Detroit Museum Gets Grant To Survey Diego Rivera Drawings

Diego Rivera, cartoon of vaccination (Detroit Industry north wall), 1932–33. Detroit Institute of Arts.

DETROIT, MICH. — The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) 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 is placing through August 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 project in 1933, and considered them to be his most successful work. The murals are based on the then state-of-the-art Ford Motor Company 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.

“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.”

The Detroit Institute of Arts is at 5200 Woodward Avenue. For information, 313-833-7900 or www.dia.org.

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