Director of the Detroit Institute of Arts Graham W.J. Beal provides analysis both of the history behind Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry Murals and the murals themselves.
At the turn of the last century, Detroit was a small city of a few hundred thousand people. But with the advent of the auto industry, and with Henry Ford paying $5 a day, people flooded in from all over the world. By the 1920s, the city was rolling in money. The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) opened in 1927. The planning analysis for the museum projected that, if the city continued to grow at its then-current rate, by 1935 it would surpass Chicago to become the second city in the United States, and by 1953 it would surpass New York to become the first city. Those were the kinds of ambitions that lay behind the creation of the DIA.