Thursday, March 6, 2008
To Detroit and back again
Motown was my host this week in preparation for a big work project coming up in June. My mission: test every amenity at the Ritz-Carlton hotel and visit the Detroit Institute of Arts.
It's worth putting in print that the king size bed at the Ritz is far and away the coziest, comfiest bit of heaven I've ever rested my curly head on. Justin--I took notes on the mattress and feather bed. We should look into it. The hotel was lovely and filled with crystal chandaliers and tinkly music. The best part was the candy lounge on the Club Floor. A giant glass canister of Tootsie Rolls and Gummi Bears and hot and cold snacks and sodas and water at all hours of the day and night? My boss and I sat in a corner of the lounge, kept company with a real Detroit posse (the gentlemen were absolutely wearing floor length fur coats), watched a blizzard dump 8 inches on snow on us and got the giggles. Best Tuesday night in a long time.
The Detroit Institute of Arts blew me away. Knocked my socks off. The DIA recently completed a 6 year expansion and construction project that I believe exemplifies why art museums exist. The DIA has had a historically rough life--one of the richest collections in the country in terms of the works of art but one of the poorest in actual monetary senses. Detroit as a city is frighteningly tragic. And is lacking a generation of donors, philanthropists, politicians and economy to help get it back on track. Graham Beal, the Director of the DIA (and the object of just a little hero worship on my part), made radical changes to the way the collections of the museum would be displayed and caught a lot of heat from his colleagues and the press over his efforts. This review by The New York Times gives a nice overview of the situation and is typical of the general response to the new DIA. What I can say is--the DIA is an inarguable demonstration that 1) art enriches people's lives and 2) everyone deserves to see said art. White, black, orange, purple, rich, poor, upside down and sideways. Don't criticize the ones who try to make it possible.
The art is world class. The building is a legacy to greatness of the past and the possibility of renewal. It was the first time in my life that I've been moved to tears by a personal interaction with art. (Yes, crying in the Italian galleries next to my boss and Graham...erm...one of the more embarrassing moments of my week but genuine. I couldn't help myself.)