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Ultimate Guide to the Detroit Institute of Arts

van gogh- detroit institute of arts

Detroit Art Museum: 2023 Guide to the Detroit Institute of Arts

Detroit Institute of Arts
5200 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan 48202

The Detroit Institute of Arts Museum is one of the best places in Detroit to spend a day.

With countless art exhibitions – all of them amazing- ranging from Italian Renaissance paintings and the art noveau stained glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany to Kermit the Frog, the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum is a must on any Detroit bucket list.

About the DIA

The DIA is one of the city of Detroit’s best kept secrets.

“The DIA,” as the locals call it, is a world-renowned art museum with works from some of the most famous and influential artists in the history of art. Detroit’s art institute is s big part of the city’s culture, and the fabulous museum collection boasts everything from African American Art to paintings from artists like Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Andy Warhol, and many other top artists.

Located in the city’s Cultural Center Historic District, the museum was built in the late 1920’s by Paul Philippe Cret. The stunning museum complex, which features a French Chateau from the 16th century, has been praised by architects and is officially recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. Located near the Detroit Historical Museum, the DIA is a staple of any Detroit architectural tour.

In 1966 and 1971, two additions expanded the museum. In 2001, the Detroit Institute of Arts underwent a renovation and expansion adding 35,000 feet of space to the museum.

Within the museum’s 660,000 square feet, you’ll find a reference library, a concert and recital hall and an airy cafe and lounge in addition to the art collection.

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What to See at the DIA

The DIA has something for everyone.

With more than 65,000 pieces in 100 galleries, there is a lot to see in this massive museum. The collection spans from ancient times in Europe, Egypt and Africa all the way up to modern works that have been created in the last few years. Since the sheer size of the museum can be overwhelming to navigate, I’ve created a guide to things to do and see at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Detroit Industry Murals by Diego Rivera

Commissioned by Edsel Ford in 1932, Diego Rivera painted some of the most beautiful murals that I have ever seen inside of the DIA.

Named Detroit Industry Murals, the murals are a series of frescoes that depict the Detroit Automotive industry and assembly line. The paintings surround what is known as the Rivera Court, which is in the heart of the DIA. These murals are truly breathtaking. The sheer scale of the work is breath-taking, with exquisite detail in the work.

Rivera was very well-known for his work, but the murals are considered to be some of his best. You must make sure you set aside time to take in these murals. They are a personal favorite of mine and are uniquely Detroit pieces.

Rivera’s wife, artist Frida Kahlo, has many outstanding works included in the DIA’s collection.

detroit institute of arts

Prints, Drawings, and Photos

The Detroit Institute of Arts houses an impressive collection of prints, drawings, and photographs, spanning over five hundred years and comprising 35,000 works from renowned artists around the globe, with a particular emphasis on European and American art.

European Paintings

The European Paintings collection is one of the best in the United States, with a selection of nearly 1,000 works created between the 1100s and 1950. Among these are pieces by renowned painters of religious scenes, portraits, landscapes, and depictions of everyday life.

Works include paintings by Henri Matisse, Paul Cezanne, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, George Bellows, Odilon Redon, Rembrandt Van Rijn, Edvard Munch, Georges Seurat, Franz Marc, and many others.

Kermit the Frog at the detoit institute of arts


Puppets may not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a fine art museum, but it should be when you think about the DIA.

The Paul McPharlin Puppetry Collection is a massive collection of theatrical puppets and one of the most significant in the US. Many of the puppets are so old and made of such brittle material that they can’t be displayed year-round and the puppets are rotated about every six months.

This is one of the more obscure and unique art mediums on display at the DIA, but it can’t be overstated how cool this collection is.

Kermit the Frog lives at the DIA and you never knew. Try to find him.

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Greco-Roman and Ancient European Art

Want to peek at ancient civilizations and ancient life? Then, this part of the DIA is for you.

Featuring works that span approximately 13 centuries, these are some of the oldest and most historical pieces inside of the entire museum. Featuring 2,500 pieces such as; sculptures by Auguste Rodin, ceramic and glass vessels, jeweler and more, this is one of the best collections that the museum has in my opinion.

I could spend hours looking at the artifacts of ancient life.

suits of armor- detroit institute of arts

European Sculpture and Decorative Arts

Explore the European art and design of the last 1400 years. Gaze in wonder at sculptures in marble, terracotta, and wood, as well as pieces of precious metalwork, stained glass, ceramics, and tapestries. See the armor worn by knights and admire the grandeur of historical interiors.

The museum is home to over 7,000 artifacts from the 400s to 1850, showcasing the work of talented artists and the most remarkable events of European history. Keep your eye out for William Randolph Hearst’s private collection of armor.

Contemporary Art after 1950

The Detroit Institute of Arts has a modern art selection that includes various forms of art made after 1950, including paintings, sculptures, design, video, installation, and performance art. Explore works by Wassily Kandinsky and many others.

This is one of the most interesting collections in the museum and gives you a look at some of the best and most thought-provoking works of art made in the last 75 years.

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Islamic Art

This collection spans one of the longest periods of time. With a rich history that dates back over 8,000 years this collection covers a vast region. The works in this collection covers all kinds of mediums ranging from sculptures, tapestries, metalworks, paintings and much more.

This collection is a great look at the history of Islamic art and culture.

African Art

The Center for African American Art was founded in 2000 and is one of the first organizations to focus solely on African American artwork in a major art museum.

Its mission is to bring attention to the impact African Americans have had on art and to show the African American viewpoint of American history, society, and culture. See works by Romare Bearden, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and others at this top DIA exhibition.

Performing Arts

With more than 10,000 items that range from films to film posters and much more, this collection is a great look into the history of performance art all over the world. The collection has materials that date from the early 1900’s to modern items.

This is a great collection for anyone to check out but especially any movie lovers out there, this is the collection for you.

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Rotating Exhibits at the DIA

The DIA is a well-respected institution within the world of Art which means that there are often visiting or touring shows, or a loan exhibition that will stop at the DIA. In 2022, a collection featuring Vincent Van Gogh’s works, Van Gogh in America, attracted visitors from around the world.

Who is the Director of the DIA?

Salvador Salort-pons was named the museum’s director in 2015.

What is the Scarab Club?

The Scarab Club of Detroit is an artists club, gallery, and studio in Detroit.

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About the Author-
Cy Nardone is a Content Creator for He grew up in Grosse Pointe and attended Grosse Pointe South High School. He went on to attend Wayne State then Michigan State University where he majored in Sports Journalism. Cy is a lifelong Detroit sports fan who loves food. Cy looks forward to expanding our Metro Detroit content and hopes to turn you on to a new spot to adventure or eat.