Monday, October 23, 2006

Here are a couple stories in the news:
MAN on contemporary art musuem collections and MOCAD in the free press

14 Comments:

Anonymous Greg Thrasher said...

My heightened anticipation about the opening of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit was given a shot of hard core reality after I read the media coverage of the MOCAD .

I was so excited about the possibilities I even offered up an entry for the MOCAD's grand opening "Art Arrows" project. Threshold art and venues which add value and imagination in the marketplace not only fuel rebirth but enhance the quality of one's life.

Of course since reality rules even the arcane and creative universe of art I have now turned down the volume of my passion and fervor over the MOCAD to confront the real world of reality.

The very idea that this new construct which claims to be the missing piece of the art scene in Detroit has only one African-American on it's board and only one Detroit "artist" - a DJ - at it's first exhibit in a city where black folks dominate the landscape is disheartening and hopefully just a naïve misstep and not a familiar tale.

There is nothing appealing about an institution which has a marginal influence of people of color on it's board and in it's administration. The specter of yet another impotent white dominated infrastructure does not leave one with much thirst to seek out "where art begins".

The idea that people of color in Detroit are such a peripheral slice of this idea makes me uneasy. From Picasso to Miro (obviously not the acting director but Joan Miro) these great artists were impacted and influenced heavily by the black experience; yet to have the main players behind this idea all white except for one black board member speaks directly to my reservations.

It is true that even the landscape of art with it's infinite possibilities cannot escape the reality of exclusion and contempt for diversity despite our country's legacy of black creative genius from fine art to music to literature. The ugly face of race is always on the canvas.

I hope my reservations will not come to fruition. Yet I do remember the plight of Detroit's original avant-garde curator Jef Bourgeau's experience with his fabulous and now legendary Museum of New Art. I do know that Jef's entire persona was about inclusion and recognition of the genius of alternative artists and a healthy respect for black artists.

At first blush MOCAD"S initial show provides the predictable and well traveled and tired themes of ruins, slavery and black angst.

Detroit deserves cutting edge institutions..... I will keep hope alive.

Greg Thrasher

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I put off sending in the money for Mocad because my heart just wasn't in it, but at the same time I couldn't understand my response. I've come to understand it better (with the recent press) -- that the people involved, who could easily fund it in its entirety, simply want the prestige of being on a board and having control of an institution, and contemporary art is glamour and fashion for them.

3:26 PM  
Anonymous barbara k said...

My greatest worry is that MOCAD will indeed draw potential funds away from other art institutions like Cranbrook and the DIA.

But in a way that really hasn't been discussed anywhere: That the next generation of patrons, of the young Taubman's and Karmanos's etc, will be and are being drawn to MOCAD and away from their hoped involvement with the older established institutions.

The current patrons of these institutions are aging fast and trying to bring in obscene amounts of money for the established museums (over a quarter billion capital campaign for the DIA alone). And perhaps they are doing so in preparation for this looming support-deficit and indifference from their offspring.

So what will happen to these landmark institutions when they pass on, and their children and their young friends are already investing their inherited millions in an untried museum scheme.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous from sw said...

This is a very
establishment operation, which doesn't sound too promising. It's clearly
meant to prevent anything 'dangerous' from emerging in the area.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous chris said...

I always like how history gets re-written, especially while you're still living it.

In a great web-press for Detroit, MODEL-D, the latest MOCAD prop came out:
Mitch Cope says that when Klaus Kertess, the curator of MOCAD's inaugural Meditations in an Emergency exhibition, showed up recently at the building he urged that "nothing be touched ... let the building and the art evolve together." Kertess, who has been active in the art world as a dealer, writer and educator since the 1960s, had powerful first impressions of the space. "He said 'it was very Detroit,' " Cope says, "and that it didn't need to be something else."

Well, what was closer to what the invited curator Kertess actually said, and was quoted several months ago - went more like: I had wanted to do a painting show. But when I saw the building's interior, I realized that would be impossible... It's a ruin, like most of Detroit. So I decided to go with installations that would play off that notion of a ruined city [read - very Detroit].

1:13 PM  
Anonymous J said...

Greg-
It is disheartening to know that you have to result to race as a reason not to support MOCAD. I did a little research on the 9 artists participating in the first exhibition and though it is not important to me, i wanted you to be aware of the backgrounds of each artist. since race and maybe gender seem to be a prerequisite for you; please enjoy the following:
Nari Ward - Black Male
Kara Walker - Black Female
Barry McGee- Black Male
Mark Bradford - Black Male
Paul Pfeiffer - Phillipino Male
Tabaimo - Japanese Female
Roxy Paine- White Male
Christopher Fachini - White Male
Jon Pylypchuk - White Male

5:10 PM  
Anonymous matt d. said...

I believe Greg's major point was that Detroiters weren't included in any real sense either on the board or in the exhibition.

And from that, population-wise, you can read African-Americans here and now: "...this new construct which claims to be the missing piece of the art scene in Detroit has only one African-American on it's board and only one Detroit "artist" - a DJ - at it's first exhibit in a city where black folks dominate the landscape.

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

I admire that Greg has pointed out that although black artists are participating in this first effort they only bring "well traveled and tired themes of ruins, slavery and black angst."

5:22 PM  
Anonymous J said...

Matt,

i do not believe his argument was based on the lack of Detroiters. Though it was briefly mentioned in passing, statements such as
"There is nothing appealing about an institution which has a marginal influence of people of color on it's board and in it's administration. The specter of yet another impotent white dominated infrastructure does not leave one with much thirst to seek out "where art begins"."
are what lead me to believe that race is actually what is most upsetting to him. Greg- please correct me if I am wrong.

However, if we were to bring up the Detroit artist issue again (like beating a goddamn horse) I will state my opinion... in order for the museum ot gain the national recognition it deserves and desires, the first show needs to have show stopping names that everyone knows. Detroit does not possess many artists that are known on a national/international level such as those participating in the first exhibition. Secondly, the Shrinking Cities exhibit will be the second at MOCAD. Rather than congratulating Detroit artist, Scott Hocking, and being proud that a Detroiter is represented at MOCAD, the community has criticized him for his connections with Suzanne Hilberry.

5:38 PM  
Anonymous leo k. said...

in order for mocad to gain the national recognition it deserves and desires, the first show needs to have show stopping art -- not names. paine's work is ten years old. it's fun, but it won't raise any eyebrows outside detroit. it's been done, and seen

and as far as "names" the only one recognized outside of an art elite, might be kara walker. and her work is an animated film, and not truly representative of the work she has become famous for and shown in michigan (at u of m's museum).

good strong new art alone will put mocad on the map. not retreads.

and it's plain ignorant to puke out the same tired mantra: Detroit does not possess artists that are known on national/international level such as those participating in the first exhibition.

And why is that?! Duh!

And when we finally have an art platform to celebrate our art and artists we turn our backs on them.

12:24 AM  
Anonymous abracadabra said...

Not to be nitpicky but Barry McGee is not black, he is part Chinese

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Thrasher said...

I am enjoying the banter.. Of course race is important in my life I live it, constantly and btw reminded about it 24/7... One of my themes is that as usual black folks who have a legacy of being one of America's greatest artistic aggregates are an afterthought, a token, a slate to be walked over.. that is tragic and sad and in truth forecasts the missed chance that great art with be present @ MOCAD..

My another theme of mine is this area's so-called elite have trashed and marginalized MONA aka Jef's legacy. I have no respect for cultural thieves and those with selective memories...

BTW "J" I am never uncomfortable about playing the race card or injecting race in reality.. the failure to ignore the obvious is partly why this region is so racist.. so yeah injecting race in life for me is part of my being and a passion and obligation I treasure whenever-wherever..

6:47 PM  
Blogger Jef Bourgeau said...

Thanks for your kind words and support, Mr Thrasher.

MONA turned ten this month and is still alive, but it seems sometimes as if it's been erased from Detroit's collective memory (whether it's been the museum's showing of international artists side-by-side with local talent (most recently with Brit Stella Vine), or, with its Artcore project in empty storefronts downtown.

I don't believe the side-by-side exhibits have diminished MONA's international reputation -- that seems only to disturb local psyches.

Quite the opposite.

In fact, the last three artists approached MONA for exhibition: Mariella Bettineschi as part of her traveling exhibition at five American museums; Howard Schatz chose MONA to premiere his latest work and book of photography; and renowned Brit Stella Vine to create a living painting.

It's a backward notion to think Detroit's art scene is running on empty. And that by simply booking outside art at a local venue will force Detroit into the art world.

When was the last time the art world got excited over Indianapolis's latest show at their contemporary? Or Cleveland's? And on and on.

The excitement will only be generated from the inside-out. By putting together shows here of new work by new artists pushing at the edge of the art world.

And Detroit and its artists are that frontier of fresh and unseen activity for which the artworld constantly trolls.

7:38 PM  
Anonymous leo k. said...

i just received a release for tony matelli at Andréhn-Schiptjenko Gallery. earlier in the year i even got one for the big pier show in nyc and the unholy erection's work was showcased.
anyone involved with artists over the years knows that detroit has lost her best, that there's been a constant art drain away from detroit.

jackie becker sold out her entire show to an important french collector. then went to nyc. dana schutz adopted cleveland, and that museum is returning the favor by giving her a solo show until january.

paul klein sends out a monthly art letter: this last extolling the fact that he has watched chicago artists mature from college into their mature years -- without them ever fleeing chicago.

such things happen elsewhere. not in detroit. partly because the community (read galleries and collectors) don't support local art like other cities. and the artists themselves have low self-esteem (the notion that mocad will make detroit artists better by showing them what their peers are doing elsewhere: why, so that we can imitate them instead of developing our own identity. or revealing what potential we already have.)

anyway, mocad had the potential of opening a door to the art world that moved both ways. what a disappointment that it's mission is money and those who have it, to be their plaything. to let "other art spaces show the local talent". (marsha miro)

excepting kara walker (who the dia owns but won't put on display), these artists are "show stopping names that everyone already knows". (are we supposed to be star struck by this season's celebrity artist!)

so the assumption is we're already familiar with their work in little backwoods detroit?! why would showing them here make us recognized there?! wherever there is... and who cares about there. we all live and work here.

and so, this first show leaves mocad a very minor player in the art world. other than walker, these are minor celebrities. and so, show them to avoid being dangerous to the dia. by not drawing much limelight to detroit.

and to be less than a platform for recognition of detroit's best and brightest - who will still continue to move on as soon as can.

11:31 PM  

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