Detroit Institute of Arts hails late benefactor with exhibition

Detroit Institute of Arts

Margaret Herz Demant. Photo by Patricia Beck/Detroit Free Press

DETROIT – The exhibition titled “Extraordinary Eye, Extraordinary Gift: The Legacy of Margaret Herz Demant” focuses on the patronage and recent bequest of art to the Detroit Institute of Arts from the late Margaret Herz Demant of Huntington Woods, Michigan.

This exhibition celebrates her gift of artworks to the museum’s permanent collection and her passion for African and modern Western art. Demant collected these pieces with the sole purpose of enhancing the DIA’s world-class art collection, purposefully purchasing art to fill in gaps within the various departments.

“Extraordinary Eye, Extraordinary Gift” will be on view Jan. 27–May 26 in the new acquisitions gallery adjacent to Rivera Court. The exhibition is free with museum admission.

This exhibition displays 35 works in a variety of media, by artists of different cultural and historical backgrounds with a wide range of relevance to the DIA’s collection of African art, modern Western works and prints and drawings. African works dominate in the exhibition with a total of 24 pieces, representing Demant’s primary passion and the majority of the bequest. Other pieces of the exhibition include an etching by Pablo Picasso among other drawings and prints, a painting by French artist Jean Dubuffet and 3-D works by French artist André Breton and American artist Joseph Cornell.

Demant joined the DIA in the early 1960s, becoming a member of the board of trustees, a patron, benefactor, and a dedicated volunteer before her death on May 20, 2018. As an experienced interior designer and lifetime collector, she viewed her collection as an integral part of her home’s décor. While the quality of her pieces showcased her incredible eye and taste, her use of art within her home spoke to her sophistication. “Extraordinary Eye, Extraordinary Gift” attempts to recapture her personal approaches to collecting and experiencing art.

“Margaret, a devoted supporter of the DIA, was an astute collector whose enthusiasm for art and its display was contagious,” said Salvador Salort-Pons, DIA Director. “The works in this gift will enhance our already world-class collection and enrich the lives of the residents of southeast Michigan. This is a gift to the community in which she lived and thrived.”

Among the highlights are:

Mask, 19th century, Mbagani, African, wood and polychrome. Referred to as kibwabwabwa, the face masks are associated with practices of the Mukandaceremony and are worn during times of crisis, especially following periods of unsuccessful hunting or an epidemic of infertility. White-painted eyes are said to symbolize the gaze of ancestral spirits.

Woman holding bowl with child, 18th century, Mwanza workshop, African, wood.
This wooden sculpture served as a receptacle for kaolin clay and medicinal herbs. A diviner used it to remedy a wide variety of physical and spiritual illnesses. It is also believed to possess powers capable of determining the innocence or guilt of accused persons in judicial cases.

The Solitary One, 1955, Jean Dubuffet, French, paint on canvas. The Solitary One was created by artist Jean Dubuffet while living in the south of France. The work exemplifies his enjoyment in creating complex surfaces, in this case, depicting a man standing alone in a landscape. Dubuffet showcases his technique, in which he slathers on thick layers of paint on the canvas only to dig out and remove some of it.

Still Life with Jug, 1920, Le Corbusier (Charles Edouard Jeanneret-Gris), French, charcoal, black and red crayon on vellum-style paper. Still Life with Jug by famed international architect Le Corbusier depicts everyday objects placed on a table, represented from multiple viewpoints simultaneously. It is inscribed with both his given name, “Jeanneret” and the initials “L. C.” for “Le Corbusier,” the pseudonym he adopted that same year.