Thursday, December 15, 2005

what's happening at MONA

With MONA openings usually come second guessing and predictions. There always is a rumbling between artists and art-goers of if it is real artists this time or another group of "Swedish or Japanese artists" again. We all know the secret now - it has been written about before. It is just amazing that the characters still keep coming and Jef continues to work with so "many different artists". You might think that he is getting tired over there but that is far from the case. That said, MONA has a welcoming show of former Cranbrook artists. It really is a shame that more people don't make it out to Pontiac. Here is what the Detroit art scene desperately needs: a gallery district!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The kunsthall (sw.) portion (not the museum store part)of the Museum of New Art is about to close after two years in Pontiac --- the two stories of galleries where artists have mostly invited themselves to explore and experiment.

Where else in the region have artists been allowed such freedom to go crazy without any commercial considerations?! Oh my.

We've also lost Revolution and now District Gallery.

Then someone told me the other day that Detroit now has all the right elements for making a strong art town.

Made me think of a time not so long ago, when Detroit really was strong and an artist really had a chance. Any artist.

I entered this gallery system in 1991 (with a handful of bad polaroids as my portfolio) and by 1994 my work was represented in galleries in NYC, Chicago and L.A. And with museum shows in Amsterdam, Boston, Houston, San Francisco, Seattle and Japan. All in the entry span of three years. How could this be? And working from Detroit?

I'm bragging here about all those Detroit galleries that worked to place artists in these places. And why it happened to a bumbling guy like me wasn't because my art was so great, it wasn't,- but because the gallery system was working here and placing artists there -- out of town.

Here's a rough list (likely missed some) of important fully-functioning galleries operating in the region and showing Michigan artists ten years ago.

They were all exciting places to visit and to view art:

OK Harris
Joyce Emory
Alexa Lee
Caid (the Royal Oak gallery, not the new one)
The old Artists Market (in Harmonie Park)
CPop (the Royal Oak gallery)
Michigan Gallery

2:18 AM  
Blogger Sowff said...

One of the big reasons art in America is so haphazardly recognized and gallery districts dry up like ghost towns and hardly anyone buys art anymore is that artist themselves do not help each other out enough, or at all. My website has been posted on this list with my comments for over 24 hours now, and no one has replied to my post and offered me any encouragement. I know I don't suck, so that is not it.

Also, look at all these "pop artists", albeit with a small "p" Madonna, Spears, Michael Jackson, all have money coming out of their butt, and do nothing to help the national art scene. It is every fish for herself or himself and so the media sharks have a field day eating us for breakfast.

Some gallery owners are so horribly pretentious that I wonder if my art will ever grace the walls of a Detroit-area gallery, but for Space Gallery which is defunct and was owned by a friend in Berkely. I can't say I am unhappy at the demise of Revolution. That place was as anti-revolutionary as Benedict Arnold.

To conclude, I am not the Elephant Man. I am not an Elephant that paints. You can find a page on the net of such, but it is not my page.

Just think of artist-owned galleries, magazines, teevy and radio stations, publishing companies. It can happen if pop artists and Julian Schnabel, Bowie, Iggy pop, stuck together.

If not, this new millenium will once again have the majority of major art shows with only dead artists.

If I get hyberbolic at time, forgive me.

Mike Wrathell.

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

part of having a gallery here once meant having a sense of belonging. you were a proud part of something. and you supported it. when someone else had an opening, you went to support that artist and to support that gallery. and the turn-outs were always large, because you would bring your friends and family as well.

in turn, collectors and patrons would turn out in decent numbers to meet the showcased artist and see his new work. And to rub elbows with all the other artists.

critics would come from the papers, the News and the Free Press, and compete to get their story in first.

that's what a gallery scene comprises when it's working.

it hasn't been that way here for several years. friends who run and have run galleries rarely see their stable/artists except at their own openings. there's little shared curiosity among artists for other artists work, let alone camraderie.

we've seen it at mona. more than a hundred local artists have shown throughout the building in the last two years. and only two or three of those have come back to view the succeeding artists' work. that's not a whine, but a shrug. they only hurt themselves, - if they haven't left town already.

there are so many artists here, and so many good ones -- that collectively they should be a real power. eh.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a run-down part of town that I have always invisioned as a gallery district. It has a three block stretch that looks like a small-town, with quant shops (all abandoned of course), but within a mile from downtown.
If anyone has had any interest in starting a gallery, cafe or working/living space, in a low-cost, fixer-upper part of town with a significant artistic history then let me know.
I can't change the entire area by myself, and I'm just curious if this is something that anyone else has been considering, or if I'm the only delusional one.

PS-I've priced the buildings in the $10-20K range.

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon, who are you? how do we connect?

why don't people just use their names?!

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry fredo,
My name's chris. I live in Detroit.
e-mail me a and we can talk.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Narine Kchikian said...

the times are changing. people are different. market is different. i think we should stop dreaming about good old times and should start putting our energy to work.(some people like Jef at MONA, Nick at already doing it). Apparently old systems (like galleries) don't particularly work. So we have to come up with new systems instead of beating the old horse. I think that first we have to look back at ourselves and raise the quality bar for everything we are doing. I see a lot of Detroit artists doing same old thing and waiting around for collector to discover them. Well, our collectors are educating themselves outside of the city, so they see our work in perspective to outside world. How is your work better? You have to be responsible for what you doing. Time of hippies in candy land are past for artists. We should try new ways of "doing business".

4:07 PM  
Blogger wanwan said...

well, pontiac is just too far for my distance budget. car pooling art types, anyone? ha ha raising the bar? a trend i see is beyond the sat open galleries, the art being shown at bars. "i don't know much about art but i like to drink!" ha ha

7:49 PM  
Blogger Sowff said...

i like the name Sowff, but real name is Mike

Sowff sounds sort of Scandanavian, like I am Aquaman, King of Atlantis, who is my fav comic book character

I like the art you posted today a lot better than the art from yesterday, yesterday's art was mere interesting patterns, i admit, i have done some patterns in my day, but mostly not

i don't get to pontiac much, but i love art openings, do they serve wine at the openings? an opening should at least serve wine, i mean you can get cheap aussie win at farmer jack

don't go to kroger, it is anti-union

farmer jack is cool

i hope y'all go see my art on my page, i made a blog too that is on the bottom of the main page as a link


mike aka sowff

9:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

answering narine:
i wasn't dreaming in candyland. i'm diabetic. the 90's weren't about hippies either. were they?

i was giving perspective. you don't know where to go if you don't know where you've been. people think detroit's always been a hole to climb out of -- it hasn't, and it doesn't need to be now.

this here hole has a rich art history which isn't taught here. artists we could all learn and draw inspiration from, going back fifty years -- lost! knowledge of which and whom would give us a real sense of history and place and worth as well.

how are we ever gonna have a sense of community! if we don't retain anything. it's like detroit's a place for an artist to pass through. not to build a career. this sort of short-term thinking engenders that.

all we're allowed to draw from is the cass corridor group. what about all the others before and since? the dia owns examples of all these artists -- but have never exhibited them, keeping them crated for posterity. kill me.

and it doesn't take much effort to plug into the art world outside of detroit -- one gallery can act as a conduit to and from. it and its artists just have to look at the bigger picture.

if hilberry is working with NYC galleries, borrowing and selling their artists here, she has the responsibility and right to ask for the same from them.

is licorice candy? or an anti-diarrhetic? or both.

so why can't we have it both ways.

and for its openings the museum serves the best boxed wine money can buy.

10:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Narine - "I see a lot of Detroit artists doing same old thing and waiting around for collector to discover them. Well, our collectors are educating themselves outside of the city, so they see our work in perspective to outside world."

I couldn't have said it better myself. I want to surround it in a sea of exclamation points!


12:03 AM  
Blogger Sowff said...

ann, narine, et alii,

you have a point, narine,

unfortunate rehashed art is not only endemic to detroit, i have seen it in nyc and elsewhere, too

even at moma and cranbrook and of course that was all revolution showed

rehashed art is using someone else's inspiration, and then vomiting it out without any perceivable inspiration and then donning one's beret and dancing a jig around it, if you are lucky you get lots of shows

in a way, i can't blame the major museums for hailing a show of yet-another dead artist, because the art of most living artists is a rehash of the dead artists, anyway

might as well, tap the source

i did an homage of a dead artist, and used his style and still like repetition sometimes, but i think my inspiration comes out, and i try not to do only that, but i suppose i could be accused like anyone can be accused of shit

you can see my homage to warhol by clicking on the warhol homage on my main page of

or direct (if you are in a rush to go to the Lions game....) at:

8:48 AM  
Blogger Sowff said...

Dear Ann,

I agree it would be nice if Detroit had a gallery district. I lived in Portland, OR for 4.5 years and it has The Pearl District. First Thursday of every month is hoppin', too.

Especially the summer Thursdays, of course. Portland is a pretty progressive, art-friendly city. I had a solo show at PSU when I was there. Sadly, the art that makes it to the galleries is mostly rehash, but that is par for the course, I guess.

But, what the Hell, such is life.

By the way, if anyone has the money to open up a cool art gallery in an off-beat location, I know just the place!


10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's great to see that you are using this space for a shamless self-promotion of your own 'rehashed' art.
I'm all for discussion, but you can't guilt people into criticising your work.
Try being a bit more subtle,
and people won't think you're a butthole.
(thanks for the rhyme Slick Rick)

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All everyone wants to do is whine about what we don't have, but where is everyone when it's time to support what we do have? Join a board or exhibition committee and have a voice that makes a difference. Revolution closed because not enough people bought art. (When was the last time you BOUGHT art?) Who's next? Hilberry? Lemberg? N'Namdi? These folks have been fighting the good fight for a long time--Susanne for 20-some years, I think, Lemberg for over 30. N'Namdi has an easier time covering costs in Chicago and NYC. Where's the love for the people here trying to make it happen?

7:30 PM  
Blogger art blogs are fun said...

Hey anon,

Hey anon,
Actually I have started collecting local art. I started with a Hocking and then bought a great piece by Detroit artist Kevin Ewing...and I still have my eyes on a couple of other young talents to invest in. I agree that Detroiters are great at whining...that's why I started this blog so at least artists had an outlet to vent and communicate...and maybe come together!

9:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My head hurts.

11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

according to what jeff says there were 25 strong galleries 10 years ago. that means that detroit has been losing galleries at the rate of 2.32 galleries a year. and now we're down to one or two of these.

according to what nirine says (and others) detroit artists don't push themselves and just pump out the same old thing.

putting two and two together it sounds like the level of quality from detroit artists is responsible for an art vacuum here and that quality has been dcreasing over the last few years causing collectors to look elsewhere and for galleries to close their doors.

look if there's great art being created here the collectors would be scooping it up and the galleries would be flourishing.

artists seem to whine and blame everybody else for their sorry lot. face it: maybe they're just not up to snuff to join a global art scene.

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


i seriouly believe that we need to rally people together to make our own arts district. it won't happen without the artists starting it. in my non-native to detroit opinion, the majorety of this area is too blue collared to care.
you know i tried to do the whole arts council thing. and the only issue that was important to people on the council was patting each other on the back that the city appointed them. this was in ferndale, where supposedly things should be firing up and this council is supposed to help.

anyways WE THE ARTISTS need to do something. ann i truely believe with the exposure that you have been getting that maybe you have some sway as to get things started and if you want i'll be right there beside you to help.
hugs and kisses- allison the art supply slave.

10:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it can happen. artcore was a group of art collectives that took over 6 or 7 empty storefronts right downtown a couple years ago. artists worked to get "abandoned" spaces fixed and painted and turned into galleries.
no reason it can't happen again, and in a bigger way.

11:19 AM  

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