge is based on experience and formal study, and understanding visitors and employing effective teaching strategies. The Institute works to bring these to fruition, engaging in education through many different means. These include lectures, seminars, workshops, talks and more. Specific tours and programs for families create fun and engaging experiences for children to interact with and create a love for art. Field trip programs for schools, as well as resources to incorporate art into school curriculums. Resources for educators are available from pre-kindergarten classes all the way through university level study.


In addition to the abundance of resources available to bring learning alive through art, there are also myriad events through which to interact with art in whole new ways. The Sunday Music Bar is a concert series included with Institute admission, showcasing acoustic music from a variety of genres. The Detroit Film Theatre, located at the DIA's auditorium facility, showcases many different styles of films, often highlighting works from international film festivals. Friday Night Live, hosted every week, keeps the Institute's doors open late, with live music, hands-on art workshops and more.

The aptly named Detroit Institute of Awesome events, on every weekend, is a full day designed for kids and grown up alike, making it the perfect family outing. These are just a few of the regularly featured activities at the Institute, not to mention the one-off special events periodically available. Past special events have included Educator Evening, Members Tours, BitterSweet: Coffee, Tea Chocolate, and many, many more. In order to make the most out of a visit to the DIA, visitors are advised to review the Institute's events webpages to see what is coming up next.

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6.Plan Your Visit

Plan Your Visit  

In addition to checking the website for events, guests are advised to also review daily hours, as the Institute is not open every day. Easily accessible via city bus routes and freeways, there is parking available onsite. As a day at the DIA can last until evening, guests may want to partake of the two dining establishments available onsite.

The Institute also offers a Museum Shop, with a plethora of items from books, toys, crafts, jewelry, stationary and more; many items are also available online. With glorious architecture, world-renowned frescos, incredible events and an awe-inspiring collection of art, every visit to the Detroit Institute of Art is outstanding occasion.

Back to: Best Things to Do in Detroit, Michigan

5200 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan 48202, Phone: 313-833-7900

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Things to Do in Michigan: Detroit Institute of Arts