Explore the art scene
As the weather in Michigan turns cool, if you are curious about Detroit’s art scene and in the mood for a short 45 minute road trip, now is a great time to head downtown.
When I began exploring Detroit several years ago, my hunt for significant art and artists was more a scavenger hunt than a gallery crawl. Galleries and venues seemed to spring up like toadstools after rain and to disappear just as quickly. They were often open for only a few hours a week, and trying to see art shows was an exercise in frustration and missed connections. Post-bankruptcy, as Detroit rises from its ashes and transforms itself into a vibrant and economically resurgent urban scene, a longer and more settled list of galleries has emerged, with more regular business hours and established rosters of represented artists.
These recommendations represent more than a single visit to Detroit’s art hot spots of course. And I haven’t even listed the many public artworks, museums and non-profits that offer unique aesthetic experiences. For a change of pace, some new discoveries and lots of unique and accessible contemporary art make the trip to Detroit.
Here are some highlights:
3434 Russell St., #502, Detroit. 313-818-3550. wassermanprojects.com
Entrance: Red door on the Northside of building)
Open: 11am-5pm, Wednesday-Thursday & Saturday. 11am-7pm, Friday.
Wasserman Projects is a cavernous but elegant gallery and flexible performance space also in the Eastern Market neighborhood. The gallery specializes in museum quality art exhibits by prominent Detroit and international artists, while also offering an ongoing program of music and multidisciplinary conversations. They have hosted ambitious offerings like Cosmopolitan Chicken, a conceptual visit to the global barnyard, and more recently, Detroit artist Scott Hocking’s installation Seven Shitty Mountains. Through December 21, the gallery will host Summer Wheat + Hirosuke Yabe.
2845 Gratiot Ave., Detroit.
Open: Noon-6pm, Wednesday-Friday.
A long walk, or a short drive, from Wasserman Projects is one of Detroit’s newest contemporary art galleries. Playground is a youthful and snappy addition to the art scene, specializing in work by young artists on the bleeding edge of what’s new in creative thought. The gallery recently hosted Field Condition, a “hyper-sensory art exhibition which centers around a body of ephemeral, immersive light sculptures” by artist and designer Patrick Ethen. Other up-and-coming artists whose work has been featured here are photographer Bre’ann White, painter/muralist Ellen Rutt and the installation artist partnership Hygienic Dress League.
444 W. Willis St. 112, Detroit.
Open: 11am-6pm, Wednesday-Saturday.
Simone DeSousa Gallery is actually two exhibition spaces in one sitting side by side on the ground floor of a renovated block that features several casual restaurants and boutiques. In the larger space, see ambitious work by cutting edge artists, much of it strongly conceptual and post-minimalist. The smaller next-door gallery offers a carefully curated selection of ceramics, work on paper, jewelry and books for entry-level collectors.
4130 Cass Ave., Ste C, Detroit.
Open: Noon-5pm, Wednesday-Saturday.
Galerie Camille, an intimate and friendly place, hosts some of Detroit’s most interesting creatives. With past shows by Elizabeth Youngblood, Matt Eaton and Jeff Bourgeau, it’s always interesting to see what gallerist Adnan Charara, an accomplished multidisciplinary artist in his own right, selects for exhibits. In October, work by printmakers Mary Rousseau, Bob Aronson and Vernard Rubens will be on view.
4600 Cass Ave., Detroit.
Open: 11am-10pm, Monday-Thursday.
Friday-Saturday. 5-10pm, Sunday.
Cass Café isn’t (strictly speaking) a gallery of course, but back in Detroit’s bad old days, it was one of the few venues in Detroit where artists could get their work seen during business hours. Everyone showed their work here and Cass presented the added advantage, for Detroit’s economically challenged artists, of selling work commission-free. It’s one of the few restaurants with its own curator and it hosts a still-impressive schedule of work by local artists. And their lentil burger is the best in Detroit.
Namdi Center for Contemporary Art
52 E. Forest Ave., Detroit. 313-831-8700. nnamdicenter.org
Open: 11am-6pm, Tuesday-Saturday.
Gallerist George N’Namdi has been an arts leader in Detroit for over 30 years. Well known as an advocate for contemporary African American artists, his art space includes four exhibition spaces and hosts panel discussions, experiential theater and performance throughout the season. The N’Namdi Collection represents and preserves the work of prominent African-American artists while providing exhibition space for Detroit artists— from emerging to established— to show new work.
David Klein Gallery
1520 Washington Blvd., Detroit. 313-818-3416. Dkgallery.com
Open: Noon-6pm, Wednesday-Saturday.
This elegant storefront exhibition space in downtown Detroit opened in 2015, as an outpost of David Klein Gallery, located in Birmingham, MI. This is probably the most prestigious gallery in the city, representing well-known Detroit artists in addition to artists with national reputations. During the month of October, the gallery will host Salon, a large group show featuring many of Detroit’s best emerging and mid-career artists.
Murals in the Market
This yearly festival and mural painting party, centered in Detroit’s Eastern Market, begins its fifth year, getting bigger and better and covering more square feet of Detroit’s walls with paintings by both international artists and Detroit talents. Murals in the Market, recently named one of the Smithsonian’s Top 5 Mural Festivals In The World, occurred in mid-September, but you can still see the murals (nearly 200 of them if you have the time, and the energy) seven days a week. This year 1XRun, the producer of the festival, partnered with Jason Hall’s RiDetroit to offer walking and cycling tours of the murals year round. To schedule a private Eastern Market Mural tour for you (or your group), visit muralsinthemarket.com.
Library Street Collective, the Belt and the Z
1260 Library St., Detroit.
Open: Noon-6pm, Wednesday-Saturday.
The Library Street Collective is a contemporary art venue specializing in graffiti-inflected art by both local and internationally known street artists. Works by Tiff Massey and Nina Chanel Abney (among many others) are located in a fine arts alley adjacent to the Collective. Called The Belt, it’s a favorite destination for fashion shoots and wedding parties, and it’s open 24-7. The gallery also often works cooperatively with Dan and Jennifer Gilbert of Bedrock Capital to bring installation art, murals, and sculpture to the cityscape.