“I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life.” Phil Collins
This week, the mad dash of construction and inspections will come to a standstill, and the newly installed glass doors of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) will open to the public.
It’s been a long time in coming to say the least. Detroiters have been clamoring for a contemporary art space on this scale for decades. Every other major city has an institution of this sort, and given the history and issues that face Detroit, a true contemporary space could create a necessary and meaningful dialogue in this city.
In hailing its arrival, it is important to acknowledge that there have been and continue to be significant contemporary projects and venues in this town. The need for a contemporary space was the impetus for Charles McGee to start up the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit (CAID) back in 1978, and Jef Bourgeau has brought together an impressive array of local and international artists at his Museum of New Art (MoNA) in all its various incarnations. The DIA has thought about getting in the contemporary art business, and there are plenty of private spaces doing their part. But this is its own thing, at its own scale, with a different mission.
“You open the museum you have, not necessarily the museum you want.” (paraphrasing) Donald Rumsfeld
Will MOCAD be perfect? Will it answer everyone’s hopes and desires for these last decades? No, it can’t. Nor should it. We all have a different perspective on what our personal contemporary museum is. There have been complaints, some valid, some less so. By their own admission, the museum has had some operational issues. (For a truly comprehensive examination of the story, check out Rebecca Mazzei’s recent Metro Times article.) Certainly things could have been done differently, and perhaps better. But, to quote the ubiquitous phrase of the decade, “It is what it is.” We can only hope that as the museum grows and evolves, that the people behind the organization learn from this experience, entertain advice that helps and filter out what hinders, and really embrace the community they intend to serve.
The fact of the matter is MOCAD is here, in our community, and we’d like it to be here and explore the possibilities of contemporary art for a long while to come.
“If you build it, they will come.” Field of Dreams
All too often this city has placed its hopes on structures, from New Center and the Ren Cen, now to stadiums and casinos. The New York Times article mentioning MOCAD, states that part of the museum’s goal is toward, “revitalizing the city center.” This is too big a weight to shoulder. Presented as such, it can only fall short. A building, a museum alone can’t change a city.
But what happens inside that building, the ideas that are presented, the dialogue that is generated, that can be a catalyst. As Nari Ward wisely pointed out in our interview, that’s what separates the museum from the other building projects listed above. The building serves to bring people together, and that’s essential. Additionally, the location of this structure is quite good – it can help generate a true walking corridor in the cultural center linking places from the DSO, CPOP, through to G.R. N’Namdi and DAM, all the way to the DIA and Detroit Historical Museum. Having people on foot means more chances for interactions and a step closer to some critical mass.
And so a building becomes a symbol, in this case perhaps of ideas, of revitalization, and of hope, but ultimately it’s the people that matter. It won’t simply be about getting them to come, but about getting them to come back, and to start thinking about staying.
“Unearthing a great American city, one story at a time.” – thedetroiter.com
I’ve been asked if MOCAD represents competition, if it takes away from other arts organizations and their sources of funding. No. While it’s true funding is limited in these parts, if the museum can do well, it will bring a bright spotlight of attention on itself, but will also illuminate far beyond the museum’s walls. And there’s so much already happening here. We need to turn the lights on and let people see all of it.
In writing about the arts, I’ve been so fortunate to get exposed to so many of the people doing things in this city, from Scott Hocking to Charles McGee, things that could only happen in Detroit like sci-fi series InZer0, which also points out that Detroit is in fact the best city on earth in which to play laser tag, the entrepreneurial spirit of the folks behind Slows. And there’s so much left to report, in visiting the Russell Industrial Center recently encountered artists I’d never heard of, including the out of this world Adnan Charara, who lives and works here, but has only been showing out of state. (That’s a story we’re soon to tell.)
So what’s been unearthed thus far in MOCAD? Some things that have are up on my last walk through: Jon Pylypchuk’s playful and thoughtful shanty town, Kara Walker’s provocative video work, Roxy Paine’s sculpture making machine, Barry McGee’s transformation of the very façade of the building, and Nari Ward and a crew of dedicated Detroit artist volunteers hard at work on his installation. There will be much to engage our eyes and thoughts, long after viewing the exhibition.
What won’t be so visible on opening night is the strength of the people of the city that make this all possible. An army of volunteers turned up from the art community to make this all possible – not for pay, or recognition, but because they feel this is important for Detroit.
And it is.
And it’s here.
And it should be interesting. – Nick Sousanis
Look for more stories about the art, artists, and reaction in these pages.
Patrons Preview 6 PM Food and drinks.
Tour the "Meditations In An Emergency" exhibition with curator Klaus Kertess. Experience live performances and meet some of the featured artists.
Contribution $125 per person advance
$135 at the door
Museum Preview 8 PM Hors d’oeuvres, cash bar.
Experience live performances and meet some of the featured artists.
Contribution $45 per person advance
$55 at the door
Afterparty, 9:30 PM
Ghostly International presents DJ’s Matthew Dear and Ryan Elliott (Spectral Sound) from 10-1 AM, cash bar.
Contribution $10 per person
To purchase advance tickets to the Grand Opening email firstname.lastname@example.org or send a fax to 248-851-5179.
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