Detroit Institute of Arts adds works to Native American collection, new works by women artists
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Detroit Institute of Arts adds works to Native American collection, new works by women artists
The Board of Directors approved the acquisition of 463 works of art.

DETROIT, MICH.- The Detroit Institute of Arts’ Board of Directors approved the acquisition of 463 works of art through gifts and purchases in 2020, including significant additions to the museum’s Native American collection and works by women artists.

“The collection is the heart of every art museum, and at the DIA, we are fortunate to have one of the best in the world,” said DIA Director Salvador Salort-Pons. “But museum collections are not static; they are dynamic and evolving. We see artworks through new lenses in today’s world. As we work to serve new audiences and create a more inclusive society, it is important to leverage acquisitions to evolve our collection to better mirror our community.”

Highlights of the DIA’s 2020 acquisitions include:

Sphae, undated
Mavis Iona Pusey, American, 1928-2019

Jamaican-born artist Mavis Iona Pusey worked as a painter, printmaker and teacher, and was one of the few black female artists specializing in abstraction. Sphae displays angular, horizontal and circular forms in vibrant orange and blue colors that intersect with similar forms in deep black and red colors. Flat chartreuse-colored forms seem to function as background surfaces that contrast with the other colors to highlight the internal dynamism of the composition. The term sphae is derived from a Latin prefix referring to the sphere or globe.

Anishnabe Treaty Hat, 2017
Kelly Church, American, 1967

The Anishnabe Treaty Hat basket, shaped in the form of a top hat, is representative of the dynamism of contemporary Native American basket making, the political messages that often accompany these artworks, and is the product of prominent Michigan Native American basket maker, Kelly Church. Church is White and Potawatomi, Odawa, and Ojibwe, and known as NimkeeKwe or Thunderwoman. She comes from the largest family of ash basket makers in Michigan, who have been making baskets for hundreds of years.

Reading the Fate of the Christ Child, 1667
Josefa de Óbidos, Portuguese-Spanish, 1630–1684

This painting by the only early modern Portuguese woman artist of record, is an exquisitely wrought oil on copper painting with unconventional iconography. Beyond one painting on copper recently purchased by the Louvre Museum, Paris, depicting The Penitent Magdalene Comforted by Angels, signed and dated 1679, all other works by Josefa de Óbidos remain in Portugal. This jewel-like composition bolsters the DIA’s holdings of artworks by early modern women artists.

I See Red: Herd, 1992
Jaune Quick-to­See Smith, American, 1940

Born at the St. Ignatius Indian Mission on the Flathead Indian Reservation, in Montana, Jaune Quick-to­See Smith stands as one of the most prominent Native American artists of the modern era and arguably holds the rank of the most celebrated Native American female artist. I See Red: Herd is part of a series of works that Smith created as a counterpoint to the celebrations commemorating the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in North America in 1992.

Untitled (Tehuanas in Huipil Grande Headdresses)
Roberto Montenegro, Mexican, 1885-1968

This untitled painting of Tehuana women is by the Mexican painter and scholar Roberto Montenegro, a leading figure in the art world of post-revolutionary Mexico City, although today his work is underappreciated in the United States. Through its flattened, simplified style, and celebration of folk culture, this painting represents a significant and distinctive movement in Mexican art.

Maternity Figure, 1800s or earlier
Unknown artist, Dogon culture

This outstanding African sculpture depicts a standing female carrying an “infant” on her back. Both the mother and “child” have bent knees. They exhibit stylistic attributes that are typical of the plastic arts of the Dogon people of Mali, West Africa. Besides its rarity, this maternity figure also boasts enormous aesthetic appeal because of its oily surface, which places it among a distinct class of African wood sculptures.

Folio from the Late Shah Jahan Album
Mir 'Ali Haravi, Persian, active ca. 1505 – 1545

This high-quality, double-sided folio from an imperial Mughal album was commissioned by the emperor Shah Jahan (r. 1627–58), patron of the Taj Mahal. Intact folios from the now-dispersed album typically feature a painting on one side and a work of calligraphy on the other, and they are characterized by elaborately painted borders—most notably, the majority of borders surrounding the paintings are themselves painted with detailed figures. One side of this folio features a portrait of a Mughal courtier, framed by borders with seven additional courtly figures against a ground of flowers painted in gold; and the other side features a work of Persian calligraphy in nasta‘liq script, signed by the renowned Herat-born calligrapher Mir ‘Ali Haravi and framed by borders filled with a colorful design of scrolling grapevines inhabited by birds.

In addition to these works, other important acquisitions include a Untitled (Monday) by American artist Avery Singer, Lake Placid, Adirondac Mountains by American painter Jervis McEntee, Untitled (Performable Paper) by American artist James Lee Byars, Petal by American artist Adolph Gottlieb, The Wood Engraver by American artist Charles Frederic Ulrich, Saint Michael Vanquishing the Devil, a sculpture attributed to The Master of the Altarpiece of the Order of the Swan Knights in Germany, Sunset on the Arno by American painter Thomas Cole, Landline Dale by contemporary American artist Sean Scully and Earthly Whys and Heavenly Knows by African American artist Kevin Cole.

Prints and photographs added to the museum’s collection include a group of works by Ghanaian photographer James Barnor, two photographs by Ansel Adams, a print by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, and prints by American artists Rashid Johnson and Mavis Iona Pusey.

Before the DIA acquires a work of art, it goes through a rigorous assessment to ensure its quality and authenticity. From initial research to approval by the board of directors, the acquisition process involves many experts at the museum including curators, conservators, registrars and technicians. Restricted funds, specifically designated by donors for expanding the collection, are used to purchase artworks.

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