The Metropolitan

“It has certainly been quite a ride, with some amazing highs that have far outweighed the other kind,” said Director of the DIA, Graham Beal, regarding his retirement scheduled for June 30, 2015. After serving as director, president and CEO for nearly 16 years Beal has presided over some of the most significant events in the museum’s history, including a reinvention of how the DIA presents art to the public; passage of a tri-county regional millage to support museum operations; and the DIA participation in the unprecedented “grand bargain” initiative, which hopes to secure for future generations’ the DIA’s art collection. Mr. Beal also acted on behave of the DIA for facilitating resolution of the controversial Detroit bankruptcy.

“I want to thank all those whose talents and passion for the DIA helped bring success in so many different areas: among them artistic, scholarly, pedagogical, political and legal,” said Beal, who has overseen two major capital campaigns, has built on the DIA’s reputation, with regard to art acquisitions and exhibitions, and has, according to the DIA, greatly increased attendance.

“Graham has been an invaluable leader who has strengthened the museum in so many ways,” said Eugene A. Gargaro Jr., DIA board chair. “Graham has also led the museum through extremely challenging economic times, developed international stature and respect for the DIA, strengthened the collection and initiated a culture change that resulted in the museum becoming more accessible to all. We will truly miss Graham’s leadership.”

Under Beal, the DIA has co-organized exhibitions such as Van Gogh: Face to Face in 2000, Magnificenza! The Medici, Michelangelo and the Art of Late Renaissance Florence in 2003 and organized the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit, which opened March 15, 2015 and runs through July 12.

“While it is difficult to close this most significant chapter in my professional life, I am delighted that it will end with an exhibition of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo’s time in Detroit,” said Beal. It has been 10 years since I conceived of the idea for this exhibition and I draw no small pleasure that it will mark my exit as director.”


A Look At Graham Beal’s Tenure As Director of the DIA


2007 | Renovation and Reinstallation

Beal oversaw a comprehensive building renovation and gallery reinstallation from 2001 to 2007 that included infrastructure upgrades, increased gallery space, expanded visitor amenities and a new façade for the North and South Wings. According to the DIA, the $158 million project was completed with no debt incurred by the museum.

Inspired by the collection and a conviction that the DIA is “an unparalleled cultural and educational resource for the community”, Beal directed the staff to present the collection in a way that provides new ways of looking at and relating to the art. The reinstalled galleries feature tools to help visitors better understand the art, its cultural context and its relevance to their lives.


 2012 Property Tax to Support DIA Operations

One of the most controversial initiatives under Beal was the passage of a 10-year tri-county regional property tax (millage) to support DIA operations. Since the early 1990s, state and city support for the museum had steadily declined. According to the DIA, it had to raise from $8 million to $15 million per year for operations to balance its budget, a financial model that the museum claimed was not sustainable. The DIA asked voters in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties for a 10-year millage to temporarily restore public funding. The passing of the millage initiative currently supplies approximately 70 percent of the operating budget.

Coincidentally, the $158 million needed for the expansion project, which “incurred no debt” in 2007, is roughly the figure the DIA was seeking five years later in 2012 when it petitioned the region for a tax millage to balance its budget.


City of Detroit Bankruptcy

Because legal title to the DIA’s collection and building had been in the name of the City of Detroit, the collection became a factor in Detroit’s bankruptcy negotiations. The DIA vigorously maintained that the City held the art in trust for the public and that it could not be sold to pay the City’s bills. Michigan’s attorney general agreed and issued an opinion in support of that position.

A “grand bargain” was struck that involved the State, numerous national and local foundations and the DIA in committing $816 million over 20 years to benefit Detroit’s pensioners. In return, the City transferred title to the museum and the collection to the private nonprofit—Detroit Institute of Arts Inc.— that had been managing the museum under an operating agreement with the City that took effect in 1998.


Major Acquisitions

Double-Cup, Hans Petzolt, 1596 
Ewer, Medici Manufactory, between 1575 and 1578

Chief’s Throne, Olówè of Isè, 20th century

Departure of the Volunteers of 1792 (The Marseillaise), Francois Rude, ca. 1835

Study for Birds, Albert Joseph Moore, 1878

Officer of the Hussars, Kehinde Wiley, 2007

Seated Nude Woman Brushing Her Hair, Edgar Degas, 1885/1908

Russet Landscape, Edgar Degas, ca. 1890

Charger, Ottoman, between 1480 and 1500

Das Geviert, Anselm Kiefer, 1997

The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1634


Major Exhibitions

Van Gogh: Face to Face, 2000

Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur, 2001

Over the Line: The Life and Art of Jacob Lawrence, 2002

Degas and the Dance, 2002

Magnificenza! The Medici, Michelangelo and the Art of Late Renaissance Florence, 2003

American Attitude: Whistler and His Followers, 2003

Camille Claudel and Rodin: Fateful Encounter, 2006

Through African Eyes: The European in African Art, 1500 to Present, 2010

Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus, 2011

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit

Prior to his tenure at the DIA, Beal served as director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from 1996 to 1999. Beal, a U.S. citizen, is a native of Great Britain, born in Stratford-on-Avon. He has degrees in English and Art History from the University of Manchester and the Courtauld Institute of Art.


Look for an interview with Mr. Graham Beal, regarding his tenure at the DIA, his thoughts on art and politics, and a bit about rock and roll, in the May issue of The Metropolitan.