An evolving art scene in Detroit welcomes new players and new connections

Gallerist David Klein’s original outpost in Birmingham, Mich. Photo via David Klein Gallery.

Expansion, diversity and cultural exchanges with other cities are all hallmarks of a thriving art scene. With new arts infrastructure falling into place and a roster of fresh players emerging on the landscape, Detroit is making great strides toward all three.

One indication that perceptions about Detroit’s potential as an art market are shifting is the fact that two prestigious gallery spaces will open in the city this month. Both new galleries are building on customer bases established in the affluent outer reaches of Metro Detroit, which may signal that the longstanding barriers between the city proper and its suburbs are finally breaking down.

David Klein Gallery has been a stronghold of the Birmingham, Mich. arts ecosystem for more than two decades. On this, its 25th anniversary year, the gallery is expanding into a new location in Detroit’s downtown. Its inaugural show, which opened on Sept. 17, features a diverse group of more than 30 contemporary artists, whose work will be presented in different configurations every few weeks.

Gallery Director Alison Wong at Wasserman Projects’ new space.

Also from Birmingham, Wasserman Projects has relocated to a massive new space in the north end of the Eastern Market neighborhood (where the Saturday farmer’s market happens to be a big attraction for Detroit day-trippers). Gallery Director Alison Wong oversaw the full overhaul of the space, along with preparations for the inaugural exhibition opening Sept. 25. The show consists of two immersive installations: “THEFIRSTONEISCRAZYTHESECONDONEISNUTS,” a collaboration between Brooklyn-based artist Markus Linnenbrink and Miami Beach architect Nick Gelpi, and “Elf Waves, Earth Loops and *Spatial Forces,” featuring the work of sound artist and Knight Arts grantee Jon Brumit.

And Detroit’s sphere of influence is not just broadening at the state level. Members of the city’s art scene are also engaging in creative exchanges that cross international borders. The N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, a Knight Arts grantee, is presenting “Simbi dzebasa—Four contemporary artists from Zimbabwe,” which opened earlier this month and runs through next January.

Minerva Cuevas, “America.” Photo courtesy of Kadist Art Foundation and the artist.

At another Knight Arts grantee, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, a show that opened on Sept. 18 puts the focus on the “United States of Latin America.” Co-curated by Jens Hoffmann, MOCAD’s senior curator-at-large, and Pablo León de la Barra, the Latin America curator for the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, the exhibition features the work of 34 artists from various countries in Latin America. The featured artists include Mexico’s Minerva Cuevas, Peru’s Ximena Garrido-Lecca and Argentina’s Amalia Pica, and their work highlights the diversity of the region’s art world.

“It’s not only about landing an exhibition about art from elsewhere, but also about how you can connect different cities on many different levels,” de la Barra said of the show.

If September’s happenings are any indication, Detroit is becoming more connected by the day.