Wednesday, October 11, 2006

MOCAD in metro times

So you want to know everything there is to know about mocad? Check out this very comprehensive article by Mazzei. I had no idea that detroitartsblog was going to be quoted for the story but I think that it shows that people out there are reading and taking notice to the things said on the blog. I hope though that people don't associate me with all the negative comments on the blog...I have opinions but by no means do I think mocad is a bad idea. It will be a wonderful thing for the city but that doesn't mean that I have to agree with everything being done. No one does. Congrats to a great story with multiple viewpoints.

"...Shrinking Cities has already been a point of contention for the museum, for a few reasons. Some artists say it represents a conflict of interest for curator Cope, who is a member of a handful of curatorial teams involved in the project. Although Shrinking Cities has never exhibited in Detroit, which is one good reason for metro Detroiters to see it, some local artists claim Cope has personal motivations. On Ann Gordon's blog,, "Dagmar" writes:
"I want to believe Mitch Cope has only good intentions. Yet these intentions ... appear unethical: that the museum's paid curator, not only selecting the work, has selected his own."
Cope responded to the lambasting bloggers: "It is not uncommon for artist/curators to put their own work in shows, usually large group shows. This is done all over the world. The deciding factor is the work. As for Shrinking Cities, I was one curator out of 12 and was asked to put in one piece out of over 60 different pieces/projects. Every curator did work on the show as it is quite normal in Europe to do so"...
In April, Gordon wrote on her blog: "It still feels like those involved are like the mafia or the cool kids in high school that don't want you to question anything and if you do then they seem to give you weird glances or label you as a 'problem.' It just feels that they want to keep only those in the small 'in' crowd involved." And yet on more than one occasion on her site, she mentions sitting down in a discussion with Miro, other Detroit artists and writers, to talk about the organization.
Still, Gordon has a point. Is it the same people doing the same stuff? Miro and Hilberry have been friends for years; Corbin has shown with Susanne Hilberry Gallery for more than 20 years; Cope was in an exhibit there last year; and even artist Sara Blakeman, who's taken on the responsibility of pulling together the MOCAD store and organizing the music for the opening night event, works at Hilberry's gallery. Artist Scott Hocking is responsible for taking Kertess on his "Detroit" tour, including studio stops. He has a solo show at Susanne Hilberry gallery this month, and provided artwork for the fund-raiser at Julie and Bobby Taubman's house in Bloomfield Hills last spring.
Miro says, "We're sorry that people on the blog feel that way, but they need to give us a chance. Being involved is a full-time job, so we are looking for people who can and will devote a lot of time." MOCAD's board has a good mix of young and mature members, but the apparent lack of ethnic diversity also makes the group seem insular. Miro won't comment on the breakdown of the board, but it's a problem other nonprofits knowingly struggle with in the area. Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit's board, for instance, is only 12 percent African-American and nearly 70 percent male. All 17 members of Detroit Artists Market's board are white; there are three African-Americans on an auxiliary committee." mazzei, MT


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Backtracking now? Maybe you should have made those comments anonymously.

10:07 AM  
Blogger art blogs are fun said...

no, I stand by them...I just think people associate me with everything said on the blog, ie all comments.

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why doesnt anyone ever want to quote me?

cudos on the tag though ann, what you do on this blog is great.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I logged on to mention Backtracking, Alas I am too late.

12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there is no backtracking. ann said she fully stands by what SHE has said on the blog. what I think she wants to clarify is that SHE isn't the only one who makes comments here. and she doesn't want all of the comments to be misconstrued as representing her opinion.

she offers her opinion and then provides a place for others to give theirs. but those opinions that others give here should be misunderstood as ann's opinion.

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

rebecca used this blog as a source without contacting ann. she drew most of her quotes from the blog itself. a good journalist would have contacted the sources and asked the pertinent questions drawn from their blog comments. they would not have pieced together blog sound-bites to fit her own agenda and deadline.

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree w/ the above statement. The article was unprofessionally sourced. If real names could not be determined, it would have been more professional to quote 'one contributor' than using silly handles.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

as for silly handles, it's safe to say that Po Po the Assclown won't be being quoted in any follow up articles! :-P No matter what brilliant dissertations he makes!

3:28 PM  
Blogger Jef Bourgeau said...

Agreeing with previous comments, I would like to say that Rebecca managed to play good cop/bad cop with MOCAD. Well tempered all and all.

Such as drawing most links - staff, artists, patrons - back to Susanne Hilberry.

Most I hadn't been aware of. Whatever that's worth. Since as Mitch Cope (although the article explains how he's been removed as editor of the photography book he included himself in) has noted there is no longer such a thing as a conflict of interests in the art world, i.e., a sole commercial gallery being the lifeforce behind a museum.

Although Rebecca left out the most glaring link: the one Detroit artist that had been invited to exhibit in the first show was one of Susanne's stable (Gordie Newton). And that she decided not to replace him with another Detroiter.

But this is all minor stuff, if MOCAD finds its own vision and pursues it. These are all start-up glitches that can be overcome easily with time and the proper staff and director.

A greater worry is that the shadow of the DIA still falls on this old-dealership museum, and I worry that those who are really wielding the power/money behind this effort will never allow it to really shine - for fear that it might outshine the DIA.

7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It still feels like those involved are like the mafia or the cool kids in high school that don't want you to question anything and if you do then they seem to give you weird glances or label you as a 'problem.' It just feels that they want to keep only those in the small 'in' crowd involved."

I think the whole "insular" and elitest feel to mocad is what really irritates me, and most likely alot of people. That Hilberry's chosen Detroit artist could not be subsituted with another (not meaning that in any derogitory sense) is ridiculous. There isn't someone else out side of this little circle that could have shown? I'm sorry, how many artists are working in the Detroit metro area?

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

affirmative action in the arts. good luck, rebecca.

12:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the Museum of New Art was based in downtown there were several blacks on the board. And the topper, the last two MONA directors were black. And it wasn't about affirmative action so much as ability and the will to fight for something. I know because I was one of them.

So it isn't that there aren't qualified or willing blacks in the art community here. Maybe it has more to do with their economic portfolios. From the MT article MOCAD seems to be more about money at this point.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" ' It just feels that they want to keep only those in the small 'in' crowd involved." " Not like CCS grads or DAM, right?

"The article was unprofessionally sourced." The MetroTimes? Say it isn't so. They are free to contact me for a quote any time.

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Type of a journal is no excuse for sloppy journalism.

I think what is most distressing was Mitch Cope's exposition on how this type of nepotism is 'in' in Europe, which obviously makes it OK. I mean, if it's the status-quo there's nothing unethical about it?

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anything Susanne Hillberry involved in is gross. Loserville.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Susanne is hardly loserville, but nepotism will hurt MoCAD in the long run. Let's hope they can expand their base and succeed.

9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ann, I know that your opinions and intentions are far from hurtful, but the problem with your blog (and most blogging in general) is it facilitates hurtful, speculative gossip. I have been quietly reading your blog for over a year now and the only thing I can possibly derive from the comments is the majority of your audience is a bunch of angst-ridden amateurs with nothing better to do than complain about how the political and unfair the art world is. This trash talking has been going on as long as art has been around, but when it is published in the metro times by anonymous bloggers…!
Put simply, some very passionate, generous people are trying to bring the “art world” to Detroit and your blog is defaming them. Did anyone happen to think about the finances of starting a contemporary museum? Think about who might be paying for MOCAD. Its not the city of Detroit. Unless your passion is to trip up anything bright in Detroit’s future stop facilitating this crap.

12:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If pimp Hillberry is going to decide who is in MOCAD, I'd give it less than one year. Pathetic this city can't do better than that.

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon: stop the blogs, no free speech? cute.

Lemme ask you this: is it that starting an art gallery takes a lot of money, or that the people with a lot of money want you to think that it takes a lot of money so that you will appreciate their money more?

I recall reading that their building was donated, and their staff are all volunteer? That lowers the overhead significantly. Please, again, where is the huge cost? Oh, in printing those stickers?

Not long ago I remember reading about galleries in vacant stripmalls and volunteers livingrooms... Please don't equate financial investment with intent, validity, or success. I've seen a lot of highly funded arts programs fall on their faces due to poor leadership and nepotistic vision.

In another city this would be viewed as a half-ass bit of nonsense. But in Detroit the yardstick is so low that a lot of people will lick MOCAD's feel just b/c there's nothing better to do. That doesn't make it good, or worthwhile, or deserving of a Monopoly-esq ticket: Get out of public criticism, for free!

12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I want to believe Mitch Cope has only good intentions. Yet these intentions ... appear unethical: that the museum's paid curator, not only selecting the work, has selected his own."
Cope responded to the lambasting bloggers: "It is not uncommon for artist/curators to put their own work in shows, usually large group shows. This is done all over the world... Every curator did work on the show as it is quite normal in Europe to do so"...
Yeah yeah great journalism repeats the words of the agenda makers. Mitch says "Curators in Europe do it" as if to justify his conflict of interest with some cache. Duh, artists put themselves in shows they curate in the US all the time too. If you look at any calls for curatorial proposals from any reputable contemporary arts organization they all say curators cannot submit or include their own work with the proposal. I am not against MOCAD, I think it can be great for Detroit, but they really need to reach for a higher bar (not just the closest martini)

3:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Martini comment aside, I have to agree with what anonymous like the rest some respects we have to pay even closer attention to the rules BECAUSE we are Detroit. It is a terrible conflict of interest and, just because some schmo (sp?) somewhere does it does not mean that it is okay. It is not a generally accepted practice amongst respected arts institutions. Period.

If one has the choice to do it right or do it wrong, why not choose to do it right? If MoCAD is going to be, let it be right. Let it be respected.

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like Mitch to name one museum, European or not, that has had a staff curator include himself in that museum's exhibition. It isn't done. (Chris Ofili just caught hell at the Tate when they purchased his work for their collection -- while he was sitting on the board.)

What is and has been done, is that an artist (unassociated from staff) has been asked to curate a show for an institution and he has included himself.

There's a big difference between the former and the latter. Mitch obviously doesn't recognize that and that's what makes his defense pitifully sad.

2:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can think of something worse than Mitch Cope curating himself into the next show......
that if, because of all of this talk, the museum mocad failed, didnt open at all, disappeared. Before it had a chance.
will all of you anonymous folks be happy then?

7:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i quake at the thought. yeah, we should cow to this flawed effort because if we try to point out these glaring flaws that might jeopardize it.
they don't need us to push them toward failure. they shoot themselves in the foot at every step.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact that Hillberry is the connection of almost everyone at MOCAD does not in itself make it corrupt, but does raise the question as to why anyone else should support it.

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If MoCAD fails it certainly is NOT going to be because of some silly blog. If MoCAD fails it will be due to lack of professionalism and proper planning, and the failure to earn the respect and support of the Detroit arts community.

If one can weed through all the crap on this blog it is actually full of real suggestions that, if taken to heart, could actually contribute to the success of MoCAD. Is anyone listening?

Instead of whining about the negativity, perhaps someone should be paying attention to some of the commentary--especially when it concerns conflicts of interest and a failure to build widespread support--and address those issues before it's too late.

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i really honestly hope that MOCAD survives. right now they are probably freaking out about just opening up.
but i hope as things get going it really turns out to be something great. i just hope that they also recognize the amount of great talent that this city has to offer, and shows those artists.

i really do want MOCAD to survive. detroit needs all the arts recognition it can get.

11:57 PM  
Blogger Jef Bourgeau said...

Below is the letter handed over to MOCAD at a meeting in April. The DIA in its two Detroiter shows in the last ten years (INTERVENTIONS; DETROIT ARTISTS TAKE ON DETROIT (sic)) have proven that Detroit artists not only can meet the challenge of Museum "quality", but often surpass such quality. It really isn't an argument that Detroit artists aren't ready for such a challenge, especially at the entry-level of a museum such as MOCAD.
Despite this overwhelming reservation, I otherwise support MOCAD and hope for its success. I have been waiting ten years for such an institution to force MONA (the Museum of New Art) to close. To make its existence redundant and irrelevant. I truly hope this is the one.

For the last twenty-five years at least, there has been an on-going lack of recognition and institutional support for Detroit-based art.

What has to be placed in context is that Detroit does have an art history all its own, albeit unchronicled. That just like today, artists here have always been aware of the art being made in the rest of the world but have had a stubborn confidence all their own that has enabled them to make their own brand of solid art.

We live in a global marketplace for art, so any effort to break down any old notions of regionalism is a good thing. New York is a region, as are Los Angeles, London, Berlin and Paris. They just have maintained bigger platforms than Detroit in terms of spreading the word. With any such new project as MOCAD, it must look at the talent that will support it. MOCAD will not simply make its mark by recycling global art here, but by including the best of Detroit's in that mix.

We need to be reminded that Detroit doesn't need to be isolated anymore, that we will not succeed as an arts' venue merely on the quality of visiting art. It is not sufficient to just import good art. For real success at MOCAD, the talent here also needs to garner attention, to be written about, be heard, and to be seen in a global context as well. In turn this will give both Detroit and MOCAD a distinct art context of their own.

MOCAD hopefully will develop this active and critical dialogue about culture in our city in concert with that of the world. A dialogue we hope that will be ongoing, inclusive and participatory with each and every exhibition.

For any art community to flourish, it has to feed itself. It creates a contemporary museum that serves out-of-town fare along with local dishes. This in turn creates a dialogue between a complex of artists and art communities.

MOCAD needs to be inclusive, not exclusive. Through MOCAD, different kinds of artists using different mediums will be encouraged to exhibit here and share ideas with Detroit artists, all in pursuit of a shared voice, a voice that then allows us to connect with each other, back and forward.


The Detroit Open-Advocacy Group for Michigan Artists


1:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Weed through all of the crap on this blog to get to the real suggestions? Thats like watching Jerry Springer to get his final thought at the end for it's wisdom.
No one is taking any of you seriously.
You are arguing over invented characterizations of people. It is clear none of you know any of the people you are talking about, and have sketchy knowlege of any facts.
But don't let any of that slow you down, this is fun and hilarious.
You not only have freedom of speech, but the freedom to pretend that the rhetoric on this blog is usefull or productive. That is why it is so fun to read. Who would really sift through this "crap" for "real suggestions" but you guys? come on! I am pretty sure the "real" artists are busy working,

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anon:
Granted, the vast majority of it is crap. Yet, you participate and defend. So you must care just a teeny little bit about what is being said here...

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And, hey, it got quoted in the Metro Times. Albeit poorly. And everything that appears in print is automatically not only important, but true, too. :-P

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As much as I agree with a lot of what Jef said, I do think a healthy amount of exclusion is neccisary in creating a museum people will consitantly trust to show quality work.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just to set one fact straight: Mitch has not curated himself into the next show. Mitch's art work was chosen for the Shrinking Cities exhibition back in 2002. He was then later asked to co-curate the Detroit portion of the exhibition that opened at the KW in Berlin in 2004. Now the show is coming to MOCAD & Cranbrook in February. Many people were determined to have the show exhibitted in Detroit, from the German Cultural Foundation to curator Philip Oswalt to Greg Wittkop from Cranbrook and yes, Mitch, too.

12:00 PM  

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