centerlogobigAAD logo


January 8, 2014 (Detroit)—The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) announced today that Director Graham W. J. Beal will retire as of June 30, 2015, after serving as director, president and CEO for nearly 16 years. Since joining the DIA, Beal has presided over some of the most significant accomplishments in the museum’s history, including a tremendously successful reinvention of presenting art to the public; passage of a tri-county regional millage to support museum operations; and the DIA participation in the historic and unprecedented grand bargain initiative, which secured for future generations’ the DIA’s widely acclaimed art collection while also successfully facilitating resolution of the Detroit bankruptcy.

Beal has overseen two major capital campaigns, has built on the museum’s outstanding reputation with regard to art acquisitions and exhibitions, has greatly increased attendance and expanded the DIA’s community outreach and awareness through programming and innovative art installations. Under Beal's leadership, the DIA has co-organized outstanding 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 highly anticipated Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit, which opens March 15, 2015.

“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.”

“It has certainly been quite a ride with some amazing highs far outweighing the other kind, and 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. “I have been particularly fortunate to work with such an outstanding Chairman of the Board, Gene Gargaro. 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. 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.”

Major accomplishments:

2007 Renovation and Reinstallation

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

Beal saw the building project as an ideal opportunity to expand the museum in another way—in its thinking. Inspired by the prestigious 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. This approach has also informed the planning of educational and public programs.

Since the project was completed, staff from art museums across the country and beyond have visited the DIA to investigate how the innovations here might apply to their own museums.

2012 Property Tax to Support DIA Operations

One of the most challenging and successful initiatives during Beal’s tenure 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. The DIA had to raise from $8 million to $15 million per year for operations to balance its budget, a financial model that was not sustainable. After considerable research and evaluation, the DIA asked voters in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties for a 10-year millage to temporarily restore public funding. The successful millage initiative, which was acclaimed around the country, currently supplies approximately 70 percent of the operating budget.

This success allows for future fundraising to focus on building an operating endowment, the best option to guarantee the DIA’s eventual non-reliance on public funding.

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.

Because of the importance of the DIA to Detroit and the region, 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, opens March 15

Prior to his tenure at the DIA, Beal served as director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from 1996 to 1999. He was director of the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, from 1989 to 1996 and served as chief curator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from 1984 to 1989. Beal has published many exhibition catalogs, books and articles, including an exhibition catalog on the DIA’s American paintings. He has served on numerous art panels, was a member of the Federal Advisory Committee on International Exhibitions from 1991 to 1995, and was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Association of Art Museum Directors and Chair of its Art Issues Committee from 2002 to 2005. He served on the Board of Trustees of the American Association of Museums from 2004 to 2007.

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.

For more information, visit the DIA website:

About the Author



AAD REPORTS   Reports, news and opinion from