Friday, April 14, 2006

the scoop on mocad

I have never seen so many comments as when it comes to the discussion of MOCAD. Whatever anyone thinks, this dialog is a healthy, great thing! Even as much as the committee is worried about having gossip out there or what they feel is criticism, they should be happy that people are talking – and oh boy, are they! The big line between people at parties, art openings, alternative papers, and art schools is, “so what do you know about mocad?” That is the big question. Not a lot of people know the real answers and specifics but are fueled by gossip - some of which is true and some of which isn’t.
I know that what is happening with the opening of mocad in the near future is very important and if you haven’t taken notice yet, now is the time! A contemporary museum means a lot for the city. This means the local and metro Detroit community might actually get the chance to view national and international contemporary art without having to leave the state! Yippee! Not only will the community have another art institution but hopefully local artists will share in the rewards of finally being recognized as a city that can compete with the big guys like NY, LA and Chicago. The more art enthusiasts we have in Michigan the more local galleries prosper - thus starting a wonderful art cycle.
Now, this all is still premature and as a typical Detroiter there is still a little bit of skeptic in me. Will all this come to pass? Will it be just like the Super Bowl hoo-rah and come with a bang and then fade away after a year or two? Hopefully not, and that is specifically what I and some other Detroit artists and writers sat down to talk about with the mocad committee. Marsha Miro, mocad’s committee director, graciously sat down with us to talk about some of the issues of the museum and listen to another perspective. I believe they are all trying their best to make this work. All, excluding one, are doing this on their own time, all with the dream of making this happen – which is something that even I tend to forget. Yes, there needs to be some Detroit involvement and also some coordination and firm announcement but otherwise we should be happy that this is finally coming together. I think that many in the area are feeling left in the dark thus their poor attitude but with the spread of some info I think that their cause will gain more supporters. They made sure to stress the point of positive thinking, which I think is difficult for some Detroiters for many reasons.

Here are some facts that I managed to scribble down from the discussion:

- The committee is tentative to declare information on the new museum before they themselves have all the facts and plans
- They still need donations – that is why they are handling everything so carefully
- The mocad building (Garfield and Woodward) was bought by a patron for the DIA – which fell through for the DIA but is now being used for mocad.
- The space is 22,000 sq/ft with tall ceilings and no windows
- The façade will be covered with graffiti by artist Barry McGee which will hopefully allow local graffiti artists to apprentice under him.
- Detroit architect Andrew Zago will be working on the building design and structure.

- The opening is scheduled for October 27th

-Committee hopes that the opening at mocad will coordinate with other galleries in the Detroit area. (If so, I feel that they need to come out with an actually declared date in print so other spaces can start planning. The opening could even stretch to include open studios that weekend or other fun art events that could help kick off the big night.)

- A website for mocad should be coming in a couple weeks
- There is a small staff right now of 5 Detroit committee volunteers and then added patrons but they are looking outside of Detroit to find curators
- Mitch Cope is the first staff member
- Klaus Kertess, the inaugural curator, is still traveling to studios in the hopes of finding a Detroit artist to be included in the show.
- The second show will be the “Shrinking Cities” show – and run by Mitch Cope. Shrinking Cities is a project in connection with other “shrinking cities” like Berlin that shared artists and ideas.

- It was stressed that the art is #1 in the museum’s focus. They are not throwing money into a fancy building.
- The purpose of the museum is to serve all sorts of people – schools and local community.
- They want to have a “living museum” which Mitch explained would be geared after a certain Berlin museum (and another museum that I did not catch the name of).
- They want to have a space that is open till midnight or at least late to serve as a spot for artists and art enthusiasts to meet and share ideas.
- They talked about the idea of having a coffee shop and café in the space. (Now here is my personal take: yes, “hip-packaging” is fun and inviting but if the shows some how lack after some time or the museum isn’t coordinated, then the space could look juvenile and not act as a noteworthy contemporary museum. I see the flood of responses already and I am NOT taking the negative side, I am just trying to stress that making a cool, hip museum is taking some risks and hopefully they have everything planned out to make it as strong and respected as possible, yet still have a cool urban edge. It can be done, but what will the suburban community who maybe only make it out to the DIA once a year if they are lucky, think of a graffiti covered building/coffee hangout as a contemporary museum? Surely some people have in mind what a museum is so I hope that others can be open to a raw, edgy, communal space. I don’t think that the art should be compromised or toned down to appeal to the non-art community, but the packaging should be considered as a major part of new attendee appeal.)

- They have a few upcoming fundraisers planned to raise more money.

- A fundraiser project that includes local artists is being proposed.

Well, this is it for now! I am excited to help spread the word and clear up any rumors that have started to circulate. Let’s just hope that Kertess finds a Detroit artist that he likes – Detroit can surely compete with the best!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few other notes.

Staff clarification:
- Marsha Miro is the current Director of the museum (they hope to look for a permanent such person outside of Detroit).
- Mitch Cope is the museum's Curator (only paid staff member currently).
- Lynn Crawford is on board as well, very enthusiastically so, but not sure of her title (perhaps Assistant Director).

All very dedicated and hard-working.

Andrew Zago is the architect. But from the conversation it seemed the exterior of the building wouldn't be touched for some time.

10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A note:
MOCAD also insisted the Detroit art community will be very much a part of their curatorial decisions. And that their first outside curator Klaus Kertess has been to Detroit many times. Suggesting that a Detroit artist or two will indeed be part of the first show.

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A MOCAD fundraiser including the work of local artists was proposed, but not decided upon. (The intimation was that such an inclusive event would not happen until after the first two shows, perhaps sometime in 2007 -- too late.)

The idea is that such an event/auction would draw regional artists into the MOCAD project, and allow them not only a real sense of support but of partnership or even ownership in the effort.

I think the art community will be the initial foundation that makes or breaks a Detroit contemporary museum. Let's face it, they, not the general public, will form its first and potentially staunchest audience.

To ignore this necessary component of building (support for) a museum would be a great mistake at this early date.

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what is an emerging artist? it's someone who's made connections and is suddenly having shows at galleries and then museums.

ten years ago i had dinner with carl freedman at union street. carl was a brit curator and contributing writer for frieze magazine at the time. he was also criss-crossing the usa in an old rented limo with his girlfriend, an emerging artist named tracey emin. they were both very nice and funny and sexed-up.

carl went on to found his own gallery (counter) and tracey moved on from emerging to whatever happens to an artist after -- fame and success i suppose.

i'm mixing my threads here, because i believe it's very important to understand how an artist from anywhere often emerges and then travels beyond.

a great part of that is contacts. carl was a first great champion of tracey and put her in shows and wrote about her early on. back in england she was suddenly everywhere.

another brit, sam taylor-wood emerged while living with jake chapman of the chapman brothers (from 17 to 25) and then continued on that track when she married the gallery director jay jopling (white cube) in 1997. the rest is success.

both these stories are about contacts, and not just the sexed-up kind, but the kind that give notice to talent. and notice in a region, a region that had just begun to give such notice to local talent in the galleries, the mags, and the city museums -- where it really hadn't before.

detroit is such a region at the moment. an undiscovered art scene waiting to emerge. i believe and hope that mocad will be among many current such instruments in bringing this art community to light, not just here, but on a national/international scale.

museums tend to connect with a larger art world than the one we live in, they often are a bridge for emerging art and artists from a region. and in this way they can supercede the need to have sex with critics and curators.

moral: support your local contemporary museum and lobby for the inclusion of detroit artists in anything they do.

1:41 AM  

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