Art design

The Detroit Institute of Arts launches a collection of automotive, industrial and decorative design


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Duane Lloyd Bohnstedt (1924-2016), Chevrolet Corvette, 1964. Watercolor on cardboard. Detroit Institute of Arts, Gift of Robert Edwards and Julie Hyde-Edwards. // Courtesy of Detroit Institute of Arts

Funded by a $5 million gift 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 have defined and continue to characterize the ingenuity and development of the American automotive industry, emphasizing Detroit’s distinctive place in this narrative.

The new collection will be launched with a donation of 91 automotive designs by Julie Hyde-Edwards, representing decades of study, collection and advocacy by the donor and her late husband, Robert Edwards, on behalf of car designers from Detroit and the art they produce.

“I am grateful to Mort’s son, Stuart Harris, and Brigitte’s daughter, Michele Becker, and administrator Doreen Vitti, with the support of Mort’s partner, Sandy Morrison, for continuing the generous support and long-time Harris family member at the museum,” said Salvador Salort-Pons, director of the DIA. “Mort’s leadership and generosity helped shape so many institutions in Detroit during his lifetime.

“With Brigitte, their interest in art and the DIA was a joy to behold. This gift is enhanced by the extraordinary collection of works donated by Julie-Hyde Edwards, who, together with Robert Edwards, worked tirelessly to preserve and document these fragile works of art for future generations to discover and fall in love with the work of these people of Detroit. artists.”

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

This collection will explore facets of modern life shaped by automotive design, including natural and built environments, work and leisure, art and commerce, and consumer interests in safety and speed, of functionality and aspiration, and utility and beauty.

Concerns of taste, technology and consumerism intertwine with many aspects of DIA’s existing collections – from Robert Frank’s documentary photography to the sculptural products of Abstract Expressionism to the colorful advertising aesthetic of Pop Art and the -of the.

Automotive design is only one facet of industrial design. Accordingly, the department will build on its existing American and European industrial and decorative design holdings and judiciously expand these collections, demonstrating the continuum and interconnected nature of these areas with their designers, materials and services common to everyday needs and aspirations. Luxury of Modern Life.

Mort Harris, who died May 5, 2021 after living to be 101, was a co-founder of American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc. in Detroit. He served as the first Flying Fortress pilot during World War II, where he flew 33 missions and received three Distinguished Flying Crosses, six Air Medals, a Polish Medal of Honor and a Presidential Citation.

He was also knighted in the French Legion of Honor. After the war, he was president of Mercier Corp., a metallurgical supplier, co-founder of Euroad, which became one of the largest trucking companies in Europe, and acquired Erie Coke and Chemical Co., qu ‘he built into the largest private enterprise. coke company in the United States.

To learn more about Detroit’s rich automotive design history, read DBusiness Recent magazine article on retired photographer Jim Secreto’s automotive advertising art collection here.

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