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“Motor City Muse” at the Detroit Institute of Art

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When legendary French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson stopped to photograph Detroit in 1947 during a cross-country road trip, he kicked off a legacy in the city that has lasted nearly 70 years. “People don’t think about a photographic tradition in Detroit,” says Nancy Barr, curator of the exhibit “Motor City Muse: Detroit Photographs, Then and Now” at the Detroit Institute of Arts. “But Cartier-Bresson wanted to do a book on Detroit about the American dream and people living it out.”

Barr, a native Detroiter, has long focused her energies on bringing her city’s storied artistic history to life. The latest exhibition, which opens December 14, mixes historical fine-art photography with more contemporary pieces to create an eclectic representation of life in the Midwestern town. The show runs the gamut from high to low, including Bill Rauhauser’s everyday portraits (a woman smoking in the art museum, a teenager selling curly fries) and contemporary works like Nicola Kuperus’s juxtaposition of staged homicides with vintage cars.

And not to be forgotten, the legacy of the automobile—which put Detroit on the map when Ford Motor Company opened its plant at the turn of the 20th century—rightly serves as a unifying theme. December 14 through June 16, 2013; 5200 Woodward Ave.; 313-833-7900; dia.org.

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