$5M gift to Detroit Institute of Arts to fund automotive art acquisitions

Duane Lloyd Bohnstedt (1924-2016), ‘Chevrolet Corvette,’ 1964. Watercolor on board. Detroit Institute of Arts, gift of Robert Edwards and Julie Hyde-Edwards.

Duane Lloyd Bohnstedt (1924-2016), ‘Chevrolet Corvette,’ 1964. Watercolor on board. Detroit Institute of Arts, gift of Robert Edwards and Julie Hyde-Edwards.

DETROIT – Funded by a gift of $5 million from the Mort and Brigitte Harris Foundation, the Detroit Institute of Arts will hire a new curator and acquire works across media that illuminate the interrelated creative and technological, design and functional endeavors that defined and continue to characterize the ingenuity and development of the American automotive industry, with an emphasis on Detroit’s distinctive place in this narrative. The new collection will be launched with a generous gift of 91 automotive drawings from Julie Hyde-Edwards, which represents decades of study, collecting and advocacy by Julie and her late husband Robert Edwards on behalf of Detroit car designers and the art they produced.

“I am grateful to Mort’s son Stuart Harris and Brigitte’s daughter Michele Becker, and trustee Doreen Vitti, with support from Mort’s partner Sandy Morrison, for continuing the Harris family’s longstanding and generous support of the museum,” said DIA Director Salvador Salort-Pons. “Mort’s leadership and generosity helped shape so many institutions in Detroit over his lifetime. Together with Brigitte, their interest in art and the DIA were a joy to witness. This gift is enhanced by the extraordinary collection of works donated by Julie-Hyde Edwards, who with Robert Edwards tirelessly worked to preserve and document these fragile artworks to make it possible for future generations to experience and fall in love with the work of these Detroit artists.”

The Harris Foundation will name a new curatorial position, the Mort Harris Curator of Automotive, Industrial and Decorative Design. This curator will guide the museum in collecting concept drawings, models, paintings, prints, photographs, posters, architectural renderings, toys, time-based media and digital and other media to knit together the aesthetic, social, political and economic narratives of transportation design.

This collection will explore the endless facets of modern life shaped by car design, including the natural and built environments, work and leisure, art and commerce, as well as consumer interests in safety and speed, practicality and aspiration, utility and beauty. The concerns of taste, technology and consumerism connect meaningfully to many aspects of the DIA’s existing collections — from the documentary photography of Robert Frank to the sculptural products of abstract expressionism to the colorful advertising aesthetics of pop art and beyond.

Automotive design stands as just one facet of industrial design. Accordingly, the department will build on its existing American and European industrial and decorative design holdings and will thoughtfully expand these collections, demonstrating the continuum and interconnected nature of these fields with their common designers, materials and service to the workaday needs and deluxe aspirations of modern life.

The DIA is excited to bring this work to the community, and will continue raising funds to support the new collection, related exhibitions and the team that will lead it.

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