Sanford Robinson Gifford | The Detroit Institute of Arts | Hudson River School Paintings

Awareness for DIA’s collection raised by #DayDetroit

Chelsea DeLay | August 20th, 2013 | Posted in News

In the wake of Detroit’s bankruptcy filing, the permanent collection of artwork at the Detroit Institute of Arts—which is estimated to be worth well over $1 billion— is caught in the crossfire of possible solutions aimed at lessening the city’s $15 billion debt.  A surge of defensive action rose up when the city’s bankruptcy managers proposed the possibility of selling works from the DIA collection to relieve a portion of Detroit’s debt. It became crystal clear that the museum’s priceless collection had the support of protective advocates across the nation, including other museums, public officials, and the general public.  On August 5, 2013, The Detroit Institute of Arts issued a statement in which it reported, “The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) has learned that Christie’s, at the request of the emergency manager, plans to proceed with a valuation of the DIA collection, and we will be cooperating completely in that process. However, we continue to believe there is no reason to value the collection as the Attorney General has made clear that the art is held in charitable trust and cannot be sold as part of a bankruptcy proceeding.”

A particularly strong sign of support occurred on August 14 that transformed a regular Wednesday into a demonstration of solidarity for those in favor of protecting the DIA’s collection.  Organized by Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes, “A Day For Detroit” was dedicated to drawing awareness to the controversy surrounding the DIA’s involvement in Detroit’s bankruptcy. The day began when Green urged his fellow art bloggers and twitter followers to post their favorite works from the DIA collection as a personal testimony to the museum’s importance.  By noon “A Day for Detroit” had become a full-on cyber movement as Twitter was overloaded with an outpouring of posts, all featuring the hashtag #DayDetroit. Any remaining doubt pertaining to the cultural importance of the museum’s collection will be overwhelmingly dashed by simply logging onto Twitter and searching for #DayDetroit.

The DIA is home to many important American landscape paintings by artists considered to be among the best of the best of the Hudson River School. Some of my favorite works in the DIA collection include the fiery sunset in Frederic Edwin Church’s Cotopaxi, one of Martin Johnson Heade’s iconic haystack paintings entitled, Sunset, Sanford Robinson Gifford’s Kaaterskill Falls, and Asher B. Durand’s Monument Mountain, Berkshires. Other impressive Hudson River School artists featured in the collection include George InnessAlbert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, Jervis McEntee, and William Trost Richards. If I had to give my personal opinion of what I consider to be the most-valued section of the DIA’s collection, I would cast my vote in favor of the unparalleled collection of over 2,500 sketches by Thomas Cole.  The significance of the entire collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts  reinforces the issue of its preservation as a cause worthy of national attention.  Their priceless works are the foundation of an important cultural institution that deserves to be protected.

Sanford Robinson Gifford, Kaaterskill Falls, 1871.  Oil on canvas, 14 3/4 x 12 1/2 inches. The Detroit Institute of Arts, Gift of Katherine French Rockwell.

Sanford Robinson Gifford, Kaaterskill Falls, 1871. Oil on canvas, 14 3/4 x 12 1/2 inches. The Detroit Institute of Arts, Gift of Katherine French Rockwell.

Frederic Edwin Church, Cotopaxi, 1862.  Oil on canvas, 48 x 85 inches. Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, Robert H. Tannahill Foundation Fund, Gibbs-Williams Fund, Dexter M. Ferry Jr. Fund, Merrill Fund, Beatrice W. Rogers Fund, and Richard A. Manoogian Fund, 76.89.

Frederic Edwin Church, Cotopaxi, 1862. Oil on canvas, 48 x 85 inches. Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, Robert H. Tannahill Foundation Fund, Gibbs-Williams Fund, Dexter M. Ferry Jr. Fund, Merrill Fund, Beatrice W. Rogers Fund, and Richard A. Manoogian Fund, 76.89.

Thomas Cole, Waterfall and Rocks, 1840/1844.  Graphite pencil, watercolor and gouache on heavy green gray wove paper. Sheet: 9 ¾ x 14 inches.  Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, William H. Murphy Fund. 39.278.A.

Thomas Cole, Waterfall and Rocks, 1840/1844. Graphite pencil, watercolor and gouache on heavy green gray wove paper. Sheet: 9 ¾ x 14 inches. Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, William H. Murphy Fund. 39.278.A.

 

Chelsea DeLay is a Researcher at Questroyal Fine Art. Chelsea earned her MA in art business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York, and her BA in art history and classical studies. Her interest in American paintings first began while working at an auction house on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and has multiplied exponentially since joining the Questroyal team.