Auto Workers and Designers Take the Wheel In Two New Exhibits at the DIA

While the Detroit Institute of Arts’ “Detroit Style” puts automotive designers on a fine art pedestal, the black-and-white photos of street photographer Russ Marshall showcases the life of Detroit’s blue-collar workforce.

The new exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts is a celebration of car culture that’s heavy on futurism, concept art and a dozen gorgeous automobiles displayed as artwork.

“Detroit Style: Car Design in the Motor City, 1950-2020” is now open through June 27 of next year. It’s a marquee exhibition that’s free with general admission but requires a reservation in advance.

Ryan Patrick Hooper
Ryan Patrick Hooper

Across seven decades, “Detroit Style” explores how the Motor City influenced international design through twelve automobiles. The stunning vehicles, including a 1959 Corvette Stingray Racer concept car and a 2017 Ford GT, are complemented by over 30 concept drawings from the designers’ draft table to completion and a smattering of contemporary paintings and sculpture.

“As it has become very clear what an important contribution to global design the modern cars of Detroit were, it really only makes sense that the work of the design studios from in and around Detroit should find a home at the DIA,” says Ben Colman, the curator of “Detroit Style” and associate curator of American art at the museum.

Hear the full interview with “Detroit Style” curator Ben Colman:

Ryan Patrick Hooper
Ryan Patrick Hooper

Detroit In Black & White

“Detroit Style” is opening alongside a new photo exhibition at the DIA.

“Russ Marshall: Detroit Photographs, 1958-2008” is a survey of life in Detroit told across more than 90 black-and-white photos and six decades. Separated by different themes, the exhibit highlights union autoworkers in Michigan.

Marshall had a front-row seat to factory life like few others did, working as a freelance photographer for local and national labor and trade magazines from 1975 to 2005.

“Russ Marshall: Detroit Photographs, 1958-2008” and “Detroit Style: Car Design in the Motor City, 1950-2020” are now on display at the Detroit Institute of Arts through June 27, 2021.

Russ Marshall
Russ Marshall


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  • Ryan Patrick Hooper
    Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host of "In the Groove" on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. Hooper has covered stories for the New York Times, NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.