DETROIT — The rumors are true: Detroit’s contemporary art scene thrives. The rumors are also true: [insert standard boilerplate about Detroit’s struggles]. For my first article for Hyperallergic, I provide a brief guide to Detroit’s contemporary art scene.
For when you visit, below is a list of my top five art destinations.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit
MoCAD just celebrated its fifth anniversary. MoCAD brings Detroiters historical conceptual artists, such as James Lee Byars and Lee Lozano, and it brings Detroiters established and rising stars in conceptual arts, such as Stéphani Nava, Pablo Helguera, Rivane Neuenschwander, Mike Kelley, and Martha Friedman. MoCAD is housed in a former car dealership and has more than 22,000 square feet to use for installations. Sadly, MoCAD’s energetic Director, Luis Croquer, recently decided that he would not renew his contract at MoCAD, yet MoCAD has a committed support system to ensure it will build on Luis’s successes.
Detroit Institute of Arts
The DIA is over 125 years-old, but it still embraces contemporary art. It regularlly purchases artwork from contemporary artists, and it hosts contemporary lectures and installations. The DIA currently has a photography and video exhibit, Detroit Revealed: Photographs 2000-2010, that explores the various layers of this city in a more substantive manner than the various abandoned buildings of Detroit images. Last year the DIA brought us The Neighborhood Project, which showcased the Design 99 team of Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert, who are loud voices for the concept that fine art and design can add texture and invoke an important dialogue about Detroit’s neighborhoods.
Urban Art Playgrounds
There are no art projects too grand in scale or concept for Detroit. One of the more adventurous and long lasting outdoor art projects is The Heidelberg Project. This is an art space that you truly have to experience: You drive into a bad neighborhood, believe that you are lost, and then you turn the corner and are presented with an outdoor museum to the creative spirit of one resident, Tyree Guyton. Through use of his ubiquitous dots and hundred of found objects (that range from abandoned shoes to abandoned buses), he created an outdoor art exhibit in a Detroit neighborhood, which has fascinated Detroiters since 1986. While The Heidelberg Project is one of the longest lasting projects, there are discrete art events of late that embrace the concept of large scale art projects (and these art projects are constantly in the works, so it is something to keep on your radar when you visit). Last year, Matthew Barney captivated the art world elite with his KHU performance, which was a multi-site over the top performance that included the dredging up and the eventual melting down of a 1967 Chrysler Imperial. The artist group 2:1 initially brought Detroit Ice House Detroit, where they encased an abandoned hose in ice to highlight the national housing crisis, and this past year they brought us Fire House Detroit, where they staged a collaborative sound installation at a re-purposed Fire Station.
Contemporary Art Mainstays
Detroit is lucky. Its founders prepared the cultural soil well, so that ideas flourish here. Music grows here. Theatre grows here. Fine Art grows here. And there are certain mainstays of the contemporary art scene that have inspired art enthusiasts for decades. Since 1907, the Scarab Club has cultivated and attracted leading figures in the art world (it keeps an ongoing record of some of the luminaries that visit: on a beam of the second floor lounge are the signatures of Marcel Duchamp, Diego Rivera, Norman Rockwell, Julian Force, and John Sinclair, among others). Here you can discover spoken word poetry, high caliber juried shows, and studio tours of some of the top area artists, among other events. Nearby you can see juried shows that include the DAM Unmentionables show, the DAM Boxes show, the DAM Small(er) show, and the DAM Design show, among other annual and biennial shows at the Detroit Artists Market (DAM), which has influenced Detroit’s arts and culture since 1932. While the Scarab Club and DAM showcase artists that experiment with materials and subject matter, they are still the best venues to find work steeped in traditional painting techniques.
The newest movement in Detroit is experimental art venues. First, Tate Osten brought Detroit the Kunsthalle Detroit Light Museum. This Museum encourages a deeper appreciation for contemporary video work and light-based arts. It opened with a successful group exhibition that received national praise. The group exhibition included 12 large scale video installations by established artists such as Sebastian Diaz Morales, Hans Op de Beek, and Christina Lucas. Second, the 2:1 art group (Ice House and Fire House mentioned above) brought Detroit the 2:1 Gallery, which will focus on sound experiments. For its first show, 2:1 Gallery shuffled
viewers listeners to the basement of the gallery, and then gallery goers sat and listened to a gifted dance troupe dance, shuffle, drag, and otherwise create a unique sensory experience.
This is just a flyby of some of the “don’t miss” venues, and I made sure to focus on the core Downtown area. In future posts I’ll highlight some of the other galleries Downtown and in Metro Detroit. But hopefully the above introduction is enough to whet your appetite.
Goya’s Coded Love Letter to the Duchess of Alba
Goya neatly clothes himself in his own world of fantasy: He will have her in the end. In life, where the climate is much chillier, it was, alas, to be otherwise.
Witches Take Over Westchester
Bowen’s multimedia art is an alchemical mix of the sensuous and arcane, and it is more than a little witchy.
The Public Theater Explores the Hurricane Katrina Diaspora in shadow/land
Written by Erika Dickerson-Despenza and directed by Candis C. Jones, this lyrical meditation on legacy, erotic fugitivity, and self-determination is on view in NYC.
14 Art Books and Catalogues We’re Reading This Month
Anthologies and catalogues on feminist art in Latin America, Native mound building, Armenian photography, and more are on our reading list.
Saudi Arabia Announces $1M “Freedom of Expression” Art Award
Kanye West, Roman Polanski, and Carl Andre are among the shortlisted artists.
The Rubin Museum Presents Death Is Not the End
Tibetan Buddhist and Christian works of art made across 12 centuries explore death, the afterlife, and the desire to continue to exist. On view in NYC.
British Museum Offers Greece “Exclusive NFT” of the Parthenon Marbles
“With the power of blockchain technology, there will be no question who the real owner is,” said a British Museum spokesperson.
MoMA to Co-Curate Exhibition With NYPD
Arrest Me, Daddy hopes to cast a more positive light on the work of law enforcement officers.
When I Am Empty Please Dispose of Me Properly
Ayanna Dozier, Ilana Harris-Babou, Meena Hasan, Lucia Hierro, Catherine Opie, Chuck Ramirez, and Pacifico Silano explore the myths of the American Dream at Brooklyn’s BRIC House.
Repatriation-Inspired Fragrance Line Hopes to Heal Collector Wounds
The exotic scents of the Rapatriement line offer solace and joy to dismayed collectors who were forced to return looted artifacts.
Mediocre Painting Thought AI-Generated Revealed as Work of Real Artist
Visitors who spoke to Hyperallergic said they were “horrified” to learn that a human could come up with such a banal and poorly executed artwork.
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
Prince Harry to Star in New Van Gogh Biopic
The estranged prince said he took the role to raise awareness of mental health issues.
Newly Discovered Trove of Vermeer Works Reveals He Painted Mainly Dogs
A cache of 243 paintings found in an English castle, all depicting canine subjects, suggests Vermeer’s true aspiration was to become a dog portraitist.