Graham Beal, the director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, announced today that he will retire in June, after 16 years on the job, including what must have been an absolutely hellish 18-month stretch that saw Detroit’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, threatening to force a sale of the collection in the wake of the city’s bankruptcy. Thankfully, of course, that didn’t occur. A grand bargain was struck, Beal helped DIA raise $100 million toward the bankruptcy plan, and the museum will now be independent of the city government.
Though it’s awkward to admit, that threatened sell-off at least had the benefit of reminding us of just how strong and varied the DIA’s holdings are. (In August 2013, writer Tyler Green organized A Day for Detroit, for art sites to focus on its holdings, to drive the point home.) There’s an astounding van Gogh self-portrait (purchased by Detroit in 1922) and one of the most ebullient Stettheimers out there (a gift), to name just two pieces. The collection continued to grow during Beal’s tenure, and in announcing his retirement, the DIA emphasized those new works. Below, a few highlights.