March 2013 marked the 80th anniversary of the completion of the Detroit Industry murals, painted by Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Edsel Ford, son of Henry Ford, and William Valentiner, director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, commissioned Rivera to paint two murals for the museum’s Garden Court. Rivera began work in 1932 and was required to relate the murals to the history of Detroit and development of the automobile industry. Rivera concluded his work in March 1933. His wife, artist Frida Kahlo, lived with Rivera in Detroit during his work at the DIA.
In 1988, Walbridge was hired to renovate the court in which the murals are located. The renovation included the addition of a new heat-strengthened, insulated skylight erected to filter out harmful ultra-violet rays while protecting the murals following a restoration.
Additional modifications included new climate control systems, the installation of original marble, Pewabic tile flooring and specially designed lights. An ornate ceiling trellis of cypress wood was bleached and refinished with ornamental paint.
The entire project was completed within a 24-week schedule with minimal disruption to the Institute’s ongoing operations and patrons.