New Contemporary Art Centers in Miami Make it a Global Art Destination

 

new-ica

The new ICA Miami, backed by the Braman family of Miami, who themselves own a collection of modern and contemporary art worth well over a billion dollars, will literally be next door to the de la Cruz Collection in Miami’s white-hot Design District when it debuts in 2016. The ICA Miami joins upcoming Faena Art Center from Buenos Aires in Miami Beach and the nearby Rubell Family Collection and the Margulies Warehouse, the Perez Art Museum and the Cisneros Fontanals (CIFO) (all in Miami) making the city into an instant international leader in the exhibition of modern and contemporary art. The Bass Museum in Miami Beach is expanding its exhibition space by several thousand square feet. No other city in North America outside of New York and Los Angeles has expanded its cultural infrastructure in the arena of modern and contemporary art exhibition making in the U.S. Already the existing powerhouse players have made Miami a world-class destination, especially during the annual new edition of Art Basel Miami Beach. Its been my experience that the volume and tremendous quality of 20th and 21st century contemporary art shown in Miami is a special not-to-miss treat every December, as several world-class exhibitions are held simultaneously and are open during the crush of the Art Basel Miami Beach tidal cultural tidal wave.

We can’t wait for all the construction dust to settle to see the fireworks begin  as these new venues bring even greater depth of exhibition capabilities than ever to Miami.

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles.

http://www.vincentjohnsonart.com

faena-arts-center

faena forum by OMA to open in miami beach in december 2015

image courtesy of faena/OMA

Dec 11, 2014

faena forum by OMA to open in miami beach in december 2015

original content
dec 05, 2014

it has been announced that ‘faena forum‘, a groundbreaking new center for arts and culture designed by rem koolhaas of OMA, is to open in miami beach in december 2015. the 50,000 square foot institution will be dedicated to the development of cross-disciplinary cultural programing, intended to encourage collaborations across artistic, intellectual, and geographic divides.

Rendering of the Latin American Art Museum

Latin American Art Museum, Miami | Scheduled opening: 2016

Wynwood art gallery owner Gary Nader revealed his plans for the $50 million museum, designed by Fernando Romero Enterprise. The 90,000-square-foot museum will feature permanent and rotating exhibits, space for emerging artists and a top floor restaurant.

ICA Miami Sculpture Garden

ICA Miami’s New Building in the Design District!

The Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami will build its new, permanent home in Miami’s Design District, on land generously donated by Miami Design District Associates. Located on NE 41 Street, the new 37,500-square-foot building is being designed by the Spanish firm Aranguren & Gallegos Arquitectos, marking their first US project to date.

Featuring more than 20,000 square feet of exhibition galleries, and a 15,000 sq ft public sculpture garden, the new building enables ICA Miami to expand its reach and programs, dedicated to promoting the exchange of art and ideas throughout the Miami region and internationally.

Ghost Houses of Detroit

Detroit House and Red Parked Car (2013)

Detroit House and Red Parked Car (2013). photography by Vincent Johnson

Detroit Autopsy is my project documenting the remains of the city of Detroit. During my two recent trips there this summer I saw a level of urban devastation that was part war zone, part abandoned factory town. On Detroit’s East side, Gratiot boulevard was in ruins. Drive up and down the side streets where single family homes were build a century and more ago and see blocks in various states of despair, where the residents have been waiting forever to have the burned down and abandoned homes on their block finally removed. I have never seen such disinvestment in a major American city. There are blocks where there are so many destroyed properties that it made me think that this is not just a recent phenomenon, but a decade-by-decade stripping away of the core and life of the city. Yet on a Sunday morning on Detroit’s East Side, I saw dozens of African-Americans in Detroit wearing the same styles of clothing – from fancy hats – to sharkskin suits – that I saw in my native Cleveland and personally experienced as a child. While shooting photos of a dead house on a side street near the church I am referring to – which had a huge man working as a armed security outside wearing a bullet proof vest and carrying a massive handgun, I overheard Motown music hits playing. There was a woman in her early sixties on her front porch, enjoying the early morning summer sun in the Midwest, while reliving her days of youth when Detroit was swinging with all night block parties that celebrated the elevation of the Detroit sound into the world of popular American music. Nearby I also saw men driving everything from a 1973 Cadillac Fleetwood  to a Buick Electra 225  (“A Deuce and A Quarter”) and 1960’s Thunderbirds. I could see that Detroit is much more like Cleveland that I had imaged, and nothing at all like Chicago, even in its heyday in the 1940s. My project will continue to document the disintegrating urban landscape of Detroit, and report upon new shoots of growth and life such as in Detroit’s Corktown.

Vincent Johnson

Los Angeles, California

http://www.vincentjohnsonart.com

Vincent Johnson

Detroit House Interior With Couch – Two Holes in the Ceiling (2013) by Vincent Johnson

Detroit House - Desk and Tree In Living Room

Detroit House – Desk and Tree In Living Room (2013). photography by Vincent Johnson

Vincent Johnson

Detroit See Through House – No Doors: House Number 4793 (2013) by Vincent Johnson

Detroit House - Side View

Detroit House – Side View (2013). photography by Vincent Johnson/Los Angeles

Detroit House - Interior - Couch and Objects

Detroit House – Interior – Couch and Objects (2013). photography by Vincent Johnson

Detroit House - Front Room Window

Detroit House – Front Room Window. (2013). photography by Vincent Johnson

(2013) by Vincent Johnson

Vincent Johnson

Detroit Factory Demolition – Broad View (2013 by Vincent Johnson

Detroit Luxury Bar - Corktown

Detroit Luxury Bar – Corktown (2013). photography by Vincent Johnson/Los Angeles
Detroit Mercury Bar - Corktown

Detroit Mercury Bar – Corktown. (2013). photography by Vincent Johnson/Los Angeles

Detroit - Two Houses Burned Down

Detroit – Two Houses Burned Down (2013). photography by Vincent Johnson/Los Angeles

Detroit Warehouse Being Disassembled

Detroit Warehouse Being Disassembled (2013). photography by Vincent Johnson

Detroit Imagination Station House - Corktown

Detroit Imagination Station House – Corktown (2013). photography by Vincent Johnson

Detroit House - Post and Lintel in Nature

Detroit House – Post and Lintel and Nature Returns (2013). photography by Vincent Johnson

Vincent Johnson

Detroit Corktown Pawnbroker – The Corner – Michigan Avenue (2013) by Vincent Johnson

Detroit Pawn Shop - Corktown

Detroit Pawn Shop – Corktown (2013). photography by Vincent Johnson

Detroit Warehouse and General Motors - Renaissance Center

Detroit Warehouse and General Motors – Renaissance Center by Vincent Johnson (2013)

Here’s a selection of my recent photographs of Detroit’s East side, shot in August 2013.

During my second trip to Detroit I came to realize much more of the degrees of destruction the city had experienced. It became apparent that there had been successive waves of economic disruption to working class neighborhoods, in the form of two and three mile long factory shutdowns that started at the end of WWII when Detroit was no longer the war machine manufacturer for the US military. Between 1947 and 1963, Detroit lost over 100,000 factory jobs. Working class homes made of wood were built on what now appears to be farmland, as were the factories themselves. There is also a haunting feeling of nature returning with an unbelievable force, to reclaim a part of the earth that it lost when concrete was poured over it to create streets and roads. While in Detroit in August I drove by homes where women were sitting on their porches while listening to the sound of Motown songs from the 1960’s. Motown was played in a Kentucky Fried Chicken where I stopped for lunch. People coming from church were dressed like I remember from the 1960’s, when I myself wore a sharkskin suit to church. There are entire streets of abandoned houses. There are clusters of burned down houses on hundreds of city blocks, which no longer look like city blocks but more like small town neighborhoods with a few houses still standing. I said to myself while there – what would it be like to live on a block where all of the other properties were destroyed? What would it be like to walk outside to a barren block with no street lights? Yet of the many people I spoke to while I was there, none seemed ready to give up home and leave. What also seems to have happened is that no one was held responsible for the abandoned properties, which later were destroyed during two decades of Hell Night, where crazed Greater Detroit residents rode into Detroit proper and set the city on fire, then blamed the citizens in town for the city’s destruction. Another thing I want to point out is that I first visited Detroit in 1977. I drove there from Cleveland, where I grew up. I had been to Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Buffalo and Minneapolis. I had never seen any place that was as beaten down as Detroit was then. I recall saying that it looked like the riots had just happened – but they had happened a decade before. The ragged and burned out buildings were still there, unlike in Cleveland, which had torn them down. During this trip I was in Chicago for a few days at an artist retreat before arriving in Detroit. Chicago does not look like Detroit. It has a much more refined layering of dramatic architecture. It also mows down derelict buildings. It is clearly evident that Greater Chicago loves their city. It is also clear that Greater Detroit does not care about Detroit dying. Of course there are many dead cities in the US – Camden, East St. Louis, Gary, Indiana; but there are also completely devastated smaller cities in Michigan that when whole were never as broken as these places. I’m talking about Grand Rapids, and Flint, Michigan. Detroit gets all of the attention, yet there are tens of thousands of blown up homes throughout the entire midwest. Maybe photographing in those cities will bring them more attention. We’ll see.

Vincent Johnson
in Los Angeles

Single Story House Detroit.72dpi

Mister Softie Truck Detroit.72dpi

L&T Food Center Detroit - Dollar Items - Bridge Cards.72dpi

Drink Faygo Orange Soda Pop Sign Detroit.72dpi

Detroit Window and Two Doors.72dpi

Detroit White House Black House.72dpi

Detroit Tire and Bush House.72dpi

Detroit House With Oval Upstairs Window.72dpi

Detroit Packard Store Side Entrance.72dpi

Detroit House See Through.72dpi

Detroit House Fire.72dpi

Detroit House Fire - Exterior Window View.72dpi

Detroit Ford Mercury - Retired.72dpi

Detroit House Burned - Foundation Exposed.72dpi

Detroit Fat Couch in factory lot.72dpi

Detroit Factory Open Door Policy.72dpi

Detroit A Frame With Burned House.72dpi

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During the last days of May and early days of June, 2013 I visited and took photographs in San Francisco, Cleveland, Detroit, New York City and Houston. This is what struck me about my visit to Detroit: The astounding Henry Ford Museum – with its actual enormous Industrial Revolution machinery, the dazzling Charles Wright African-American History Museum, which has a sculptural display of what African slaves looked like on a ship from to the new World, and the total gem laden Detroit Institute of the Arts – whose extensive collection of contemporary art were a great surprise, was how there seemed to be an utter abandonment of the city. Whole avenues of derelict buildings. Historic office towers in downtown Detroit missing all of their windows. Yet in Detroit’s Corktown, the city’s oldest neighborhood, a small  collection of great yet casual bars and restaurants has formed in the shadow of  the mammoth, dead Detroit Train Station.

What I had just seen in San Francisco, the Tenderloin was a densely populated zone of homeless persons who are provided a vast array of humane services. While massive and rapid gentrification is happening – with stunning new cocktail bars opening seemingly every week. Downtown Detroit is no more beaten down than San Francisco’s Tenderloin. What is different is the degree of investment into the area, from having the entire district protected by the National Register of Historic Places, because of its 1950’s jazz scene, to creating one of the most cool neighborhoods in which to party into the night in all of America. I know that Detroit has a phenomenal jazz festival, international auto show, and a mind-blowing 40,000 car show of every kind known to humanity. Yet I ask how can it be that Detroit, once the richest city in the world in the 1950’s, could have allowed itself to fall completely apart, yet at once have maintained its roaring rich suburban enclaves, where the executive class worked, while the inner city folk toiled in the endless factories, plants, mills, refineries. Detroit’s footprint is larger than Cleveland. Its land area is 139 square miles, while Cleveland is 78 square miles, same as Brooklyn.

I went to art school at Pratt in Brooklyn during the 1980’s, I have a distinct recollection of how deadly and dangerous, raw and rotten Brooklyn, and even most of Manhattan were at that time. Yet somehow even half or more of evil old gangster paradise Brooklyn has become a hipster paradise, Chicago is an Alpha City of the highest order – even with loosing a quarter of its residents. It’s a dead town in terms of manufacturing, but a lively dynamo that has transformed even a bit of the South Side into a world of gorgeous condos, superb bars, phenomenal cooking in great world-class restaurants, international level shopping.

Now for me Chicago always had the best housing stock of any major U.S. city, with double pane lead glass windows and countless classy elements built right into their stellar apartment buildings. So much so that during the 1980’s it was difficult to tell what a bad neighborhood was – because besides the Robert Taylor Homes and Cabrini Green,many gangland areas in Chicago had just as great a set of dwellings as did the far more affluent neighborhoods, like Lincoln Park, Rogers Park, both on Chicago’s North Side. I lived in Chicago as an art student at the Art Institute of Chicago in Wicker Park. There were cheap places to eat. One place sold a foot long sausage on a bun and a paper bag loaded with hot French Fries for a couple of dollars. A Mexican food place sold meat stuffed sweet and white potatoes for a dollar. The area was historic and forlorn, and over the next decade became one of the most exciting places to live in the country. This happening of course after the tidal wave of gentrification washed over cities such as Portland, Seattle, Austin, but also Pittsburg, Miami Beach, Houston. How this tidal wave of gentrification by its local citizens missed Detroit is my question.

If you look at downtown Los Angeles, you see what I am saying. Downtown LA was considered an off-limits no mans land for more than 50 years. Sometime during the last five to ten years, a fire was lit under several of the locals, who decided to transform downtown Los Angeles into a high-end bars and upscale restaurants playground, in the midst of generational homelessness on Main Street, that featured as many as a hundred thousand people. So in may ways downtown Los Angeles is like San Francisco’s Tenderloin, ragged but also highly polished, defeated and forgotten yet being refreshed, invigorated and given a new life in a renovated and often restored physical body. Let me now speak to what is happening in Cleveland, which looks a lot like Detroit, but on a smaller scale, with many fewer homes burned to the ground, despite what I saw and recorded there as one of the most frightening scenes of American private family architectural collapse. In the center of Cleveland’s East Side, there is a five avenue wide, 50 block deep new building program happening that is taking control of dead city blocks with a single house on it. Brand new 4,000 – 8,000 square foot homes for urban professionals working in the nearby world-class Cleveland Clinic are giving dead zones a complete rebirth.

So I ask, outside of Corktown’s stellar model transformation, which is such a draw that taxis bring in folk from downtown hotels, did I just miss these type of transformations in Detroit, when driving along its historic corridors of Michigan and Woodward avenues and beyond, or it is actually the case that the Detroit locals who are sitting on major paper from a century of automobile production, just cannot bring themselves to invest in their city because of it being the homes of generations of inner city working class African-Americans. I have no idea what the real and total answer is, but I did get a kick out of seeing luxury sports car owners, including a  drop-top Testarosa, touring the same ruins in downtown Detroit that I was also witnessing.

Vincent Johnson

Los Angeles

http://www.vincentjohnsonart.com

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The Detroit Opportunity Project

social justice and the American Dream in Detroit, MI

America’s Destiny Divide – Alter Road, Detroit

This afternoon, I’ve been watching the MSNBC Special on “Making the Grade” in Detroit.  Given the enriching discussion on the culture of schools, disadvantaged neighborhoods and the zip-code debate, I can’t help but submit some detail from my research on the nature of opportunity at Alter Road.  I asked plain questions regarding American Opportunity based on one’s residence.  Here’s an excerpt from my thesis to help add context, data, and scholarship on the issue of the difference between growing up in opportunity rich and opportunity poor neighborhoods:

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Detroit’s geography—visibly blighted, with 26% of residential parcels abandoned—makes Thomas Sugrue’s thesis that “geography is destiny” both utterly compelling and profoundly troubling.[1] Cleaved by race and class as much or more than any large city in America, Detroit’s regional landscape paints the nation’s extraordinary diversity while illuminating the profound divergence of economic classes at every turn—from the ghetto poor, to the blue collar cul-de-sacs, to the estate class, and everything in between—you’ll find this brutal divergence throughout Detroit.

And nowhere is this chasm more poetically displayed than Alter Road.

In contrasts almost worthy of fiction, the 2005-2009 American Community Survey revealed the Detroit side of Alter Road at over 85% African American, more than 50% of households earn less than $30,000 annually, and less than 10% of adults have a bachelors degree; Grosse Pointe’s census tracts directly across from Alter Road are nearly polar opposite: over 85% white, only 22% of households earn less than $30,000 per year and over 50% of adults have a bachelors degree.[2]  In one glaring example, median home values at this otherwise arbitrary political line are separated by over $150,000.  Detroit’s side of Alter Road is marred by large swaths of urban decay and blight, while the pristine streets of Grosse Pointe mark the separation with lush green medians and sail-boat embossed street signs.[3] Over the course of 6 blocks in either direction, a devastating physical landscape unfolds which powerfully reveals the stark contrasts of America’s poor and privileged classes. To call the divide at Alter Road anything less than jarring would be an understatement of fact.

This divide is not new.  Writing a full generation removed in 1985, Kenneth Jackson described it this way in Crabgrass Frontier “The most conspicuous city-suburb contrast in the United States runs along Detroit’s Alter Road. Locals call the street the ‘Berlin Wall’ or the ‘barrier,’ or the ‘Mason Dixon Line.’ It divides suburban Grosse Point Communities, which are the most genteel in towns anywhere, from the east side of Detroit, which is poor and mostly black. The Detroit side is studded with abandoned cars, graffiti covered schools, and burned out buildings. Two blocks away, within view, are neatly clipped hedges and immaculate houses – a world of servants and charity balls, two-car garages     and expensive clothes.  On one side, says John Kelly, a Democratic state senator whose district awkwardly straddles both neighborhoods, is ‘West Beirut;’ on the other side, ‘Disneyland.’ [4]”

Stark inequality between Detroit and Grosse Pointe at Alter Road illuminates core questions: can it be sincerely asserted that children living on both sides of this divide possess equal opportunity?  Is the American dream equally available to them?

For anyone taking these issues seriously, the answer is plainly no. Indeed, a gnawing sensation of injustice that hovers over this great American chasm. That some people that live in Detroit along Alter Road, through sheer family will or ingenuity, attend Grosse Point Schools for the apparent advantages such an education conferred compared to Detroit Public Schools should be evidence enough for the complicating nature of family strategies to overcome disadvantage based on their home address.  That such practices are shunned or criminalized masks the fundamental problem of unequal access to high quality and learning rich school environments.  As one parent told me: “My kids will have my mom’s address, it’s the same cycle. DPS schools just aint it! I love Detroit, but it’s not it.” Although in practice an illegal act, such address switching based on zip code inequalities should reveal the depth of the challenge for disadvantaged parents.

The absence of equal life opportunities at birth in America and across the world is widely discernable.[1]  Although no child chooses her parents, her nation or her opportunity structures, we are able with startling accuracy to predict the life outcomes of the vast majority of the world’s children based on a few arbitrary markers before their first days on Earth.  Family income, parental education, and national citizenship are foremost among these; such predictors chillingly calculate the likelihood of a child surviving his 5th birthday, becoming literate, and securing economic or social mobility almost exclusively from exogenous factors, speaking little if nothing to his potential abilities, personality, intelligence, and drive to achieve in the world. [2]

The continued presence of such injustice in America, the world’s wealthiest nation, is striking. That persistent unequal life chances for any child isn’t more alarming given the national devotion to equal opportunity for all, raises questions for how to mobilize anew energy on behalf of the disadvantaged. Indeed, while many humble efforts have been made to isolate the root causes of urban poverty, and although it may be naïve to think it is possible to avoid a causal debate entirely, I emphasize the importance of exploring an integrative analysis for how culture and social structure intersect in urban poverty.

That intersection offers social policy pathways that could accelerate both the opportunity structures and the cultural mechanism for disadvantaged populations so that we may yet break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.


CASE STUDY DETAIL — ALTER ROAD

We can surmise that opportunity structures at Alter Road from 1960 to the present are largely the product of durable racial dichotomies and the cumulative effects of intergenerational poverty. The city’s suburban white flight, deindustrialization, and the low educational preparedness and family fragmentation patterns in low income black communities compound the challenge of fostering equal opportunity for these neighborhoods.

The polarized difference between Detroit and Grosse Pointe emerged over a relatively short period of time, and has truly deepened over the last 30 years. Such shifts in housing patterns matter because, as the Kirwin institute puts it, “due to geographic variation, not everyone has access to the critical opportunities needed to excel or advance in life. Many low-income communities, particularly communities of color, are often spatially isolated and segregated from critical opportunities. This spatial segregation from opportunity not only limits the development potential for individuals, but also reduces the development capacity of the entire region’s most important asset, its people.”[1]

I conclude by noting that one’s environment drives the context for lifestyles and acceptable social behavior.  While values, beliefs and low individual and collective efficacy thwart renewal efforts, they are not the fundamental cause of the divide, but rather its consequence.  They are the consequence of hostile political, economic and social environments, including schools, which foreclosed opportunity for most low income blacks on Alter Road. This context can lose the most crucial fact: real families live in these circumstances, make decisions, frame worldviews, develop personal narratives, and make cumulatively consequential decisions about how to pursue the American Dream, including whether and if such a dream is genuinely possible for them in the first place.

In order to “make the grade,” we must do better in our schools and as a nation to overcome the profound divides so palpably evident based on one’s home address.  Whether its in Detroit at places like Alter Road, or in your own hometown, it’s time we change the narrative by opening up opportunity for disadvantaged children to attend the best schools possible and begin curbing the other effects that forestall economic and social mobility for all.

Unless and until we can overcome the destiny divide for anyone born at any address in America, then the struggle for social justice in the United States—the struggle for America itself—will remain incomplete.


[1] For land parcel data, see Data Driven Detroit’s land parcel survey. It found that 26 percent of the city’s residential parcels – or 91,000 lots – were vacant. See this page for more information: http://datadrivendetroit.org/projects/detroit-residential-parcel-survey/.  An example map can be located here: http://datadrivendetroit.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/HsgVacRateBG.pdf

[2] Derived from averages of census tracts 5126, 5129, 5232 in Detroit with Alter Road as the eastern border and census tracts 5501 and 5502 on the Grosse Pointe Park side bordering Alter Road in “Mapping America: Every City, Every Block.” The New York Times, by Mathew Bloch, Shan Carter and Alan McLean which relied on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 2005-2009

[3] Officially, Alter Road is situated entirely within the city of Detroit, but is the last line of housing stock on the city’s eastern border. Grosse Pointe Park is the first of “the Pointes” which run along the eastern border of Wayne County. Grosse Pointe is used here as short hand for the area overall, but it should be noted this town is slightly further east, and the census tracts used are in Grosse Pointe Park.

[4] Jackson, Kenneth Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States, 1985, quoted in, The Detroit Almanac: 300 Years of life in the Motor City, April 2006, p 86


[1] powel, john a. et al “The Geography of Opportunity: Review of Opportunity Mapping Research Initiatives,” p 2


[1] Most scholars on citizenship and human equality across nationalities readily concede the point: see global indicators on child mortality, educational achievement, healthcare access and economic stability, and others athttp://www.unicef.org/rightsite/sowc/statistics.php

[2] See http://www.unicef.org/rightsite/sowc/statistics.php

ice-house-detroit

Ice House Detroit by Gregory Holm and Matthew Radune

Photographer Gregory Holm and architect Matthew Radune created this stunning piece of work called Ice House Detroit that gives a bit of commentary on the urban decay and frozen nature of the city of Detroit (a recent survey suggests that 1 out of 3 Detroit houses are abandoned or vacant). [via]

This photo was taken in Detroit last summer on a skateboard trip in Detroit. Detroit is full of run down houses, this is one of em.

Photo: Aaron Wynia

SCROLL DOWN BELOW TO READ A COMPREHENSIVE HISTORICAL ARTICLE ON DETROIT BY HARPER’S MAGAZINE. IT POINTS OUT THAT SAN FRANCISCO WAS A BLUE COLLAR SHIPPING PORT UNTIL THAT INDUSTRY FADED AWAY IN THE AREA.

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What’s Wrong With ‘Detropia’ – A Detroit Resident’s Perspective

The critically acclaimed and celebrated independent documentary by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady,” DETROPIA (2012)” is a beautifully photographed and brilliantly edited film about the decline and attempted resurrection of the city of Detroit that I as a long time resident of the city eagerly anticipated and couldn’t wait to see.  Yet amid the powerful images of urban decay, ironic archival footage of “the city of tomorrow” and contemporary labor/management disputes, I found this film wanting on several levels.

Unfortunately, the documentary DETROPIA does not accurately capture the true sources of the city’s long and painful suffering that in my humble opinion were precipitated 40 years ago when the Black residents of Detroit elected its first Black mayor, Coleman A. Young in 1973.  The bigoted and ultimately racist reaction to this election by Whites is what has contributed directly to the economic and political morass that has characterized the city’s slow and terrible decline.

The film, DETROPIA, while trying to put Detroit’s decline in a larger nationwide context of the erosion of manufacturing plants and outsourcing fails to mention or put into perspective the racial tensions that have long defined Detroit, segregated the mostly Black populated city from the mostly White populated surrounding suburbs and severely undermined the Black political power base that used to govern the city.

As many elderly residents, politicians and pundits who live in or near Detroit will tell you, the modern city that we know as Detroit did not come into being until just after the 1967 riots that exacerbated and polarized an already heated tinderbox of racial tensions between Whites in political power and Blacks as their subjugated victims.

Even though White flight from the city of Detroit into the surrounding suburbs had been in the process since the 1950’s, the 1967 riots arguably accelerated this White flight and the 1973 election of Mayor Coleman A. Young precipitated the segregated us v. them/White v. Black/Suburbs v. City polarization that fostered a stubborn and intractable regionalism where all would rather watch the city fall into ruin instead of accepting the fact that Detroit was and still is important to all of the residents of the State of Michigan, White and Black alike.

From the moment in 1973 when the newly elected Black mayor Coleman A. Young uttered the infamous words,” to all dope pushers, to all rip off artists, to all muggers…  It’s time to leave Detroit.  Hit Eight mile road.” (1) His words were misconstrued by bigoted and fearful Whites, those in the suburbs just beyond the border of Eight mile road and those who wanted to flee the city, as the most important excuse that was needed to evacuate Detroit and segregate it economically and politically from the rest of the state.

DETROPIA, while skillfully documenting the current urban decay that was accelerated by Black flight into the suburbs and other States after 2001, it does not capture the background of urban decay and economic impoverishment that began directly after Mayor Young’s election.  “Ironically, the political hope of the Black community was vested in the same inexorable process that was putting the city in economic peril- the unremitting flight of White people.  Joseph Hudson of the department store chain [that once filled the Detroit skyline] said it well on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the 1967 riot: “The black man has the feeling he is about to take power in the city,” Hudson observed.  “But he is going to be left with an empty bag.” (2)

One of the secondary lessons we can learn from Michelle Alexander’s book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” is that after the gains of the Civil Rights Movement to bring equality to all Americans, some eternally bigoted and prejudiced Whites in power sought alternate means to continue racial segregation and inequity as a,” backlash against the Civil Rights Movement.” (3)

In Detroit, after the election of Mayor Coleman A. Young two of the ways in which racial segregation was intensified and continued was through the tactic of Insurance Redlining which caused the cost of car, home and business insurance to skyrocket for the residents of Detroit (using exaggerated crime statistics) and media misrepresentation (which concentrated on violent crimes committed within the city while giving a more nuanced and cautionary presentation of crime committed outside the city limits).

These unfair tactics of Insurance Redlining and media misrepresentation came together to provide a convenient ruse through which Whites could evacuate the city and contribute to urban decay without guilt or recrimination: Devil’s Night.  The night before Halloween where childish pranks are practiced, known as Devil’s Night became a worldwide media circus in Detroit during the late 70’s and 80’s because of the many arson fires that were deliberately set allowing White home and business owners to cash in on their insurance policies, evacuate the city, and relocate in the suburbs while blaming the resultant urban decay on rampant crime and Black political mismanagement.

Further evidence of this continuation of racial bigotry and prejudice within Whites against the city and its residents was revealed during the 1992 murder of Black 36 year old substance abuser, Malice Green, who was bludgeoned to death for not opening his hand by two White police officers, Larry Nevers and Walter A. Budzyn.  Both officers were convicted and served prison time for his murder.  Although the convictions were overturned on appeal both were retried and convicted of involuntary manslaughter; although Nevers never accepted responsibility for his actions and remained unrepentant even to his death from cancer earlier this year.  It would seem that both officers felt like they were the victims of suspect Black leadership and media misrepresentation.

Yet, in many ways the murder of Malice Green was an assault literally and figuratively by Whites against the notion of twenty years of Black power and leadership exercised against one of the Black community’s most vulnerable members.  We must remember that the vicious attack began with the heavy police flashlights being struck against Green’s clenched Black fist before moving on to fracture his skull repeatedly.  The bludgeoning by the angry White police officers in the middle of the night in a racially polarized city seemed to say,” How dare this nigger disobey our command!”

On that night in Detroit in November 1992, racial bigotry, prejudice and violence had been continued through other means.

DETROPIA while juxtaposing high art Opera performances held at the renowned Detroit Opera House with scenes of abandon houses, schools, factories and empty streets strewn with trash, the film does not address how racial segregation between Detroit and its mostly White and affluent suburbs contributed to a culture of political corruption within Detroit’s leadership and a culture of collusion between the suburbs and State leadership. Economic and political segregation forced residents, city leaders and business owners to find illegal and/or ethically compromised means to maintain their middle and upper middle class lifestyles, in the face of hostile and prejudiced media misrepresentation on the part of Whites in power that had surrounded and cordoned off the city.

From Coleman A. Young and the Vista Sludge scandal as well as his dubious exchange of South African Gold Krugerrands from his associate, Kenneth Weiner, who was subsequently convicted of embezzlement of Police funds, to the indictment and conviction of his longtime Police Chief, Bill Hart also for the embezzlement of Police funds to Kwame Kilpatrick and his conviction on federal racketeering charges together with business owner Bobby Ferguson, the culture of corruption in Detroit’s Black leadership has its roots in the economic segregation of the city from its richer and economically viable suburbs by racial prejudices and bigotry that have festered and metastasized over 40 years.

It is a culture of corruption that was made more seductive and palatable to political leaders, business owners and residents by the winnowing of legal economic opportunities caused by the racial segregation that was continued by other means within the suburbs and the halls of the State legislature against the city.

So although, Ewing and Grady’s DETROPIA is beautifully photographed, brilliantly edited and even manages to sustain the eviscerated and lugubrious ambiance that haunts Detroit today, its flaw is found in its actual content which can be traced to the paradox of a Post-racial perspective.  If by Post-racial we mean looking beyond race as the sole source of human misery and social stratification in the 21st century, then such a perspective is dangerous, even reprehensible, when we look back at the past- especially a past that was predicated upon race.  Maybe the term Post-racial is itself too problematic, when what is really meant is that race is but one out of a panoply of tactics humans have at their disposal to discriminate and maintain inequality amongst one another.

In short, what’s wrong with DETROPIA is that it evades the issue of race as it documents a city that has been defined (and nearly destroyed) by racial bigotry, riots, segregation and prejudice.  If this analogy is not too farfetched, watching DETROPIA is like watching a documentary on Hiroshima where the filmmakers never mention the dropping of the atomic bomb; you just know something is missing and it’s as clear as the color of the nose on your face.

Notes

(1) Pg. 200, in HARD STUFF: The Autobiography of Mayor Coleman Young by Coleman Young and Lonnie Wheeler Viking Press, New York: 1994.

(2) Pg. 197, Ibid.

(3) Pg. 11, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander The New Press, New York: 2012.

Andre Seewood is the author of SLAVE CINEMA: The Crisis of the African-American in Fil

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THE DETROIT NEWS

April 7, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Daniel Howes

Detroit’s story: decline or revival?

As pundits try to explain Detroit’s population loss, it’s clear that no single answer exists for the decline

Abandoned houses sit next to occupied homes in the Delray neighborhood, an unfortunate occurrence in Detroit. (Elizabeth Conley / The Detroit News)

If there’s a prize for writing a city’s obituary 50 years too soon, the winner is Time Magazine. In October 1961, the early days of the Kennedy administration, the weekly described a city where “prosperity seemed to go on forever — but it didn’t, and Detroit is now in trouble.”

People were leaving, its population down 10.7 percent between 1950 and 10 years later. Auto jobs were disappearing, casualties of consolidation and competition. The new mayor, Jerome Cavanagh, inherited a city budget deficit that the Citizens Research Council of Michigan pegged at $15 million.

That was 50 years ago, and what’s changed? Nothing and everything. Detroit’s newest decennial population bleed to the suburbs and beyond is 237,500, or roughly 25 percent of the population. Its finances and tax base remain a mess, despite Herculean efforts by the administration of Mayor Dave Bing. And its automakers? Not what they used to be.

No wonder, then, that all this and more — collapsing public schools, a raw legacy of political scandal, a battered and rebuilt auto industry and, most recently, harrowing numbers from the U.S. Census — prompted headline writers at The Wall Street Journal to proclaim “A Requiem for Detroit.” The dirgeful score has been more than a half century in the making.

Chrysler Corp. long ago bolted for Auburn Hills, changed hands three times and collapsed into bankruptcy. General Motors Corp. did, too, a pair of searing workouts that radically changed their footprints, their leadership cultures and the size of work forces that Detroit and its neighbors used to build whole communities.

The steady decline is bad enough. Worse is the accelerating speed of the unraveling, punctuated by the automotive reckonings of 2008 and ’09 and now the stunning census numbers. In a simple spreadsheet, the feds supplied the grist for a series of urban obits that have been a long time coming and the media — at least those who even bothered to care — duly obliged.

The Wall Street Journal headlined its story “Detroit’s population crashes,” which is painful to read but true. The New York Times head, also true, said, “Detroit census confirms a desertion like no other” and began its report like this:

“Laying bare the country’s most startling example of modern urban collapse …,” census data offered “… dramatic testimony to the crumbling industrial base of the Midwest, black flight to the suburbs and the tenuous future of what was once a thriving metropolis.”

This week, CNBC moved past the politics and got to the kind of dollars and cents issue that threatens the city’s viability far more than political finger-pointing: “Can Detroit Afford its Debt?” asked the headline. “The startling collapse of Detroit’s population raises doubts about whether the city can afford to shoulder its enormous debt load.”

To which I have a two-word response: “Excellent point.”

In a blog post for the Washington Examiner, Detroit native Michael Barone noted the “utter devastation” in his hometown and the fact that it has lost 61 percent of its population since 1950. Then he struck a chord familiar to conservatives happy to blame Detroit’s implosion on everything from LBJ’s Great Society to Detroit’s entitlement culture, even if the plight goes deeper and wider than partisan politics:

“When people ask me why I moved from being a liberal to being a conservative, my single-word answer is Detroit,” he wrote. “The liberal policies which I hoped would make Detroit something like heaven have made it instead something more like hell.”

An incomplete picture

It’s not that the accounts are wrong. They aren’t. It’s that they’re often incomplete, oversimplified and laden with political caricature, the better to score partisan points, occupy some mythical moral high ground or both.

Detroit’s decline has many parents. There is the decided leftward tilt of politics that favored labor and government bureaucracy over business; the slavish reliance on an arrogant auto industry whose allegiance was to itself, mostly; an educational culture that valued teachers, administrators and contractors more than students; racial tension, inflamed by the ’67 riots, busing and crime that accelerated the exodus.

Conservatives cite unions and Democratic welfare-state policies; liberals blame business, white flight and trade deals. And that’s before locals get into the act with Detroiters blaming the suburbs and Republicans and suburbanites blaming former Mayor Coleman Young and forced busing. If only it was all that simple.

“The first problem that I see is the continuum of another negative national story that comes out of Detroit,” says Larry Alexander, president of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Whether it’s the political scandals, the demise of the auto industry, the corruption that took place in our convention center or the collapse of our school system … people say, ‘My God, is Detroit going to survive?'”

The honest answer: Not sure. And, second, the continuing stream of semi-informed commentary on Detroit’s man-made disaster(s) doesn’t help sell the city to would-be investors, media types or average folks.

Oh, yes, something resembling a city called Detroit will emerge from the other side of these tempering fires, just like companies calling themselves GM and Chrysler emerged from federally induced bankruptcies. Like the automakers, the city likely will be smaller, leaner and more nimble because the alternative is a one-way street to the largest municipal collapse in the nation’s history.

City’s decline bottoming

In other words, the Perfect Storm that hit Detroit still rages, despite renewed energy downtown, demand for housing in Midtown and billions in investment by hospitals, high-tech firms and the hospitality industry. The population flight, recession-fueled foreclosure crisis, public schools in free-fall, declining tax revenue and a changing landscape among private sector employers cannot be neutralized by new investment in Midtown, the Detroit Medical Center, casinos, hotels and a $300 million rehab of Cobo Center.

They’re necessary, but not yet sufficient to reverse a trend that has been gathering momentum since Harry Truman was president. Worse, those are the kind of on-the-ground changes that drive-by media types don’t see from their offices in New York or Washington.

But the granular truth is that more in Detroit is changing today than remaining the same because it has to. A former mayor and former City Council president sit in prison, but the new mayor and a reconstituted council are both more realistic about Detroit’s predicament than any time in years.

Michigan has a new governor, Rick Snyder, who professes a desire to help Detroit wherever possible. A revised emergency financial manager law gives appointees more power to force painful change on school systems and municipalities, up to and including voiding collective bargaining agreements.

Has the time for Detroit’s requiem arrived?

“I don’t think so,” says Sheila Cockrel, a former City Council member who runs her own consulting firm and teaches at Wayne State University. “The window hasn’t been shut, but it’s closing rapidly. We’re running out of time,” for radical change. “It has to be done or we’re going to be the first above-ground Pompeii.”

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20110407/OPINION03/104070334#ixzz2XiIiaO00

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THE ATLANTIC CITIES

Could Detroit Become America’s Design Capital?

Could Detroit Become America's Design Capital?
Courtesy of the College for Creative Studies

Last month I received my first-ever academic degree, an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. I had never heard of the school before it got in touch with me, and my sole knowledge of Detroit was the popular perception of it as a metropolis of modern ruins. But when I visited, I was blown away by this surprisingly little known but inspiring incubator of art and design – the rare collegiate creative enclave that engages with, reflects, and embodies the city it’s in.

That city is, of course, a poster child for urban blight and urban flight. But it’s also the storied home of American manufacturing and industrial innovation, and with the help of CCS, it could well become the design capital of the United States again.

The college began in 1906 as the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts “to encourage good and beautiful work as applied to useful service.” That notion of “useful service” soon expanded to include fine arts and what was called the “industrial arts” – the craft that would help power Detroit’s auto industry, which in turn over the years has helped power the college’s endowment and board of directors.

Transportation Design spray booth  Caption A unique spray booth allows students to complete sponsored research projects 650.jpg
Students complete sponsored research projects in a spray booth. Image courtesy of CCS

By the 1980s, though, enrollment had been dropping, the college was running substantial annual deficits, and the faculty was factionalized. In 1994, Richard Rogers, a vice president at the New School in New York City, was appointed CCS’s president with the mandate of fixing the problems, he told me.

“I arrived here at a hopeful moment,” he says. “A new mayor, Dennis Archer, had just been elected and got the business community more engaged in the city. A wave of downtown development began that led to the building of two new sports stadiums and expansion of many cultural and educational institutions, including the first expansion we did at CCS after I got here.”

CCS operates two campuses, both closely tied with the city’s history. The older includes the 1958 Yamasaki Building designed by Minoru Yamasaki (designer of the World Trade Center in New York) and the Josephine F. Ford Sculpture Garden (named after the school’s primary benefactor). The latest addition, the old Argonaut Building, was GM’s original engineering and design facility. It also once held the studio of Harley Earl, who introduced America to modern auto design and developed the concept of the “model year,” which used design changes to create demand for new vehicles.

GM donated the 760,000 square foot building to CCS in 2008, when it was renamed the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education. It currently houses undergraduate and graduate design programs, as well as a unique art and design charter school for students from sixth to 12th grade (many of whom are inner-city), run by CCS and the Henry Ford Learning Institute. In the building, you’ll also find the showroom and factory of Shinola, producers of “Made in Detroit” bicycles, watches, and stationary.

Aerial view of Ford Campus  Caption An aerial view of CCSs Walter and Josephine Ford Campus 650.jpg
An aerial view of CCS’s Walter and Josephine Ford Campus. Image courtesy of CCS

Most of CCS’s students hail from Michigan, and many stay in Detroit, working in or around the auto industry. Fifteen percent of CCS graduates come from its transportation design department, the balance are in graphic, product, ceramic design, illustration, animation, video games, painting, sculpture, glass blowing, interiors, and more. While they’re in school, students work on research projects sponsored by a wide range of corporations and institutions. Shinola is one of the most involved of those partner companies, having facilitated class projects on branding, bicycle design, watch design, and fashion accessory design.

“Their physical proximity in our building makes these collaborations very easy, and the students have a lot of exposure to Shinola’s creative thinkers,” Rogers says.

The partnerships with local corporations and the charter school are two of the ways that CCS is contributing to Detroit’s status as a growing designer’s colony. CCS has played a role in that dynamic in other ways as well—managing the Kresge Arts in Detroit program, which awards fellowships and grants to artists, for example.

But Rogers is quick to point out that Detroit has long been a creativity hub, as shown in part by the fact that it’s home to two design schools, CCS in the city and Cranbrook just to the north. The city already has a robust arts community in part made possible by inexpensive real estate and the palpable sense that artists can be engaged in helping the city move forward. “I think [Detroit is] already a big ‘D’ design city but not adequately recognized as such,” he says, acknowledging that Detroit’s economic struggles more often define it in the public’s mind. “We have to do a better job of telling our story. We’re realists here. We know the problems. But we also know that there’s a lot of positive action in the city now, and designers are playing an important role.”

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.

Keywords: Detroit, College for Creative Studies
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the MFA Design program at the School of Visual Arts and co-founder of the MFA Design Criticism program. All posts »
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HARPER’S

Article — From the July 2007 issue

Detroit Arcadia

Exploring the post-American landscape

By

Until recently there was a frieze around the lobby of the Hotel Pontchartrain in downtown Detroit, a naively charming painting of a forested lakefront landscape with Indians peeping out from behind the trees. The hotel was built on the site of Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit, the old French garrison that three hundred years ago held a hundred or so pioneer families inside its walls while several thousand Ottawas and Hurons and Potawatomis went about their business outside, but the frieze evoked an era before even that rude structure was built in the lush woodlands of the place that was not yet Michigan or the United States. Scraped clear by glaciers during the last ice age, the landscape the French invaded was young, soggy, and densely forested. The river frontage that would become Detroit was probably mostly sugar maple and beech forest, with black ash or mixed hardwood swamps, a few patches of conifers, and the occasional expanse of what naturalists like to call wet prairie—grasslands you might not want to walk on. The Indians killed the trees by girdling them and planted corn in the clearings, but the wild rice they gathered and the fish and game they hunted were also important parts of their ?diet. One pioneer counted badger, bear, fisher, fox, mink, muskrat, porcupine, rabbit, raccoon, weasel, wildcat, wolf, and woodchuck among the local species, and cougar and deer could have been added to the list. The French would later recruit the Indians to trap beaver, which were plentiful in those once-riverine territories—détroit means “strait” or “narrows,” but in its thirty-two-mile journey from Lake St. Clair to Lake Erie, the Detroit River also had several tributaries, including Parent’s Creek, which was later named Bloody Run after some newly arrived English soldiers managed to lose a fight they picked with the local Ottawas.Fort Pontchartrain was never meant to be the center of a broad European settlement. It was a trading post, a garrison, and a strategic site in the scramble between the British and the French to dominate the North American interior. Cadillac, the ambitious Frenchman who established the fort in 1701, invited members of several Indian nations to surround the fort in order to facilitate more frequent trading, but this led to clashes not just between nations but between races. Unknown Indians set fire to Fort Pontchartrain in 1703, and the Fox skirmished there in 1712. After the English took over in 1760, deteriorating relations with the local tribes culminated in the three-year-long, nearly successful Ottawa uprising known as Pontiac’s Rebellion.

This is all ancient history, but it does foreshadow the racial conflicts that never went away in Detroit, though now white people constitute the majority who surround and resent the 83 percent black city. It’s as if the fort had been turned inside out—and, in fact, in the 1940s a six-foot-tall concrete wall was built along Eight Mile Road, which traces Detroit’s northern limits, to contain the growing African-American population. And this inversion exposes another paradox. North of Eight Mile, the mostly white suburbs seem conventional, and they may face the same doom as much of conventional suburban America if sprawl and ?auto-based civilization die off with oil shortages and economic decline. South of Eight Mile, though, Detroit is racing to a far less predictable future.

It is a remarkable city now, one in which the clock seems to be running backward as its buildings disappear and its population and economy decline. The second time I visited Detroit I tried to stay at the Pontchartrain, but the lobby was bisected by drywall, the mural seemed doomed, and the whole place was under some form of remodeling that resembled ruin, with puddles in the lobby and holes in the walls, few staff people, fewer guests, and strange grinding noises at odd hours. I checked out after one night because of the cold water coming out of the hot-water tap and the generally spooky feeling generated by trying to sleep in a 413-room high-rise hotel with almost no other guests. I was sad to see the frieze on its way out, but—still—as I have explored this city over the last few years, I have seen an oddly heartening new version of the landscape it portrays, a landscape that is not quite post-apocalyptic but that is strangely—and sometime even beautifully—post-American.

This continent has not seen a transformation like Detroit’s since the last days of the Maya. The city, once the fourth largest in the country, is now so depopulated that some stretches resemble the outlying farmland and others are altogether wild. Downtown still looks like a downtown, and all of those high-rise buildings still make an impressive skyline, but when you look closely at some of them, you can see trees growing out of the ledges and crevices, an invasive species from China known variously as the ghetto palm and the tree of heaven. Local wisdom has it that whenever a new building goes up, an older one will simply be abandoned, and the same rule applies to the blocks of new condos that have been dropped here and there among the ruins: why they were built in the first place in a city full of handsome old houses going to ruin has everything to do with the momentary whims of the real estate trade and nothing to do with the long-term survival of cities.

The transformation of the residential neighborhoods is more dramatic. On so many streets in so many neighborhoods, you see a house, a little shabby but well built and beautiful. Then another house. Then a few houses are missing, so thoroughly missing that no trace of foundation remains. Grass grows lushly, as though nothing had ever disturbed the pastoral verdure. Then there’s a house that’s charred and shattered, then a beautiful house, with gables and dormers and a porch, the kind of house a lot of Americans fantasize about owning. Then more green. This irregular pattern occurs mile after mile, through much of Detroit. You could be traveling down Wa bash Street on the west side of town or Pennsylvania or Fairview on the east side of town or around just about any part of the State Fair neighborhood on the city’s northern border. Between the half-erased neighborhoods are ruined factories, boarded-up warehouses, rows of storefronts bearing the traces of failed enterprise, and occasional solid blocks of new town houses that look as though they had been dropped in by helicopter. In the bereft zones, solitary figures wander slowly, as though in no hurry to get from one abandoned zone to the next. Some areas have been stripped entirely, and a weedy version of nature is returning. Just about a third of Detroit, some forty square miles, has evolved past decrepitude into vacancy and prairie—an urban void nearly the size of San Francisco.

It was tales of these ruins that originally drew me to the city a few years ago. My first visit began somberly enough, as I contemplated the great neoclassical edifice of the train station, designed by the same architects and completed the same year as Grand Central station in Manhattan. Grand Central thrives; this broken building stands alone just beyond the grim silence of Michigan Avenue and only half a mile from the abandoned Tiger Stadium. Rings of cyclone fence forbid exploration. The last train left on January 5, 1988— the day before Epiphany. The building has been so thoroughly gutted that on sunny days the light seems to come through the upper stories as though through a cheese grater; there is little left but concrete and stone. All the windows are smashed out. The copper pipes and wires, I was told, were torn out by the scavengers who harvest material from abandoned buildings around the city and hasten their decay.

On another visit, I took a long walk down a sunken railroad spur that, in more prosperous times, had been used to move goods from one factory to another. A lot of effort had gone into making the long channel of brick and concrete about twenty feet below the gently undulating surface of Detroit, and it had been abandoned a long time. Lush greenery grew along the tracks and up the walls, which were like a museum of spray-can art from the 1980s and 1990s. The weeds and beer cans and strangely apposite graffiti decrying the 1993 passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement seemed to go on forever.

I took many pictures on my visits to Detroit, but back home they just looked like snapshots of abandoned Nebraska farmhouses or small towns farther west on the Great Plains. Sometimes a burned-out house would stand next to a carefully tended twin, a monument to random fate; sometimes the rectilinear nature of city planning was barely perceptible, just the slightest traces of a grid fading into grassy fields accented with the occasional fire hydrant. One day after a brief thunderstorm, when the rain had cleared away and chunky white clouds dotted the sky, I wandered into a neighborhood, or rather a former neighborhood, of at least a dozen square blocks where trees of heaven waved their branches in the balmy air. Approximately one tattered charred house still stood per block. I could hear the buzzing of crickets or cicadas, and I felt as if I had traveled a thousand years into the future.

To say that much of Detroit is ?ruins is, of course, to say that some of it isn’t. There are stretches of Detroit that look like anywhere in the U.S.A.—blocks of town houses and new condos, a flush of gentility spreading around the Detroit Institute of Arts, a few older neighborhoods where everything is fine. If Detroit has become a fortress of urban poverty surrounded by suburban affluence, the city’s waterfront downtown has become something of a fortress within a fortress, with a convention center, a new ballpark, a new headquarters for General Motors, and a handful of casinos that were supposed to be the city’s economic salvation when they were built a decade ago. But that garrison will likely fend off time no better?than Fort Detroit or the?Hotel Pontchartrain.

Detroit is wildly outdated, but it is not very old. It was a medium-size city that boomed in the first quarter of the twentieth century, became the “arsenal of democracy” in the second, spent the third in increasingly less gentle decline, and by the last quarter was a byword for urban decay, having made a complete arc in a single century. In 1900, Detroit had a quarter of a million people. By midcentury the population had reached nearly 2 million. In recent years, though, it has fallen below 900,000. Detroit is a cautionary tale about one-industry towns: it shrank the way the old boomtowns of the gold and silver rushes did, as though it had been mining automobiles and the veins ran dry, but most of those mining towns were meant to be ephemeral. People thought Detroit would go on forever.

Coleman Young, Detroit’s first African-American mayor, reigned from 1974 to 1993, the years that the change became irreversible and impossible to ignore, and in his autobiography he sounds like he is still in shock:

It’s mind-boggling to think that at mid-century Detroit was a city of close to two million and nearly everything beyond was covered with corn and cow patties. Forty years later, damn near every last white person in the city had moved to the old fields and pastures—1.4 frigging million of them. Think about that. There were 1,600,000 whites in Detroit after the war, and 1,400,000 of them left. By 1990, the city was just over a million, nearly eighty percent of it was black, and the suburbs had surpassed Detroit not only in population but in wealth, in commerce—even in basketball, for God’s sake.

The Detroit Pistons are now based in Auburn Hills. According to the 2000 census, another 112,357 whites left the city in the 1990s, and 10,000 more people a year continue to leave. Even three hundred bodies a year are exhumed from the cemeteries and moved because some of the people who were once Detroiters or the children of Detroiters don’t think the city is good enough for their dead. Ford and General Motors, or what remains of them—most of the jobs were dispatched to other towns and nations long agoin trouble, too. Interestingly, in this city whose name is synonymous with the auto industry, more than a fifth of households have no cars.

“Detroit’s Future Is Looking Brighter,” said a headline in the Detroit Free Press, not long after another article outlined the catastrophes afflicting the whole state. In recent years, Michigan’s household income has dropped more than that of any other state, and more and more of its citizens are slipping below the poverty line. David Littmann, a senior economist for the Michigan think tank the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, told the paper, “As the economy slows nationally, we’re going to sink much farther relative to the other states. We’ve only just begun. We’re going to see Michigan sink to levels that no one has ?ever seen.”

In another sense, the worst is over in Detroit. In the 1980s and 1990s, the city was falling apart, spectacularly and violently. Back then the annual pre-Halloween arson festival known as Devil’s Night finished off a lot of the abandoned buildings; it peaked in 1984 with 810 fires in the last three days of October. Some of the arson, a daughter of Detroit’s black bourgeoisie told me, was ?constructive—crackhouses being burned down by the neighbors; her own respectable aunt had torched one. Between 1978 and 1998, the city issued 9,000 building permits for new homes and 108,000 demolition permits, and quite a lot of structures were annihilated without official sanction.

Even Ford’s old Highland Park headquarters, where the Model T was born, is now just a shuttered series of dusty warehouses with tape on the windows and cyclone fences around the cracked pavement. Once upon a time, the plant was one of the wonders of the world—on a single day in 1925 it cranked out 9,000 cars, according to a sign I saw under a tree next to the empty buildings. Detroit once made most of the cars on earth; now the entire United States makes not even one in ten. The new Model T Ford Plaza next door struck my traveling companion—who, like so many white people born in Detroit after the war, had mostly been raised elsewhere—as auspicious. But the mall was fronted by a mostly empty parking lot and anchored by a Payless ShoeSource, which to my mind did not portend an especially bright future.

When I came back, a year after my first tour, I stopped at the Detroit Institute of Arts to see the Diego Rivera mural commissioned in 1932 by Henry Ford’s son, Edsel. The museum is a vast Beaux-Arts warehouse—“the fifth-largest fine arts museum in the United States,” according to its promotional literature—and the fresco covered all four walls of the museum’s central courtyard. Rivera is said to have considered it his finest work.

It’s an odd masterpiece, a celebration of the River Rouge auto plant, which had succeeded the Highland Park factory as Ford’s industrial headquarters, painted by a Communist for the son of one of the richest capitalists in the world. The north and south walls are devoted to nearly life-size scenes in which the plant’s gray gears, belts, racks, and workbenches surge and swarm like some vast intestinal apparatus. The workers within might be subsidiary organs or might be lunch, as the whole churns to excrete a stream of black Fords.

Rivera created this vision when the city was reveling in the newfound supremacy of its megafactories, but Detroit had already reached its apex. Indeed, the River Rouge plant—then the largest factory complex in the world, employing more than 100,000 workers on a site two and a half times the size of New York City’s Central Park—was itself built in suburban Dearborn. In 1932, though, capitalists and Communists alike shared a belief that the most desirable form of human organization—indeed, the inevitable form—was not just industrial but this kind of industrial: a Fordist system of “rational” labor, of centralized production in blue-collar cities, of eternal prosperity in a stern gray land. Even the young Soviet Union looked up to Henry Ford.

But Detroit was building the machine that would help destroy not just this city but urban industrialism across the continent. Rivera painted, in a subsidiary all-gray panel in the lower right corner of the south wall, a line of slumped working men and women exiting the factory into what appears to be an endless parking lot full of Ford cars. It may not have looked that way in 1932, but a lot of the gray workers were going to buy those gray cars and drive right out of the gray city. The city-hating Ford said that he wanted every family in the world to have a Ford, and he priced them so that more and more families could. He also fantasized about a post-urban world in which workers would also farm, seasonally or part-time, but he did less to realize that vision. Private automobile ownership was a double blow against the density that is crucial to cities and urbanism and against the Fordist model of concentrated large-scale manufacture. Ford was sabotaging Detroit and then Fordism almost from the beginning; the city had blown up rapidly and would spend the next several decades simply disintegrating.

Detroit was always a rough town. When Rivera painted his fresco, the Depression had hit Detroit as hard as or harder than anywhere, and the unemployed were famished and desperate, desperate enough to march on the Ford Motor Company in the spring of 1932. It’s hard to say whether ferocity or desperation made the marchers fight their way through police with tear-gas guns and firemen with hoses going full bore the last stretch of the way to the River Rouge plant. Harry Bennett, the thug who ran Ford more or less the way Stalin was running the Soviet Union, arrived, and though he was immediately knocked out by a flying rock, the police began firing on the crowd, injuring dozens and killing five. The battle of the Hunger March or the huge public funeral afterward would’ve made a good mural.

No, it wasn’t cars alone that ruined Detroit. It was the whole improbable equation of the city in the first place, the “inherent contradictions.” The city was done in by deindustrialization, decentralization, the post–World War II spread of highways and freeways, government incentives to homeowners, and disinvestment in cities that aided and abetted large-scale white flight into the burgeoning suburbs of those years. Chunks of downtown Detroit were sacrificed early, in the postwar years, so that broad arterial freeways—the Edsel Freeway, the Chrysler Freeway—could bring commuters in from beyond city limits.

All of this was happening everywhere else too, of course. The manufacturing belt became the rust belt. Cleveland, Toledo, Buffalo, and other cities clustered around the Great Lakes were hit hard, and the shrinking stretched down to St. Louis and across to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Newark. Now that it has entered a second gilded age, no one seems to remember that New York was a snowballing disaster forty or fifty years ago. The old textile district south of Houston Street had emptied out so completely that in 1962 the City Club of New York published a report on it and other former commercial areas titled “The Wastelands of New York City.” San Francisco went the same way. It was a blue-collar port city until the waterfront dried up and the longshoremen faded away.

Then came the renaissance, but ?only for those cities reborn into more dematerialized economies. Vacant lots were filled in, old warehouses were turned into lofts or offices or replaced, downtowns became upscale chain outlets, janitors and cops became people who commuted in from downscale suburbs, and the children of that white flight came back to cities that were not exactly cities in the old sense. The new American cities trade in information, entertainment, tourism, software, finance. They are abstract. Even the souvenirs in these new economies often come from a sweatshop in China. The United States can be mapped as two zones now, a high-pressure zone of economic boom times and escalating real estate prices, and a low-?pressure zone, where housing might be the only thing that’s easy to come by.

This pattern will change, though. The forces that produced Detroit—the combination of bitter racism and single-industry failure—are anomalous, but the general recipe of deindustrialization, depopulation, and resource depletion will likely touch almost all the regions of the global north in the next century or two. Dresden was rebuilt, and so was Hiroshima, and so were the cities destroyed by natural forces—San Francisco and Mexico City and Tangshan—but Detroit will never be rebuilt as it was. It will be the first of many cities forced?to become altogether something else.

The Detroit Institute of Arts is in one of those flourishing parts of Detroit; it is expanding its 1927 building, and when I said goodbye to the Rivera mural and stepped outside into the autumn sunshine, workmen were installing slabs of marble on the building’s new facade. I noticed an apparently homeless dog sleeping below the scaffolding, and as I walked past, three plump white women teetered up to me hastily, all attention focused on the dog. “Do you have a cell phone?” the one topped by a froth of yellow hair shrilled. “Call the Humane Society!” I suggested that the dog was breathing fine and therefore was probably okay, and she looked at me as though I were a total idiot. “This is downtown Detroit,” she said, in a tone that made it clear the dog was in imminent peril from unspeakable forces, and that perhaps she was, I was, we all were.

I had been exploring an architectural-salvage shop near Rosa Parks Boulevard earlier that day, and when I asked the potbellied and weathered white man working there for his thoughts on the city, the tirade that followed was similarly vehement: Detroit, he insisted, had been wonderful—people used to dress up to go downtown, it had been the Paris of the Midwest!—and then it all went to hell. Those people destroyed it. My traveling companion suggested that maybe larger forces of deindustrialization might have had something to do with what happened to the city, but the man blankly rejected this analysis and continued on a tirade about “them” that wasn’t very careful about not being racist.

On the Web you can find a site, Stormfront White Nationalist Community, that is even more comfortable with this version of what happened to the city, and even less interested in macroeconomic forces like deindustrialization and globalization: “A huge non-White population, combined with annual arson attacks, bankruptcy, crime, and decay, have combined to make Detroit—once the USA’s leading automotive industrial center—?into a ruin comparable with those of the ancient civilizations—with the cause being identical: the replacement of the White population who built the city, with a new non-White population.” It could have been different. “In more civilized environs, these facilities might have easily been transformed into a manufacturing and assembly center for any number of industrial enterprises,” writes the anonymous author.

A few months before the diatribe in the salvage yard, I’d met a long-haired counterculture guy who also told me he was from Detroit, by which he, like so many others I’ve met, meant the suburbs of Detroit. When I asked him about the actual city, though, his face clenched like a fist. He recited the terrible things they would do to you if you ventured into the city, that they would tear you apart on the streets. He spoke not with the voice of a witness but with the authority of tradition handed down from an unknown and irrefutable source. The city was the infernal realm, the burning lands, the dragon’s lair at the center of a vast and protective suburban sprawl.

The most prominent piece of public art in Detroit is the giant blackened bronze arm and fist that serve as a monument to heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, who grew up there. If it were vertical it would look like a Black Power fist, but it’s slung from cables like some medieval battering ram waiting to be dragged up to the city walls.

Deindustrialization dealt Detroit a sucker punch, but the knockout may have been white flight—at least economically. Socially, it was a little more complex. One African-American woman who grew up there told me that white people seemed to think they were a great loss to the city they abandoned, “but we were glad to see them go and waved bye-bye.” She lived in Ann Arbor—the departure of the black middle class being yet another wrinkle in the racial narrative—but she was thinking of moving back, she said. If she had kids, raising them in a city where they wouldn’t be a minority had real appeal.

The fall of the paradise that was Detroit is often pinned on the riots of July 1967, what some there still refer to as the Detroit Uprising. But Detroit had a long history of race riots—there were vicious white-on-black riots in 1833, 1863, 1925, and 1943. And the idyll itself was unraveling long before 1967. Local 600 of the United Auto Workers broke with the union mainstream in 1951, sixteen years before the riots, to sue Ford over decentralization efforts already under way. They realized that their jobs were literally going south, to states and nations where labor wasn’t so organized and wages weren’t so high, back in the prehistoric era of “globalization.”

The popular story wasn’t about the caprices of capital, though; it was about the barbarism of blacks. In 1900, Detroit had an African-American population of 4,111. Then came the great migration, when masses of southern blacks traded Jim Crow for the industrialized promised land of the North. Conditions might have been better here than in the South, but Detroit was still a segregated city with a violently racist police department and a lot of white people ready to work hard to keep black people out of their neighborhoods. They failed in this attempt at segregation, and then they left. This is what created the blackest city in the United States, and figures from Joe Louis and Malcolm X to Rosa Parks and the bold left-wing Congressman John Conyers—who has represented much of the city since 1964—have made Detroit a center of activism and independent leadership for African Americans. It’s a black?city, but it’s surrounded.

Surrounded, but inside that stockade of racial divide and urban decay are visionaries, and their visions are tender, hopeful, and green. Grace Lee Boggs, at ninety-one, has been politically active in the city for more than half a century. Born in Providence to Chinese immigrant parents, she got a Ph.D. in philosophy from Bryn Mawr in 1940 and was a classical Marxist when she married the labor organizer Jimmy Boggs, in 1953. That an Asian woman married to a black man could become a powerful force was just another wrinkle in the racial politics of Detroit. (They were together until Jimmy’s death, in 1993.) Indeed, her thinking evolved along with the radical politics of the city itself. During the 1960s, the Boggses were dismissive of Martin Luther King Jr. and ardent about Black Power, but as Grace acknowledged when we sat down together in her big shady house in the central city, “The Black Power movement, which was very powerful here, concentrated only on power and had no concept of the challenges that would face a black-powered administration.” When Coleman Young took over city hall, she said, he could start fixing racism in the police department and the fire department, “but when it came time to do something about Henry Ford and General Motors, he was helpless. We thought that all we had to do was transform the system, that all the problems were on the other side.”

As the years went by, the Boggses began to focus less on putting new people into existing power structures and more on redefining or dismantling the structures altogether. When she and Jimmy crusaded against Young’s plans to rebuild the city around casinos, they realized they had to come up with real alternatives, and they began to think about what a local, sustainable economy would look like. They had already begun to realize that Detroit’s lack of participation in the mainstream offered an opportunity to do everything differently—that instead of retreating back to a better relationship to capitalism, to industry, to the mainstream, the city could move forward, turn its liabilities into assets, and create an economy entirely apart from the transnational webs of corporations and petroleum. Jimmy Boggs described his alternative vision in a 1988 speech at the First Unitarian-Universalist Church of Detroit. “We have to get rid of the myth that there is something sacred about large-scale production for the national and international market,” he said. “We have to begin thinking of creating small enterprises which produce food, goods, and services for the local market, that is, for our communities and for our city. . . . In order to create these new enterprises, we need a view of our city which takes into consideration both the natural resources of our area and the existing and potential skills and talents of Detroiters.”

That was the vision, and it is only just starting to become a reality. “Now a lot of what you see is vacant lots,” Grace told me. “Most people see only disaster and the end of the world. On the other hand, artists in particular see the potential, the possibility of bringing the country back into the city, which is what we really need.” After all, the city is rich in open space and—with an official unemployment rate in the mid-teens—people with time on their hands. The land is fertile, too, and the visionaries are there.

In traversing Detroit, I saw a lot of signs that a greening was well under way, a sort of urban husbandry of the city’s already occurring return to nature. I heard the story of one old woman who had been the first African-American person on her block and is now, with her grandson, very nearly the last person of any race on that block. Having a city grow up around you is not an uncommon American experience, but having the countryside return is an eerier one. She made the best of it, though. The city sold her the surrounding lots for next to nothing, and she now raises much of her own food on them.

I also saw the lush three-acre Earth Works Garden, launched by Capuchin monks in 1999 and now growing organic produce for a local soup kitchen. I saw a 4-H garden in a fairly ravaged east-side neighborhood, and amid the utter abandonment of the west side, I saw the handsome tiled buildings of the Catherine Ferguson Academy for Young Women, a school for teenage mothers that opens on to a working farm, complete with apple orchard, horses, ducks, long rows of cauliflower and broccoli, and a red barn the girls built themselves. I met Ashley Atkinson, the young project manager for The Greening of Detroit, and heard about the hundred community gardens they support, and the thousands more food gardens that are not part of any network. The food they produce, Atkinson told me, provides food security for many Detroiters. “Urban farming, dollar for dollar, is the most effective change agent you can ever have in a community,” she said. Everywhere I went, I saw the rich soil of Detroit and the hard work of the gardeners bringing forth an abundant harvest any organic farmer would envy.

Everyone talks about green cities now, but the concrete results in affluent cities mostly involve curbside composting and tacking solar panels onto rooftops while residents continue to drive, to shop, to eat organic pears flown in from Argentina, to be part of the big machine of consumption and climate change. The free-range chickens and Priuses are great, but they alone aren’t adequate tools for creating a truly different society and ecology. The future, at least the sustainable one, the one in which we will survive, isn’t going to be invented by people who are happily surrendering selective bits and pieces of environmentally unsound privilege. It’s going to be made by those who had all that taken away from them or never had it in the first place.

After the Panic of 1893, Detroit’s left-wing Republican mayor encouraged his hungry citizens to plant vegetables in the city’s vacant lots and went down in history as Potato Patch Pingree. Something similar happened in Cuba when the Soviet Union collapsed and the island lost its subsidized oil and thereby its mechanized agriculture; through garden-scale semi-organic agriculture, Cubans clawed their way back to food security and got better food in the bargain. Nobody wants to live through a depression, and it is unfair, or at least deeply ironic, that black people in Detroit are being forced to undertake an experiment in utopian post-urbanism that appears to be uncomfortably similar to the sharecropping past their parents and grandparents sought to escape. There is no moral reason why they should do and be better than the rest of us—but there is a practical one. They have to. Detroit is where change is most urgent and therefore most viable. The rest of us will get there later, when necessity drives us too, and by that time Detroit may be the shining example we can look to, the post-industrial green city that was once the steel-gray capital of Fordist manufacturing.

Detroit is still beautiful, both in its stately decay and in its growing natural abundance. Indeed, one of the finest sights I saw on my walks around the city combined the two. It was a sudden flash on an already bright autumn day—a pair of wild pheasants, bursting from a lush row of vegetables and flying over a cyclone fence toward a burned-out building across the street. It was an improbable flight in many ways. Those pheasants, after all, were no more native to Detroit than are the trees of heaven growing in the skyscrapers downtown. And yet it is here, where European settlement began in the region, that we may be seeing the first signs of an unsettling of the very premises of colonial expansion, an unsettling that may bring a complex new human and natural ecology into being.

This is the most extreme and long-term hope Detroit offers us: the hope that we can reclaim what we paved over and poisoned, that nature will not punish us, that it will welcome us home—not with the landscape that was here when we arrived, perhaps, but with land that is alive, lush, and varied all the same. “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” was Shelley’s pivotal command in his portrait of magnificent ruins, but Detroit is far from a “shattered visage.” It is a harsh place of poverty, deprivation, and a fair amount of crime, but it is ?also a stronghold of possibility.

That Rivera mural, for instance. In 1932 the soil, the country, the wilderness, and agriculture represented the past; they should have appeared, if at all, below or behind the symbols of industry and urbanism, a prehistory from which the gleaming machine future emerged. But the big panels of workers inside the gray chasms of the River Rouge plant have above them huge nude figures—black, white, red, yellow, lounging on the bare earth. Rivera meant these figures to be emblematic of the North American races and meant their fistfuls of coal, sand, iron ore, and limestone to be the raw stuff of industrialism. To my eye, though, they look like deities waiting to reclaim the world, insistent on sensual contact with the land and confident of their triumph over and after the factory that lies below them like an inferno.

http://places.designobserver.com/feature/the-forgetting-machine-a-history-of-detroit/31848/

Posted 01.09.12 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Essay: Jerry Herron

The Forgetting Machine: Notes Toward a History of Detroit

David Barr and Sergio DeGiusti, Transcending
David Barr and Sergio DeGiusti, Transcending, Hart Plaza, Detroit, 2003. [Photo by Flickr user kiddharma]

Decline and Fall
The classic text on ruins is Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, completed during the last decades of the 18th century, when the English were cultivating a special interest in historical empires that their own advancing empire might yet surpass — a compensatory preoccupation brought on by the recent loss of the American colonies. Toward the end of his massive opus, Gibbon contemplates what it would have been like to “discover” Rome in that late medieval moment when the great metropolis was first appreciated as a ruin. Here, in a passage of vicarious self-reflection, he imagines the 14th-century poet Petrarch encountering the city:

When Petrarch first gratified his eyes with a view of those monuments whose scattered fragments so far surpass the most eloquent descriptions, he was astonished at the supine indifference of the Romans themselves; he was humbled rather than elated by the discovery that … a stranger of the Rhône [i.e., Petrarch himself] was more conversant with these antiquities than the nobles and natives of the metropolis. [1]

It might seem self-aggrandizing to say that the post-industrial and post-millennial metropolis of Detroit works in much the same way; but it does. I can think of no other American city that feels at once familiar historically, and also alien. Familiar because this is the place where the life we all live — cars, strip malls, shopping centers, freeways, exurbia — was invented; alien because nobody here seems bothered that so many recognizable signs of wealth and culture — things that really matter elsewhere — have been so thoroughly abandoned, as if they had suddenly lost all meaning.

I feel like Gibbon’s Petrarch, then: astonished at the seeming indifference of the local citizenry to Detroit’s monumental fragments, humbled at the discovery that after 30 years in the city I seem to know more about its crumbling relics than the natives do — many of them, at least. But these are not ruins from some distant age; they are distinctly mine; and I find it hard to recover Gibbon’s hearty self-satisfaction at the “supine indifference” of Roman natives. Here in Detroit, the city has been ruined by the same people who still inhabit it. So the question is, who understands better what the place really means: the person who tries to remember it, or the one who lets it go?


Detroit Publishing Company, “Looking Up Woodward Avenue,” ca. 1917. [via Shorpy]

Capital of the 20th Century
There is no culture — for lack of a better word — no context of public memory and social expectation that would bind together all that the city contains. What does it add up to, all this abandonment of lives and buildings, neighborhoods and property? It doesn’t seem to add up to anything, other than the decontextualized spectacle itself and the demographic souvenir-hunting opportunities it provides. This city is never coming back; whatever happens next will be without urban precedent because the context of city no longer applies in this place where history has finally run out. And so the reason we come to Detroit — immigrants, tourists, artists, journalists alike — is to engage a fantasy about how we can always walk away from the past, from the now blown promise of an erstwhile prosperity that was once made real for generations of Americans. There’s probably not a better place in this country, maybe in the world, for this kind of work.

Consider a recent issue of Harper’s, which features an image and excerpt, titled “Eulogy: Nobody’s Detroit,” from one of the latest limited-edition exercises in dystopia, Detroit Disassembled, a collection of photographs by Andrew Moore with an introduction by the Detroit-born Philip Levine, now poet laureate of these United States. I find myself thinking of Marx on Hegel, his famous statement that “all great world-historical facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice … the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” [2] A tragedy of world-historical proportions has occurred here in Detroit; and now it is being reproduced, in personal anecdotes and news stories, in books and films, and above all in those now clichéd photographs of rot, dereliction and decay. All of which is perhaps not exactly farce (although there is surely something farcical about the putative bravery of all those on-site observers and their sententious discoveries: I’m so bad, I party in Detroit! the images seem to say, just like the slogan from one of my favorite t-shirts). Instead of farce, our historic tragedy is being turned into art; which is precisely why the ex-pat poet has been coaxed into talking about photographs of a city he hasn’t lived in for more than half a century. But I’ll give him this much; in his introduction to Detroit Disassembled, Levine gets one thing exactly right:

What we see taking place in [these] photographs is no doubt happening everywhere, but it would appear that in Detroit the process has such extraordinary velocity it seems to have stepped out of time to become the sole condition of being.

Images stepped out of time, that’s what turns tragedy into art. The poet continues:

These photographs are among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen: their calm in the face of the ravages of man and nature confer an unexpected dignity upon the subjects of his camera, the very dignity I had assumed daily life had robbed them of. [3]

So things once tragic become beautiful — images for artistic appreciation — with the ravages of daily life being redeemed by photographic dignity. That’s what art can do: it transforms this Everyman’s catastrophe into “Nobody’s Detroit,” as the Harper’s subtitle puts it — an object for aesthetic contemplation, like the Grand Canyon or a summer sunset.

 2. Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, The Ruins of Detroit
Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, The Ruins of Detroit (Steidl, 2011), featuring Michigan Central Station. [Photo of book cover by Justin Rowe]

The latest big books on Detroit — not just Moore’s Detroit Disassembled but also Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre’s The Ruins of Detroit — are pricey ($50 and $125 respectively, with Moore’s book available in its special limited edition for $750); they are also the products of collaborations with art institutions, which is perhaps more indicative of the transformation now underway. The photographs from The Ruins of Detroit were exhibited at the Gun Gallery in Stockholm, among other venues; Detroit Disassembled was the subject of an exhibition at the Akron Art Museum. I saw the Akron show, and it was truly amazing, transformative even. Moore’s images were blown up to old masters’ scale, mounted and lit as if we were being presented with the canvases of Rembrandt or Velasquez. Moore uses a large-format camera, and he stalks the usual “ruin porn” [4] sites — abandoned theaters and churches and schools, derelict houses, collapsed industrial buildings — but never have I seen work quite like this, whether in his book, or on the museum walls. “I’m not just photographing derelict buildings,” Moore told an interviewer from the Detroit News, “I’m looking for beauty and their poetic, or metaphorical, meaning.” [5] I’d say that just about sums things up.

And that’s where the crucial transformation happens, with the museum conferring the status of art upon work that might otherwise be construed as photo-journalistic documentary. John Berger has referred to this process as “mystification.”

Fear of the present leads to mystification of the past. The past is not for living in; it is a well of conclusions from which we draw in order to act. Cultural mystification of the past entails a double loss. Works of art are made unnecessarily remote. And the past offers us fewer conclusions to complete in action. [6]

That is precisely the point of Moore’s work — to mystify into “poetic” inconsequence and remoteness the past that is represented by Detroit, and along with it the conclusions we might draw as a result. Those otherwise troubling conclusions, and the actions that might follow from them — actions undertaken in the name of shared responsibility — are now translated into matters of taste and technique. A sense of “bogus religiosity,” to use another of Berger’s terms, pervades the images; action is foreclosed, except for the connoisseur-like contemplations of the solitary spectator, who is freed to look at the worst, without any necessity of further exertion. The “naked” facts of Detroit, in all their frightening and accusatory detail, are turned into museum-piece “nudes,” spot-lit on the gallery walls; they’re titillating perhaps, but also unreal, just like a centerfold image is unreal; and the more gorgeous, the better. [7]

Andrew Moore, Detroit Disassembled
Andrew Moore, Detroit Disassembled, at the Akron Art Museum, 2010. [Exhibition postcard]

The same can be said for The Ruins of Detroit, a compilation of large-format photographs taken by Marchand and Meffre, who were associated with the team of reporters from Time magazine that spent a well-publicized year in Detroit. [8] This is a heavy piece of work, in every sense, weighing in at almost seven pounds — at least according to my bathroom scale — and containing enough gloomy images to turn the most ebullient booster into a post-apocalyptic nihilist. There’s an appropriate introduction by historian Thomas Sugrue — author of The Origins of the Urban Crisis [9] — outlining the relevant facts about the city’s industrial decline. As Marchand and Meffre write: “True ‘capital of the twentieth century,’ Detroit has literally created, produced and manufactured our modern world, creating a logic that has eventually annihilated, destroyed the city itself.” These guys get it, I thought.

But then I started looking at the photographs, which so completely contradict the insight of that opening statement. The images fail to capture the complex logic that links creation and destruction necessarily together — in Detroit and in America. Marchand and Meffre reduce everything they encounter to a dead zone of already-seen sights; they deploy a visual idiom that has all the wit and insight of a post-mortem Polaroid, with the same dismal color palette, and the now-to-be expected prohibition against any human being ever entering the frame. Why have these photographers settled for so much less than their own introductory statement might lead you to expect? Perhaps the cliché-propagating idiom of ruin porn is so powerful that it simply takes over, duping otherwise intelligent artists into a tedious banality that not even the volume’s pretentious scale and price can conceal.

“We don’t sell ink here anymore”
At so many now-familiar ruins — the Michigan Central Station, the Packard Motors Plant and Fisher Body Plant No. 21, the jazz-age United Artists Theater, the American Hotel, the Grande Ballroom, the Lee Plaza Hotel, the Vanity Ballroom, the Metropolitan Building, the libraries and schools and churches, etc. etc. — the photogenic decline and fall of the Michigan Empire has been captured by countless observers. Less well known — perhaps because less represented in the archives of ruin porn — but no less monumental in scale and consequence, is the now-demolished headquarters of the J. L. Hudson Company. Joseph Lowthian Hudson was an immigrant from Newcastle-upon-Tyne who became Detroit’s premier upscale retailer in the early 20th century. Hudson’s flagship department store, located at the center of Detroit, on Woodward Avenue, was among the largest in the country — 28 stories, plus four basements, comprising 2.2 million square feet of interior floor space. Completed in stages between 1924 and 1929 under the architectural supervision of Smith, Hinchman and Grylls, the store had 5,000 windows, 700 dressing rooms and 50 passenger elevators, each with its own white-gloved attendant. At its height in the 1950s, Hudson’s employed a staff of 12,000. Only Macy’s in New York City was bigger.

J.L. Hudson Building
Left: J.L Hudson Building, Detroit. [From postcard, ca. 1951] Right: Woodward Avenue, Detroit, in 1925. [Courtesy of the Library of Congress]

The building was no architectural masterwork; it expanded piecemeal over the years, annexing adjacent structures into an ungainly agglomeration clad in dull red brick. When it comes to commercial signifying, Hudson’s lacked the grandeur and pretension of early 20th-century retail palaces like Marshall Field’s or John Wanamakers or B. Altman and Co. For all its attempts at elegance, the classical flourishes and Beaux Arts details, Hudson’s was an efficient and practical undertaking — much like Detroit itself — a machine for making money, which it did, for over half a century, with sales peaking in 1954 at $155 million ($1.26 billion in 2011 dollars). At which point the J.L. Hudson Company, like other retailers, began developing suburban alternatives to its emporium on Woodward Avenue.

In the first decades of the new millennium it seems clear that the best years of our American lives were precisely when the mechanisms for abandoning our cities were being put in place. The boom years that followed World War II saw the construction of the Interstate highway system, the promotion of suburban single-family housing construction by the Federal Housing Administration, the dispersal of services, commerce, entertainment and eventually jobs to the ever-expanding exurban ring. And it all seemed to happen so rapidly, the result of convergent forces operating so efficiently you’d think there was some kind of deep design at the bottom of things. After a half-century of cultural and economic dominance, Hudson’s, and downtown Detroit along with it, plunged into sharp decline. By the time the flagship store was closed, in January 1983, the company had been reduced to a chain of suburban mall clones, owned since the late ’60s by the Dayton Company, of Minneapolis, all traces of local origin to be erased by corporate ersatz.

Hudson's Department StoreInterior of Hudson’s. [Vintage postcard, date unknown]

People in Detroit still talk about Hudson’s as a retail institution, but they give little thought to the actual old building, which became a gutted, vandalized wreck, and no less irrelevant than Michigan Central Station. Both are rightly understood as monuments for a disappeared history: the train station because nobody here seems to bother much about the ruin that still remains; Hudson’s because everybody claims to remember so fondly the building that’s no longer there. But what people remember is not exactly historical reality; instead, the memory of Hudson’s has become a kind of screen upon which we can replay an idealized past — a past without any of the problems that made the utopian promise of suburbia seem worth abandoning the city to fulfill. Consider one of the customer reviews, on Amazon, for a recent photo collection, Hudson’s: Detroit’s Legendary Department Store:

Anyone who shopped in Detroit’s once bustling downtown Woodward corridor should have this book. Starting in the 1930s my grandmother would take the bus downtown at least once a week to shop at Hudson’s and the surrounding stores. As a young girl in the mid 1960s, I occasionally traveled with her and some of my earliest and fondest memories are of wandering around the upper 12 floors and two basement levels of merchandise. You would drop your coats off on the forth [sic] floor, have lunch on the mezzanine or perhaps the basement cafeteria, shop all afternoon, catch an early dinner at the Riverview room on the 13th floor and then head home with your purchases shipped to your home within a day or two. It was truly an experience that no mall today can come close to. … I cried the day the store was demolished and I am sure that Grandma was rolling in her grave. [10]

The review is titled “Memories of a true shopping experience!” Nostalgia, of course, is just a higher form of forgetting. Hudson’s failed because it ceased to attract shoppers; Grandma notwithstanding, the customers were at the mall.

My first visit to Hudson’s was in 1982, soon after I’d accepted a job in Detroit. I arrived by plane from New York City, rented a car at Metro Airport, and drove downtown to look for a place to live. I settled on an apartment on Washington Boulevard, and the building manager informed me enthusiastically that we were just around the corner from Hudson’s! So I walked over to take a look. I found a forlorn place that could have been the stage set for a period movie, all the elements of commercial presumption intact, though threadbare. What was missing was the cast; on the higher floors, I seemed to be walking through the aisles alone. In the stationery department, I looked at fountain pens, some costing hundreds of dollars. I thought I would buy a bottle of ink, my own pen having gone dry. “We don’t sell ink here any more,” the exquisitely polite clerk explained.

And the story was pretty much the same in all the last-vestige establishments I would visit in my early years in Detroit: restaurants and movie palaces, clubs and exclusive men’s stores. The apparatus of city life was there, but none of it was fully operational — like those expensive fountain pens that nobody was expected to buy, so that ink had become superfluous. What had once been a viable, commercial downtown — “bustling,” as the Amazon customer remembered — had tuned into something else entirely, something spectral and forlorn.

Hudson's Department Store
Illustration of Hudson’s departments in LIFE, December 1958. [via The Department Store Museum]

“A city within itself” is how many of the early 20th-century department stores were described, and the comparison is apt. Hudson’s, at its height in the mid-1950s, served 100,000 customers per day; the store boasted its own telephone exchange, with the third largest switchboard in the United States, exceeded in size only by the Pentagon and the Bell System. [11] And like the city, Hudson’s had a necessary purpose — to teach people how to live in society. J. L. Hudson ascribed to a calling higher than mere commerce, and he communicated this in “The Hudson’s Creed,” which his employees were expected to espouse:

My faith is not alone a faith in the store, the organization — it’s a faith in the ideals of men, those who are responsible for this great house of industry. And so I stand, inspired with the blazing truth that I am taking an active part in building, through honest effort, one of the greatest institutions in this broad country — Hudson’s Detroit. [12]

The great department stores, and their owners, came naturally by the evangelizing mission. The making of shoppers, like the making of citizens, was an essential function of both store and city, especially the city of middle-class arrivals made possible by the flourishing of modern industry. In Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class, Jan Whitaker observes:

No longer primarily a purveyor of basic necessities, and by now a venerable and trusted establishment in a rapidly changing society, [the department store] took on a larger role as arbiter of middle-class taste and lifestyles. From the 1920s into the 1960s, stores exercised an almost moral authority to define in material terms what it was to live as a middle-class American. They poured creative energy into encouraging Americans to “trade up,” to demand a higher standard of living. Marshaling their enormous promotional resources, they expanded their entertainment and educative roles. They broadened services, upgraded buildings. They emphasized style as never before. In short, department stores deployed their skills in interpreting and managing the symbolic significance of the goods they sold. [13]

The mission of the department stores, with their encyclopedic arrays of “departments” (Hudson’s had 200), was city-like: their goal was to teach people how to be together in an unprecedented condition of plenty and upward striving. The well-articulated “stories” of the great emporia told a compelling narrative of desire, with an infrastructure that mirrored the cities they proudly represented. But the pedagogy of these grand establishments had a perhaps unanticipated outcome. In Detroit, J.L. Hudson’s taught its lessons so effectively that citizen-shoppers quickly graduated and were ready to set out for the suburban malls, effectively forgetting how to remember that they had ever needed the department store — or the city — to send them on their way.

J.L. Hudson Building site
Hudson’s site in 2008, a vacant lot above an underground parking structure. [Photo by Flickr user gab482]

In 1996, a newly elected city government identified as one of its first objectives the demolition of the abandoned and vandalized Hudson’s on Woodward Avenue. If anything different was ever to happen downtown, the feeling was, that place had to go. As soon as the decision was announced, the nostalgia industry shifted into overdrive. The Detroit Historical Museum mounted a semi-permanent display of Hudson’s memorabilia; a documentary aired repeatedly on local public television. The city newspapers created special series dedicated to reminiscences about Hudson’s (they were already running weekly columns focused on recollections of bygone neighborhoods and vintage cars). And in a surprising twist, the company hired to demolish Hudson’s pioneered a new and distinctively American form of urban archaeology. Because of the building’s age, and because no accurate architectural plans existed of the five structures and thirteen construction types incorporated in Hudson’s expansion over the decades, the demolition team determined that a thorough excavation was required — not to preserve the past, but to destroy it completely, in the most rational and efficient way possible. So one evening in October 1998, the mayor of Detroit pushed the button that set off the explosive charges, and Hudson’s, once the tallest department store in America, became the tallest building ever to be imploded. The enormous structure collapsed in a vast cloud of dust that enveloped the whole of downtown, darkening the sky in a Pompeiian gloom.

Eternal Return
You can read the history of Detroit as a history of what philosophers have called the eternal return. The Czech novelist Milan Kundera created a masterpiece, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, in which he struggles to grasp this phenomenon; he speculates on the loss represented by an understanding of time that is content to abandon — to forget — the past.

Let us therefore agree that the idea of eternal return implies a perspective from which things appear other than as we know them: they appear without the mitigating circumstance of their transitory nature. This mitigating circumstance prevents us from coming to a verdict. For how can we condemn something that is ephemeral, in transit? In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia. … This … reveals the profound moral perversity of a world that rests essentially on the nonexistence of return, for in this world everything is pardoned in advance and therefore everything cynically permitted. [14]

In Detroit there is one place where the eternal return seems especially palpable, and also a little frightening, which is to be expected of a site where the past is undead, where it is neither thematized nostalgically nor banished outright. I’m thinking, of course, of the Michigan Theater, the great jazz age movie palace created by the architects C.W. and George L. Rapp, or what’s left of it these days: the theater was shut in the mid-1970s and partly demolished and gutted and converted into a parking garage. In an earlier essay published in Places, I quoted a reporter for the Detroit Free Press, who exclaimed upon the building’s opening in 1926: “It is beyond the human dreams of loveliness.” I left out the next part of the review: “Entering it, you pass into another world.” [15]

Michigan Theater
Michigan Theater, in 1927 (left) and 2005 (right). [Composite by Geoffrey George]

Entering the Michigan Theater today, you do indeed feel as if you’re passing into another world, as if you’re drifting through the sunken Titanic, or the fanciful dungeons of Piranesi. After the downtown movie palaces went dark in the 1970s and began their inexorable slide into dereliction (which efforts to turn them into blaxploitation venues or X-rated cinemas did little to halt), the Michigan’s owners hacked away at the lobby and main auditorium, installing a parking garage under the proscenium arches in the space that once accommodated 4,000 moviegoers.

But the crude and hasty retrofit left many of the decorative elements intact, allowing the interior, “the heavily carved and ornamented walls,” to decay, along with the tattered velvet curtain that is still hanging, and disintegrating, behind the old proscenium. [16] Plaster fragments and withered carpet strips litter the floors, and daylight filters in through holes punched in the walls, bathing the interior in a half-lit gloom. It’s an extraordinary spectacle — as countless photographers, professionals and amateurs alike, have been quick to realize, and a few filmmakers too, notably the director Curtis Hanson, who set a crucial scene of 8 Mile, with Eminem, in the theater.

The old Michigan Theater is one of the most suggestive sights in the whole city of Detroit: neither an abandoned ruin nor a precious, restored fetish, but a working statement about making do with the past. The tenants of the offices adjacent to the theater threatened to move out unless they were provided with secure parking, so that’s what the landlord improvised out of the otherwise useless auditorium. And that is the genius of the place. One can only marvel at the dramatic parable being enacted by the current occupants — the returnees — who drive in and out of the vast space, past the former ticket booth, brought daily into conversation with the past, and what our desires have made of it: the desire to ride Henry Ford’s cars out of town, onward to a better life that lay, we imagined, beyond the city. But still the city is here, outmoded and abandoned but necessarily returned to, that contradictory fact of life rendered in an architectural colloquy so extraordinary it cannot help but be felt.

The truth I’m trying to present is one about site-specific forgetting. If our history is a history of forgetting how to remember the past, as I am arguing, then the city of Detroit is the engine of our conflicted deliverance. It’s the machinery we’ve used for particular acts of forgetting, each connected to the place and time where the forgetting got done.

Campus Martius at Night, Detroit, Michigan
Detroit Publishing Company, “Campus Martius at Night,” Detroit, ca. 1910. [via Shorpy]

This is a history created by serial default. Nobody really planned the ends — the ruins — of these buildings, any more than they planned Detroit, or America for that matter, despite our dedication to continental-scale projects, beginning with the Declaration of Independence and moving through Manifest Destiny and continuing with the Urban Renewal programs that destroyed America’s cities. We’ve all had a hand in our collective making, and now we’ll have to live with the consequences, not the least of which is our ignorance about the origin of things, so that we stand stupefied or angry or fascinated — camera at the ready —before the monuments to ruination.

But the improvisation of the Michigan Theater is powerful because it doesn’t remove people from the city; on the contrary, it involves them dramatically in the production of their own situation. The ruin of urban space becomes a participatory drama: memory versus forgetting, the city dead or the city alive. The trick is seeing both at once, and comprehending them as equally true and mutually implicated.

Adding a special resonance to the history of the old theater is the fact that it was on this very spot — then 58 Bagley Avenue — where Henry Ford lived when he was a hired workman at the Edison Illuminating Plant, two blocks over, on Washington Boulevard. In the 1890s Ford rented part of a house on the site, along with a shed out back, and right there, in the spring of 1896, he built his first horseless carriage — the “Quadricycle,” he called it. His gasoline-powered contraption turned out to be wider than the door he had to push it through to take a test drive, so to get the machine outside, he was forced to knock out part of a wall. And so you might say that for more than century automobiles have been repeating that originary gesture, returning to the act of demolition that attended their birth. Just look at what they’ve done to the Michigan Theater; and to the rest of Detroit. And what this realization yields — provided it is lived from the inside rather than gawked at from afar — is something much less creepy and off-putting than the aesthetic rot sold in large-format photography books. The Michigan Theater offers a way of thinking about the past that is historically inflected, human-scaled and sustainable and — most improbably — hopeful. What it offers is a new ecology of hope, with the city of Detroit as its monumental basis.

Editors’ Note

This is the first of a new series of essays on Detroit by Jerry Herron that will appear on Places this year. See also Herron’s earlier series on Places, published in the summer of 2010: Borderland/Borderama/Detroit: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.Notes1. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 3 (New York: Washington Square Press, 1972), 1142.2. Karl Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker (New York: W. W. Norton, 1972), 436.3. See “Eulogy: Nobody’s Detroit,” Harper’s, March 2010, 13-16. See also Andrew Moore, Detroit Disassembled (Akron, OH: Akron Art Museum, 2010), 117.4. “Ruin Porn” is a term coined, maybe, by James Griffioen. See Thomas Morton, Something Something, Something, Detroit, VICE, August 2009. Full disclosure: I want to note my participation in a large-format volume of photographs of Detroit. See Julia Reyes Taubman, Detroit: 138 Square Miles (Detroit: Museum of Contemporary Art, 2011). Here I provided an introductory essay. If ruin porn has an opposite, I’d say Julia Taubman’s photographs are it, many of them populated with humans, just like this heartbreakingly representative city of mine.5. Michael Hodges, “Opportunistic Art,” Detroit News, 1 July 2010, B1.6. John Berger, Ways of Seeing (London: Penguin, 1972), 11.7. See Berger’s discussion of “naked” and “nude” in Ways of Seeing, 54-55.8. Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, The Ruins of Detroit (London: Steidl, 2011).9. Thomas Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).10. See Cindy Jamroz, Memories of a true shopping experience!

11. See the website The History of Department Stores.12. Michael Hauser and Marianne Weldon, Hudson’s: Detroit’s Legendary Department Store (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2004), 128.13 Jan Whitaker, Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2006), 2.14. Milan Kundera, trans. Michael Henry Heim, The Unbearable Lightness of Being,  (New York: Harper & Row, 1984), 4.15. W. Hawkins Ferry, The Buildings of Detroit: A History (Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 1968), 324.16. W. Hawkins Ferry, Ibid.

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Comments (7)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT >>

My husband and I were walking down in the river district and came upon stables that had to have been pre-Civil War. Only in Detroit would structures with such historical provenance be left to crumble. I still carry my Hudson’s charge “plate” (as my mother called it) in my purse. Detroit is a petri dish of what is happening all over the country; the only difference are the huge doses of racism and wealth that make up the agar.
Cheryl
01.10.12 at 11:52
Wondering why there isn’t more mention of Hart Plaza, particularly in regards to its really cool design and architecture. I was there for the electronic music festival last year and was quite impressed at this little hub of creative design in this sadly depressed city. I also heard rumors that Hart Plaza is a vortex point — anyone know about this?Thanks!
color copies
01.10.12 at 03:24
Bravo. Great piece of journalism.
@ventr8ll
01.12.12 at 05:09
color copies — yes — there is a whole vortex/pyramid thing regarding Hart Plaza. I stumbled across this guy’s website last summer. There is another thoughtthread having to do with the Detroit River forming a vortex, but this guy’s rap on Hart Plaza is something.http://www.chadstuemke.com/home/
Cheryl
01.13.12 at 12:12
Outstanding work. Too often the decline of the city is reduced to a simple theme by a commentator with an ax to grind. Herron shows the problem is very complex. I agree with perspective on nostalgia, one thing left unexplained is how is it that Detroit is so ravaged in comparison to Pittsburgh and even Cleveland, which have experienced similar declines? And if our individualism sews the seeds of Detroit, how is it that other cities have weathered the storm or continue to thrive (NYC, Chicago, Boston)?
sjcarey
01.14.12 at 09:16
Cheryl — where did you encounter the stables?
dave
01.17.12 at 11:11

Stables were at Franklin at Dubois.
Cheryl
01.23.12 at 12:40
===

Detroitism

By John Patrick Leary
January 15, 2011

What does “ruin porn” tell us about the motor city, ourselves, other American cities?

Marchandmeffre-575.jpg Photograph by Yves Marchan and Romain Meffre courtesy Steidl.

Red Dawn 2, the forthcoming sequel to the nineteen eighties B-movie about a Soviet occupation of America, was shot last year in downtown Detroit. A long-abandoned modernist skyscraper coincidentally undergoing demolition served as a backdrop for battle scenes between American guerrillas and the Communist occupiers, now Chinese. For weeks, Chinese propaganda posters fluttered in the foreground of the half-destroyed office building, whose jagged entrails were visible through the holes opened by the wrecking ball. A pedestrian routinely bumped into Asian-American extras with Michigan accents and fake Kalashnikovs, while a parking garage played the role of a Communist police station. It was an uncanny spectacle: the very real rubble of the Motor City’s industrial economy serving as the movie backdrop for post-industrial America’s paranoid fantasies of national victimization. What made it even weirder was the fact that the film’s producers just left the posters hanging when they packed up. A red-and-yellow poster on that same parking garage assured us for weeks afterward that our new rulers were “here to help.”

“Do you have any books with pictures of abandoned buildings?” demanded a customer of a bookseller friend of mine at Leopold’s Books in Detroit. The man marched to the cash register and abruptly blurted out his question, looking, perhaps, for one of the recent pair of books on Detroit’s industrial ruins and its abandoned homes, Andrew Moore’s Detroit Disassembled and Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre’s forthcoming The Ruins of Detroit. These two books, along with the architectural history Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City’s Majestic Ruins, are part of a small Detroit culture boom over the last year. Besides the new books by Moore and Marchand and Meffre, photographers have chronicled the city’s decaying structures in the likes of Slate.com, the New York Review of Books online, and Time, which moved a troupe of Detroit bloggers to an old mansion on the city’s east side, an old-fashioned news bureau mixed with a bizarro-Real World social experiment. A new graphic novel, Sword of My Mouth, imagines a band of survivors living in a depopulated Detroit after the Rapture has swept up the righteous, a clever satire of the clichéd description of Detroit’s “post-apocalyptic” landscape and the moralizing that has always bolstered public discussion of the social problems of American cities. And while empty buildings would seem more suited to still rather than moving images, filmmakers like Julien Temple have recently explored industrial ruins in his Detroitsploitation documentary Requiem for Detroit?, while Detroit boosters respond with their own, sunnier films (Johnny Knoxville’s Detroit Lives and Florent Tillon’s Detroit Wild City) about entrepreneurs, artists, and urban farmers amidst the ruins.

Detroiters often react testily to this kind of attention (as I do), even when it is done skillfully and with good intentions, as much of it is. Some of the criticism of negative publicity is just boosterism, as when the City Council denounced the producers of the ABC crime drama Detroit 187 for peddling the idea that there are criminals in Detroit. Others, weary of condescending criticism from outsiders, will defend Detroit’s reputation, or at least their privileged right to defame it, something like defending a bad parent: I can say anything I want about the old man, but don’t you dare. Ruin photography, in particular, has been criticized for its “pornographic” sensationalism, and my bookseller friend won’t sell much of it for that reason. And others roll their eyes at all the positive attention heaped on the young, mostly white “creatives,” which glosses over the city’s deep structural problems and the diversity of ideas to help fix them. So much ruin photography and ruin film aestheticizes poverty without inquiring of its origins, dramatizes spaces but never seeks out the people that inhabit and transform them, and romanticizes isolated acts of resistance without acknowledging the massive political and social forces aligned against the real transformation, and not just stubborn survival, of the city. And to see oneself portrayed in this way, as a curiosity to be lamented or studied, is jarring for any Detroiter, who is of course also an American, with all the sense of self-confidence and native-born privilege that we’re taught to associate with the United States.

The city has been a bellwether of each major urban crisis since World War II.

That some of the recent focus on Detroit ruins is exploitative in its depiction of Detroit’s impoverishment bears repeating, but more compelling are the reasons for our contemporary fascination with images of first-world urban decline, and not just in the Motor City. Ruin websites, photography collections, and urban exploration blogs chronicle industrial ruins across North America and Europe, from Youngstown, Ohio to Bucharest, Romania. Yet Detroit remains the Mecca of urban ruins. Its impressive collection of pre-Depression skyscrapers have been memorably lionized as a “American Acropolis” by Camilo José Vergara, the pioneering photographer of American ghetto landscapes. Buildings that have escaped the wrecking ball have also, for the most part, escaped gentrification, since most of Detroit’s economic elite remain sequestered in the suburbs, with little of the desire for urbanity that one finds among the leisure classes of Chicago, New York, London, or Philadelphia. Nor has the city ever been able to do on any significant scale what Pittsburgh has accomplished with its defunct Homestead steel mill, now a shopping mall, or what New York has done with upscale condos in old warehouses—leverage the hollow shells of a productive economy into the shell games of the credit economy.

For media workers from more prosperous cities, Detroit’s spaces of ruination appear to tell a history, or at least evoke a vague sense of historical pathos, absent in those other, wealthier cities. Indeed, one of the notable features of this Detroit boom is the fact that few of the people driving it actually live here. For someone from New York, Paris, or San Francisco, history seems more visible here, and this is the visual fascination that Detroit holds. As Marchand and Meffre write on their website, “Ruins are the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies and their changes, small pieces of history in suspension.” In a country perennially plagued with a historical amnesia, ruins are rare permanent reminders of a history unsuited to the war memorials and equestrian statues that dot the national landscape. Another reason for the fascination with Detroit’s decline is less about history, though, and more about the future.

Coleman Young, Detroit’s charismatic and still-controversial mayor during the years of the city’s most precipitous decline in the nineteen seventies and eighties, put it well in his fascinating 1994 autobiography, Hard Stuff: “Detroit today,” he wrote, “is your town tomorrow.” From the 1967 riots, when Detroit became the flashpoint of the country’s political and racial crisis, to the deindustrialization and crime of the nineteen seventies and the nineteen eighties, the city has been a bellwether of each major urban crisis since World War II. Today, Detroit, to use an overused but appropriate metaphor given the city’s scarred appearance, is “ground zero” of the collapse of the finance and real estate economy in America. Detroit has been hit as hard as any city by the foreclosure crisis and by unemployment, and so it embodies the looming jobless future, or more precisely, our worst fears about that future.

godleftdetroit-575.jpgPhotograph by Andrew Moore courtesy DAP.

The Three Detroit Stories: The Metonym

Every week, it seems, brings another “Detroit Story” somewhere in the popular media: of laid-off auto workers, of the recently bankrupt auto corporations, tributes to hardy inner-city entrepreneurs, and more pictures of abandoned buildings. There are three principal conventions of Detroit writing in the major media. First, and most common, is the one that has the least to do with the city itself: the Metonym. In auto industry reporting, “Detroit” is a textbook example of metonymy, the trope in which a complex thing is replaced by a simpler, easily recognized equivalent: “10 Downing Street” for the British government, “Wall Street” for high finance, “Silicon Valley” for computer hardware, and so on. The substitution of “Detroit” for the auto industry bears within it an implicit, bitter irony, however, since the name of the city stands in for an industry that has largely abandoned it. “Detroit” can hold other, subtler meanings, too. For liberals, like George Monbiot in the Guardian newspaper, “Detroit” equals dirty industry and corporate welfare. His headline “Let Detroit die,” from a 2009 article that denounced the U.S. government’s loans to the Big Three automakers, sounded a bit callous if you happen to live or work here, and are therefore more often the victim rather than the beneficiary of pollution or corporate welfare. For rightists, “Detroit” also connotes unions and other bogeymen of urban Democratic politics. Thus, the conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer warned of “lemon socialism” once “the government owns Detroit,” a possibility almost as improbable in the literal sense as the People’s Liberation Army on Woodward Avenue.

The Detroit Lament

The second style of Detroit reportage I would term the Detroit Lament. The Lament turns from the purely rhetorical use of Detroit as metonym for something else to a more visceral depiction of the city’s scarred landscape, and occasionally, though only occasionally, its residents. The Lament is typically mournful in tone—elegiac at best and sanctimonious at worst. Because the Lament is thematically preoccupied with loss, of people, of buildings, of the always ill-defined “way of life” said to be nurtured by the old automotive economy and union wages, its primary subject is spatial: the empty lots, the derelict buildings, the overwhelming vastness of a city mutilated by freeways and marked by more vacant land than it can ever plausibly develop. For this reason, the Lament lends itself to the visual media, and for their elegiac emphasis on loss and decline we can classify Detroit Disassembled and The Ruins of Detroit in this category. The Lament signals a fascination with what seems to be all that we have of our twentieth-century history (at least besides those war memorials): the brick-and-steel spectacles of the industrial age, out of which some explanation could be found for the present desperate predicament of urban America.

Detroit remains the Mecca of urban ruins.

The Ruins of Detroit and Detroit Disassembled are products of a collaboration. The photographers are friends, and Moore was introduced to the city by the two Parisians Marchand and Meffre. They often take pictures of the same abandoned buildings, even the same rooms, sometimes from the same angles, showing how conventional and well-trod Detroit ruin photography has become, despite its pioneering posture and the real danger of some of these decrepit structures.

Moore’s pictures in Detroit Disassembled play heavily on a pervasive, uneasy sense of quietude. His photos of interior spaces and exterior architectural shots are similarly uncluttered by superfluous details, and the emptiness creates the eerie effect of evoking the absent people who once inhabited the offices and classrooms he depicts. One expects an urban ruin to be filled with debris and destruction, yet some of these rooms, like an empty nineteen-nineties corporate meeting room or an upended office, look as if the occupants only just left in a great hurry, knocking over chairs to flee an impending disaster that never arrived. The sparseness of his photographs is sometimes comically banal, as in the old dentist’s office frozen in time, and sometimes macabre, as in his picture of the rusting hulk of the Bob-Lo island ferry at sunrise. His captions offer only the most superficial details about the buildings depicted or the rare individuals who appear, which on the one hand suggests a lack of interest in these places in their own right. On the other hand, the evacuation of context from the photos gives them the uncanny feeling of a place you might have been before in some other time or place—and if you’ve ever been inside a corporate office, a Catholic school classroom, or a dentist’s office anywhere in America in the last thirty years, you have. Some of Moore’s photos evoke Young’s old dictum as a warning from the urban future—“Detroit,” a picture of a vacant offices whispers, “coming to your town soon.”

But other photos tend towards overwrought melodrama, like the photograph of an abandoned nursing home tagged with a spray-painted slogan, “God Has Left Detroit.” Moore leans on the compositional tactic of ironic juxtaposition, an old standby of documentary city photography since at least the days of Robert Frank and Helen Levitt. In one photograph (repeated in Marchand and Meffre’s collection) of the East Grand Boulevard Methodist church, its Biblical invocation, “And you shall say that God did it,” looms above its sanctuary. The irony is obvious, heavy-handedly so, yet the photographer’s meaning is less clear. One feels obliged to raise the obvious defense of the Almighty here: If anyone or anything “did it,” General Motors and the Detroit City Council had a hell of a lot more to do with it than God did. And who said God was ever here in the first place?

But of course, no photograph can adequately identify the origins for Detroit’s contemporary ruination; all it can represent is the spectacular wreckage left behind in the present, after decades of deindustrialization, housing discrimination, suburbanization, drug violence, municipal corruption and incompetence, highway construction, and other forms of urban renewal have taken their terrible tolls. Indeed, what is most unsettling—but also most troubling—in Moore’s photos is their resistance to any narrative content or explication. Moore’s shot of a grove of birch trees growing out of rotting books in a warehouse might be a sign of Detroit’s stubborn persistence, as the Detroit poet Philip Levine argues a bit too optimistically in his accompanying essay, but it could easily be a visual joke on the city’s supposed intellectual and physical decrepitude, a bad joke that does not need repeating. One often finds oneself asking of Detroit Disassmbled, The Ruins of Detroit, and indeed all ruin photographs, first, “What happened?” followed swiftly by, “What’s your point?” This comes partly from the awkwardness of the photographers’ aestheticism and postmodern detachment, which jars with the social violence of the history being depicted, and it’s partly down to their lack of interest in the human inhabitants of the city. But it’s a bit more than that.

These photos of uninhabited ruined spaces do little more than confirm what the most casual observer already knows about Detroit and cities like it. Moore is sensitive to this danger, and does includes a few photos that represent Detroiters leading lives amidst the ruins. Besides two portraits of Detroiters at home, Moore also includes a photo of a rooftop party by twenty-something white urban explorers, a self-conscious reflection, perhaps, on his own access to these spaces and on the well-beaten paths of ruin fetishists. Vergara, the Chilean-born photographer whose photographs of Newark, Detroit, Chicago, Camden, and New York are collected in The New American Ghetto, addresses the ahistorical failing of much ruin photography by investing much more heavily in the ruins: Revisiting the same site over a period of years, or even decades, Vergara’s pictures show with often heartbreaking clarity the slow, painful transformation of a house, a street, a neighborhood. And Austin and Doerr’s Lost Detroit combines ruin photography with architectural history, seeking to fill in the historical gaps. The ruin photos in Detroit Disassembled and The Ruins of Detroit, despite the authors’ obvious reverence for their brick-and-steel subjects, are also spectacles of degradation, in which, as Frederic Jameson writes about the postmodern condition, our “putative past is little more than a set of dusty spectacles.” In requisitioning the ruin’s aura of historical pathos, ruin photos suggest a vanquished, even glorious past but, like the ruins themselves, present no way to understand our own relationship to the decline we are seeing. After all, this is not Rome or Greece, vanished civilizations; these ruins are our own, and the society they indict is ours as well. As a purely aesthetic object, even with the best intentions, ruin photography cannot help but exploit a city’s misery; but as political documents on their own, they have little new to tell us.

Some of these rooms look as if the occupants only just left in a great hurry, knocking over chairs to flee an impending disaster that never arrived.

The British filmmaker Julien Temple’s documentary, Requiem for Detroit?, and his accompanying Guardian essay, “Detroit: The Last Days,” are the quintessence of the Detroit Lament. “Approaching the derelict shell of downtown Detroit,” Temple breathlessly writes, “we see full-grown trees sprouting from the tops of deserted skyscrapers.

“In their shadows, the glazed eyes of the street zombies slide into view, stumbling in front of the car. Our excitement at driving into what feels like a man-made hurricane Katrina is matched only by sheer disbelief that what was once the fourth-largest city in the U.S. could actually be in the process of disappearing from the face of the earth.”

This is the style denounced locally as “ruin porn.” All the elements are here: the exuberant connoisseurship of dereliction; the unembarrassed rejoicing at the “excitement” of it all, hastily balanced by the liberal posturing of sympathy for a “man-made Katrina;” and most importantly, the absence of people other than those he calls, cruelly, “street zombies.” The city is a shell, and so are the people who occasionally stumble into the photographer’s viewfinder.

parkingdetroit-575.jpgPhotograph by Andrew Moore courtesy DAP.

The Lamenter is both a very contemporary phenomenon and one of American literature’s oldest urban types. Over a hundred years ago, Jacob Riis wandered into the slums of downtown New York with a police escort, a flash camera, and a mission to document and improve the city’s “other half.” The Detroit Lamenter adopts a similar posture, although with less of Riis’s sense of moral purpose. How could the national conscience tolerate such misery, Riis asked, in the midst of ever-increasing abundance? And how is this possible, Temple’s film repeatedly asks, in a first-world country that put the world on wheels? What makes this subgenre of urban expose particularly contemporary, though, is the historical and economic phenomenon it struggles to represent, a phenomenon the newness of which few of us can adequately comprehend. Just as for Riis the teeming industry of the turn of the century created new spaces, like the urban factory and tenement, and therefore a new people, the shrinking cities of the first world are the equivalent new “problem” spaces of the twenty-first-century urban world. Across the global north, city-dwellers flee job-scarce shrinking cities, leaving behind an urban economy increasingly cut out of the national economy. Some estimates, for example, place real unemployment in Detroit at a staggering 50 percent. The third-world megaslum—cities like Mexico City and Jakarta, with populations close to twenty million inhabitants—and the first-world shrinking city look increasingly like the true cities of tomorrow. Yet the teeming cities of the global south seem like the least shocking of the two, since we expect that cities be crowded, dirty, busy, and always growing. The shrinking city, on the other hand, defies much of what we think we know about cities and their development, at least as long as “growth” and “development” are the only measures of vitality.

Detroit Utopia

The third major subgenre of the popular Detroit narrative is a backlash against the pornographic excesses of the Lament and is, at best, an attempt to find a new definition of urban vitality. The Utopians are well-meaning defenders of the city’s possibilities. Locally, they are often politically active, often young, and, it should be noted, often white. This class of Detroit story chronicles Detroit’s possibilities, with a heavy emphasis on art and urban agriculture on abandoned land. It can also take the form of human-interest stories about local entrepreneurs persevering amidst the destruction. Toby Barlow’s series of New York Times articles on bicycling and one-hundred-dollar houses in the city anticipated a gentrification-fuelled Detroit Renaissance that most honest observers must admit will never come. (If Detroit is really so full of possibilities, why do so many of the possibilities so closely resemble a cut-rate version of what western Brooklyn already looks like?) Despite their differences, the common problem with many of the Lamenters and Utopians is that both see Detroit as an exception to the contemporary United States, rather than as one of its exemplary places. Detroit figures as either a nightmare image of the American Dream, where equal opportunity and abundance came to die, or as an updated version of it, where bohemians from expensive coastal cities can have the one-hundred-dollar house and community garden of their dreams.

An imposing, neoclassical behemoth even in life, the windowless station has become a melancholy symbol of the city’s transformation in death.

The city fascinates because it is a condensed, emphatic example of the trials of so many American cities in an era of globalization, which has brought with it intensified economic instability and seemingly intractable joblessness. Detroit is also iconic, intimately familiar to generations of Americans who associate R&B music, automobiles, and the modernist skyscraper with urbanity itself, and yet the decline depicted in ruin photos is frightening and at times grotesque. While unique in its scale, however, Detroit’s entrenched infrastructural and economic problems are themselves as American as apple pie, reproduced on varying scales in Newark, Buffalo, Cleveland, and Camden. Detroit, then, isn’t an exception to a general rule of class mobility and meritocracy, the pillars of the so-called “American Dream,” as it’s often seen.

It’s a clear example of how that term, these days at least, increasingly looks like an optimistic delusion—and maybe it always was.

youarehere-575.jpgPhotograph by Yves Marchan and Romain Meffre courtesy Steidl.

In viewing Detroit Disassembled and The Ruins of Detroit, one is conscious of nothing so much as failure—of the city itself, of course, but also of the photographs to communicate anything more than that self-evident fact. This is the meta-irony of these often ironic pictures: Though they trade on the peculiarity of Detroit as living ruin, these are pictures of historical oblivion. The decontextualized aesthetics of ruin make them pictures of nothing and no place in particular. Detroit in these artists’ work is, likewise, a mass of unique details that fails to tell a complete story. Both books include a picture of a melting clock in the shuttered and soon-to-be-demolished Cass Tech High School; the clock is emblazoned ironically with the brand name “National Time,” inviting clucks of recognition from Salvador Dalí fans and armchair allegorists. Michigan Central Station on the city’s west side is an abandoned depot from the golden age of rail travel, designed by the architectural firm that produced New York’s Grand Central Station. The station is the Eiffel Tower of ruin photography and probably Detroit’s most recognizable modern monument other than the downtown Renaissance Center complex, as shown by the hobbyist and professional photographers who descend upon it on every sunny day.

An imposing, neoclassical behemoth even in life, the windowless station has become a melancholy symbol of the city’s transformation in death. Moore and Marchand/Meffre both treat the depot, appropriately, as a monument as much as a ruin. In Marchand and Meffre’s exterior photograph, the station fills the frame; there is no outside to this massive structure, no escaping its gaping windows and shattered glass, or the overcast daylight that lends the scene a grey, deathly pallor. Moore takes a subtly different approach, photographing the station as afternoon sunlight bathes one side of the building in shadow, while a tiny figure in red ambles brightly across a thin ribbon of parkland at the bottom of the frame. The figure is dwarfed by the massive station, and if it weren’t for his shirt, we probably wouldn’t see him at all. Similarly, it takes a careful observer to note, amid the wall of broken windows and grey brick, the “SAVE THE DEPOT” graffiti painted by defenders of the station, which is criminally neglected by its slumlord owner and periodically threatened with demolition by grandstanding politicians. If you look close enough, there is life here.

Michigan Central Station appears to be a potent symbol of decline and the inevitable cycles of capitalist booms and busts. But there’s also money to be made on destruction. The decrepit station has been owned for years by the city’s most notorious real estate mogul, Matty Moroun, a politically-connected, Teflon-coated trucking magnate who owns the bridge to Canada and covets land near the city’s major transportation hubs. Alas, a photograph can tell us little about the city’s real estate industry and the state’s cheaply-bought politicians. All it can do is show the catastrophic results. Taken together, all the images of the ruined city become fragments of stories told so often about Detroit that they are at the same time instantly familiar and utterly vague, like a dimly remembered episode from childhood or a vivid dream whose storyline we can’t quite remember in the morning: Murder city! Unemployment! Drugs! White flight! Crime! Because the ironic appeal of modern ruins lies in the archaeological fantasy of discovery combined with the banality of what is discovered—a nineteen-eighties dentist’s office is not implicitly fascinating for anyone who inhabited one in its intact state—a ruin photograph succeeds in providing the details of a familiar story whose major plot points we can’t piece together.

Photographs like Moore, Marchand, and Meffre’s succeed, at least, in compelling us to ask the questions necessary to put this story together—Detroit’s story, but also the increasingly-familiar story of urban America in an era of prolonged economic crisis. That they themselves fail to do so testifies not only to the limitations of any still image, but our collective failure to imagine what Detroit’s future—our collective urban future—holds for us all.

G

John Patrick Leary teaches American literature at Wayne State University in Detroit and is at work on a book on the place of the ”third world” in the American imagination. He lives in southwest Detroit.

Writer’s Recommendations:

Hard Stuff: The Autobiography of Mayor Coleman Young. The profane, confrontational, self-serving, but excellent autobiography from Detroit’s mayor from 1974-1973.

Dan Austin and Sean Doerr, Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City’s Majestic Ruins. Detroit ruin photography that fills in many of the architectural and historical gaps.

Camilo José Vergara’s American Ruins and The New American Ghetto depict dereliction and abandonment in cities like Detroit, Camden, Chicago, and New York City.

Thomas Sugrue’s essential The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit is a powerful account of Detroit’s twentieth-century history.

Readers like you make Guernica possible. Please show your support.

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3. Detroit has over 90,000 abandoned, condemned or vacant houses

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Last House Standing: Abandoned Homes Punctuate Detroit’s Cleared NeighbourhoodsJanuary 26th, 2012, In Buildings & Places, Urban Exploration, by

detroit abandoned house 2 Last House Standing: Abandoned Homes Punctuate Detroits Cleared Neighbourhoods

(Image by Scott Carey, all rights reservedcc-nc-nd-3.0)

If one city could hold the title of Urban Decay Capital of the Western World, it would arguably be Detroit. Despite a revitalized downtown, various urban renewal efforts have failed to save many of the Motor City’s troubled neighbourhoods. Surveys have revealed a staggering percentage of residential lots either vacant or unsuitable for occupancy, and a 2010 plan escalated the clearing of entire neighbourhoods to effectively “downsize” the city.

detroit abandoned house 3 Last House Standing: Abandoned Homes Punctuate Detroits Cleared Neighbourhoods

(Images by Scott Carey, cc-nc-nd-3.0)

Scott Carey has documented a selection of Detroit’s abandoned houses on largely depopulated streets. In some cases, the dilapidated structures are the last ones standing in their immediate neighbourhoods, as adjoining buildings have already met the wrecking ball.

detroit abandoned house 6 Last House Standing: Abandoned Homes Punctuate Detroits Cleared Neighbourhoods

(Image by Scott Carey, cc-nc-nd-3.0; lower, all rights reserved)

Now a paradise for urban explorers, Detroit was America’s fourth largest city during the 1950s, a boom town riding the wave of automotive production. But decades later, and exaccerbated by the economic downturn of 2008, the city’s considerable modern ruins have multiplied.

detroit abandoned house 4 Last House Standing: Abandoned Homes Punctuate Detroits Cleared Neighbourhoods

(Image by Scott Carey, cc-nc-nd-3.0)

Some streets boast more abandoned residences than occupied ones. Elsewhere, isolated homes stand amid vast swaths of green that now blanket areas of suburban detroit, lonely reminders of neighbourhoods past and harbingers of demolition yet to come.

Some of them even resemble artist Mike Doyle’s acclaimed abandoned homes – built entirely from LEGO!

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Dilapidated houses in Detroit

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Detroit: The Ghost City Gradually Being Reclaimed by Nature

2 years ago Travel

Haunted HousePhoto: Shane Gorski

In 1966, the Fermi Nuclear Power Plant near Detroit overheated and partially melted. The incident was detailed in a book called We Almost Lost Detroit. The facility was closed down, and the utility company hopes someday to remove all traces of the abandoned power plant.

While Detroit avoided a nuclear disaster, riding through Detroit today feels like a post-apocalyptic experience. The city is experiencing the worst stages of neighborhood decline. Detroit’s “138 square miles are divided between expanses of decay and emptiness” among tracts of surviving communities, according to Bloomberg.

Abandoned factoryPhoto: LHOON

In 1950, Detroit was one of the richest cities in America, with the highest median income and highest rate of home ownership, its downtown full of architectural gems, as noted in The Guardian. But the collapse of its manufacturing base struck what may be a death blow to Detroit. The city that once held close to 2 million people now holds less than half that. The retreating population left behind an estimated 33,500 abandoned homes and 91,000 vacant lots. In some areas entire blocks have been bulldozed and cleared of housing. Neighborhoods have vanished, taking with them all traces of human existence.

Trees growing in housePhoto: Stan Wiechers

Detroit is turning into an urban prairie, with grass overtaking sidewalks, sapling trees towering over fences, and utility lines competing with tree branches. Old alleys resemble hiking trails, and empty lots are thick with wildflowers. In the summer, plant growth overtakes many abandoned houses. Giant trees are growing on the roofs of skyscrapers. Abandoned buildings are full of pigeon roosts and feral cats that keep the rat population in check. Wild dog packs roam neighborhoods, hunting the pheasants, turkeys, opossums, roosters and raccoons that have returned to the city. Ailanthus altissima – also known as the “ghetto palm” or the tree of heaven – has spread throughout the city. Over time the remaining homes will become crushed by these trees planted by homeowners decades ago. The plaster walls will eventually fade into dust.

Michigan Central StationPhoto: 416style

Detroit is a city in decline, and resisting this may be useless. According to Karina Pallagst of the University of California, Berkeley, there is “both a cultural and political taboo” about admitting decline in America. But people can be creative when trying to survive under difficult conditions. The remaining people are not giving up without a fight.

Detroit gardening clubPhoto: Angela Anderson-Cobb

One option Detroiters are using to deal with the decline is urban farming. Many non-profit agricultural organizations are springing up across Detroit. In a city without a major chain grocery store, people are again growing their own food. The 5,000 vacant acres are more than capable of supplying enough fruits and vegetables to supply the entire city’s needs.

Urban gardeningPhoto: greensudbury

Should the people of Detroit band together, they could sell their extra produce in farmers’ markets that could grow into full retail outlets. Options for entrepreneurship remain unlimited. Gardening and small-scale farming equipment would be needed, and Detroit’s manufacturing background could be called into play.

wild grassPhoto: William Stuben

Whatever its future, Detroit is a fascinating place of contrasts, rich in history and perhaps the first of many American cities to become a ghost city. Detroit has faced many difficult times in the past – and its future may be an indicator of America in the 21st century. It is possible that Detroit may one day resemble the original Fermi Plant, with all traces of civilization removed, the area returned to its wild state before human settlement. Its future depends on the hardy people left behind.

Written by: Lisa Hossler

China’s Spectacular New Art Museums

This is a collection of images and articles that cover the astounding new museums of art being built or already built-in China over the last few years. The startling rise of China’s gigantic economy is being matched by their movement and presence on the global stage. China has both centers for art production in Shanghai and Beijing, and a dazzling new international art market that will also be the third reveal of the phenomenal Art Basel art fair, which debuts in Hong Kong in 2013. No where else on earth is as fast-moving as the exponential growth in the China art scene and art worlds. China already has world-class collectors and collections, and is repatriating art purchased in the West back into its country of origin. China also is positioned in the secondary markets with its own global branded auction houses. China is building remarkable and gorgeous, stunningly beautiful museums that represent everything from a region to the nation to a single person contemporary artist. Yet what will further ground all the cultural movement are these new and amazing super-large scaled museums of art. Take for example the Chinese Museum of Wood. It is both spiritual and everyday, and holds most rewarding examples of works created in the woodworking tradition. Fortunately for us in the West, and in the US in particular, we will finally get to see China showcase itself in all of its cultural manifestations – no different than has Paris, with its various historic museums both small and enormous, that are markers of civilization for all the accomplishments of humanity.

Vincent Johnson

Los Angeles

10.9.2012

http://vincentjohnsonart.com/

MOCA Shanghai
Shanghai’s Private Museums
by administrator,
Monday, July 1, 2013 – 16:29

CHINA DAILY RECENTLY reported that 100 new museums open in China every year. Some are private, some are linked to upmarket shopping malls, and others are public institutions established by a government that seems suddenly to be aware of the cultural deprivation it has imposed on its citizens over recent decades. Since 1949, a lot of Chinese culture simply just disappeared.

Now suddenly Chinese contemporary art has become a hot commodity with records being broken at auction almost every week and official institutions running hard to catch up with collectors who are opening their own private museums and galleries.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Shanghai a city of 25 million people and one clearly making a play to become the cultural centre of China; in the previous 12 months alone Shanghai has seen the opening of China’s largest private contemporary art museum – The Long Museum – and two monolithic public art spaces, the Power Station of Contemporary Art and the New China Art Museum in the refurbished China Pavilion on the 2010 China Expo site.

The Power Station of Contemporary Art, on the banks of the Huangpu River, was converted over a frenetic nine months from the Nanshi Power Plant into mainland China’s first state-run contemporary art museum at a cost of US$64 million. It may not be the equivalent of London’s Tate Modern, yet, but its conceptual heart is beating confidently within its 41,200-square-meter space which itself is dwarfed by the 62,000 square meters of the colossal New China Art Museum.

Museums both private and public seem to be sprouting everywhere.  But it is an activity that requires big bucks; the infrastructure is staggering, the ongoing costs breathtaking and the cost of the art beyond the reach of all but the über-rich.

Chinese property developer Dai Zhikang is currently putting the finishing touches to a huge US$480 million development in Shanghai’s rapidly expanding Pudong District. The Himalayas Centre designed by acclaimed Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, includes conference facilities, luxury hotel, restaurants and shopping spaces; located on the top floor of the development is Zhikang’s soon-to-be-opened vast curvilinear Shanghai Zendai Himalayas Art Museum in which he will show his own art collection.

Across Shanghai and located in the equivalent of London’s Bond Street, is billionaire Adrien Cheng’s newly opened K11 shopping mall. Known as the ‘Art Mall’, K11 specialises in high-end Western brands. Burberry and Valentino are already in place but the mall is so new that many of the shops are vacant. It still smells of fresh paint and plastic and the highly polished floors are as yet unscuffed. The basement is a dedicated low- ceilinged art gallery that will show work by the country’s leading artists. Last month’s inaugural Shanghai Surprise exhibition was a group show with work from several local art stars including, Yang Fudong, Qui Anxiong and Birdhead.

Close by in the famous Bund area of the city is billionaire Thomas Ou’s Rockbund Art museum housed in an exquisitely restored 1933 Art Deco building that was at one time home to the Royal Asiatic Society. Ou’s large contemporary art space which opened in 2010 has no permanent collection but hosts impressive contemporary shows by leading Chinese artists.

Wang Wei, wife of billionaire entrepreneur Lui Yiqian, has recently opened (December 2012) the largest contemporary art museum in China in Shanghai’s Pudong district. The 10,000-square-meter Long Museum was built to showcase her collection of contemporary and revolutionary Chinese art with the upper floor devoted to ancient Chinese art and antiques which are her husband’s preferences. Wei plans a second museum later this year, part of the West Bank Cultural Corridor in Xuhui District, and will show even more of her collection of contemporary Chinese art.

Not to be out done Budi Tek, an Indonesian-Chinese agribusiness billionaire and Shanghai resident, will also open his Yuz Museum Shanghai on the same Xuhui site to accommodate his personal collection of international and Chinese contemporary art.

Lorenz Helbling, who owns the commercial ShangArt Gallery, has lived in Shanghai since 1995 and has witnessed the growth of private museums in the city. ‘In 1995, no one came to Shanghai to look at art. Now Shanghai is a contemporary city, a city of today and people here are interested in contemporary art even though they are still trying to understand what it art is all about,’ he said dryly.

There are a million millionaires in China but it is only the billionaires – of which there are 122 according to Forbes Magazine – who can afford the private galleries and the art to put in them. Their wealth has grown in parallel with an economy that has embraced, ‘capitalism with Chinese characteristics.’ These nouveaux riches are, a ‘fast-growing thicket of bamboo capitalism,’ as The Economist magazine labelled them, with a cashed-up status that has in effect, allowed them to corner the contemporary art market during a period when government cultural institutions seemed uninterested.

Some critics have labelled private museums as vanity projects and a flaunting of wealth.  But Wei and Tek, both of whom spoke to Asian Art Newspaper last month in Shanghai, see such accusations as short-sighted. Their galleries are precisely planned philanthropic endeavours which come with clearly defined social responsibilities which include educational and lecture programmes.

Wang Wei’s Long Museum which opened last December in Pudong, cost of 271 million Yuan (US$43 million) to build and is bank-rolled by her billionaire industrialist husband, Liu Yiqian. The 10,000 square-meter space will cost 7 million Yuan annually to run Liu told CCTV recently. But the sobriquet of the Long Museum being China’s largest private museum will be short-lived. Later this year, Wang Wei will open her second even larger 16,000-square-meter, contemporary art space on an abandoned airfield that is being turned into the West Bank Cultural Corridor (WBCC) in Xuhiu District on the banks of the Huangpu River. The WBCC is being pioneered by local Party Secretary, Sun Jiwei and will comprise tourist attractions, restaurants, commercial space and parkland. DreamWorks Animation has already signed a multi-million dollar deal to build a movie studio and entertainment zone on the site.

Wang Wei’s museum will not be the only one on the site either. Tek is building his own privately financed Yuz Museum Shanghai there too. ‘Right next door to DreamWorks,’ Tek said. Tek’s 8,000-square-meter building designed by acclaimed Japanese architect, Sou Fujimoto is the first phase of a development that  will eventually take in adjacent land and add a further 20,000 square meters of exhibition space. Wang Wei and her husband Liu Yiqian have been collecting Chinese art for over 20 years. Liu, who is 171 on Forbe’s Magazine China Rich List with an estimated fortune of US$790 million has a passion for ancient and antique Chinese art while Wang Wei has preferred to concentrate on Chinese contemporary and modern and in establishing a museum quality narrative collection of Revolutionary Chinese art that covers  1945 to 2009. Fifteen minutes spent inside the Long Museum is long enough to realise that no expense has been spared; from its soaring 14-meter ceiling of the Central Hall to the unpolished marble flagstones of the stair well to the fastidious nature of the displays, all speak of a high degree of finesse rarely seen in private or public galleries.

News China reported that Lui Yiqian and Wang Wei spent US$139 million on art in 2009 the same year Yiqian set an auction record for a piece of Chinese furniture when he paid US$11 million for an 18th-century Imperial Qianlong period zitan throne, which is now displayed on the third floor of the Long Museum alongside ancient scrolls and fine porcelain all of which are bathed in pools of soft light triggered by the movement of visitors through the gallery. Annual running costs of seven million Yuan have led commentators to question the sustainability of private museum. But Wang Wei dismisses concerns about sustainability and points out that the name, Long Museum, was chosen because its Chinese pictogram means long-lasting. ‘The Long Museum will last for one hundred years,’ she said.

Budi Tek, whose Shanghai Yuz Museum will be the second museum to carry this name, the first opened in Jakarta in 2008, while happy to stump up the cost of both the building and establishing the collection, remains all too aware that the museum’s long- term viability lies in making it sustainable. He, like Wang Wei, will charge a small entrance fee somewhere between 50 and 100 Yuan he says and which visitors will be able to redeem against other onsite purchases. He plans to generate income from other elements of the development. For example, there will be design and furniture stores, restaurants, book shops and residences onsite which will be available to the public when not being used by artists. But he insists everything will be art-related and all profits will be returned to the museum.

Tek believes there is now too much money chasing too few works of contemporary Chinese art leading to a dearth of affordable museum quality pieces coming on to the market. ‘In China the most important pieces of contemporary Chinese art are already held by us collectors. There are no major museum collections yet,’ he said. Which of course begs the question, what will the mega-public exhibition spaces such as the PSA put on their walls?

More recently, Tek’s collecting has turned away from Chinese contemporary to international installation artists such as Fred Sandback, Antony Gormley and Adel Abdessemed, works that require a lot of space. He is an intuitive and slightly impulsive buyer and while he is happy to defer exhibition decisions to a curator he insists the decision about what he buys is his alone. ‘No one advises me. I see something and I buy it. No one advised me when I bought Maurizio Cattelan’s olive tree. No one advised me when I bought Adel’s plane.’

For her part, Wang Wei is adamant that her collecting policy is driven by a desire to reclaim her culture. It is a philosophy she has pursued resolutely throughout her 20 years of collecting. She insists that Chinese art should remain firmly in Chinese hands and it is this philosophy that has driven her definitive collection of Revolutionary Art. And she does not share Tek’s concerns about the dearth of good contemporary art coming onto the market. For the Long Museum’s opening exhibition 15 leading Chinese contemporary artists including Zhang Xiaogang, Fang Lijun, Yue Minjun and Zeng Fanzhi created work to hang in the Central Hall. When asked if she owned the 15 works, a spokeswoman for Wang smiled and said, ‘Not yet!’.

Many commentators who question the sustainability of the private museums are also sceptical as to whether they can successfully operate in a climate where the commercial, cultural and political so closely overlap.

The shifting line between what can and cannot be shown in China was highlighted in May this year when Chinese censors excised several Andy Warhol images of Chairman Mao from a touring exhibition 15 Minutes Eternal, of 300 Warhol pictures before it reached Shanghai’s PSA.  The images had already been seen in Hong Kong, but were deemed to be irreverent and unsuitable for mainland consumption. The Mao pictures will be reinstated when the exhibition moves on to Tokyo. While the Chinese government is happy to pursue its ‘soft culture’ push overseas, it remains highly sensitive to images that could offend at home.

There are few images in Wang Wei’s collection of Revolutionary Art, with its litany of happy smiling peasant faces and images that extol Chairman Mao’s achievements over half a century of communist party control that would offend the Party hierarchy. Even so Wang Wei takes a cautious ‘softly, softly’ approach and sees her collection in broad terms as, ‘complementary to national collections which for historical reasons cannot present certain art,’ she said enigmatically. Shanghai citizens however are flocking to the new cultural icons throughout the city. Helbling says that since the first Shanghai Biennale in 1996 there has been a steady and growing interest in contemporary art and that now, the big problem for Chinese public galleries is ‘trying to sort out what type of contemporary art they will have’.

 

BY MICHAEL YOUNG

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http://www.evolo.us/architecture/national-art-museum-of-china-proposal-mad-architects/

National Art Museum of China Proposal / MAD Architects

By: Lidija Grozdanic | October – 1 – 2012

National Art Museum of China, MAD Architects, architecture competition, museum architecture, floating architecture, 2008 Olympics

The building was designed by MAD Architects, as proposal for the international competition for the future National Art Museum of China in Bejing. Their concept is based on an elevated public square which is protected by a floating mega volume above.

The original structure of the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) built in 1962, houses one of the country’s largest art collections and has played host to some of the influential exhibitions as recorded in contemporary Chinese history. The current plans are to move the institution into a new building, situated within a designated ‘art district’ on the central axis of the 2008 Olympic site.

National Art Museum of China, MAD Architects, architecture competition, museum architecture, floating architecture, 2008 Olympics

MAD’s design is organized into three layers, where programs are divided by each level. The one-storey ground floor houses all ancillary functions and is conceived in such a way that it can be operated independently from the museum in off hours. Above this, a 20,000 square meter urban plaza program acts as the main gallery for permanent art collections and exhibitions. The arrangement of this hall gives visitors the opportunity to decide how to engage with the works on show, while simultaneously being surrounded by outward views of the surrounding cityscape courtesy of windows that wrap around the perimeter of the structure. This level is also directly connected to the former Olympic park via a bridge, thus making use of an area of the urban plan which would otherwise be ignored.

National Art Museum of China, MAD Architects, architecture competition, museum architecture, floating architecture, 2008 Olympics

National Art Museum of China, MAD Architects, architecture competition, museum architecture, floating architecture, 2008 Olympics

National Art Museum of China, MAD Architects, architecture competition, museum architecture, floating architecture, 2008 Olympics

National Art Museum of China, MAD Architects, architecture competition, museum architecture, floating architecture, 2008 Olympics

National Art Museum of China, MAD Architects, architecture competition, museum architecture, floating architecture, 2008 Olympics

This is design of a Beijing based architecture firm named MAD, they unveiled their new museum for Chinese wood sculptures. The museum is located in Habrin main city in Northern China. The city itself is currently trying to defining itself as a regional hub for the arts at a time when the historic city is rapidly expanding. That’s why they choose to build this museum right there right now. The main idea of the Chinese wood sculptures museum is inspired by the unique local landscapes of the city. The museum is a contrast between the elegance of nature and the speed of daily life. The museum is about 200 meters long and for the concept is shaped to explore and reflect the relation between the building and the environment as a big frozen fluid. The interior of the museum is separated on two general parts. Each one represents an expedition. They are connected mutually by a centralized entrance which separates the two museums while simultaneously joining them. This is used to make the impression of symbiotic relationship between the two expeditions. Another good idea by the designers is the full glass roof, this not only make the outside of the building outstanding and looking futuristic, but also helps for the sunlight to lighten the entire museum and helping for the viewing atmosphere inside.

Siteplan of the China Wood Sculpture Museum
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Chinese architect Pei-Zhu’s OCT Design Museum in Shenzhen, China.
Courtesy Studio Pei-Zhu
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Shanghai To Transform China Pavilion Into Art “Palace”

City Sets Ambitious Goal To Open 16 New Museums By 2015

The China Pavilion Will Reopen as the China Art Palace next fall

The China Pavilion Will Reopen as the China Art Palace next fall

Shanghai may be known as a city obsessed with the pursuit of money, but in recent years China’s most populous metropolis has busied itself with another obsession: rivaling Beijing as a cultural and artistic hub. As Jing Daily noted this past May, while Beijing still enjoys its status as China’s cultural and political capital, the city’s rampant growth over the past decade has cannibalized many of its vibrant arts districts and threatened many others, alienating the creative community and, in some cases, pushing artists to relocate.

This shift in Beijing, and Shanghai’s well-capitalized initiative to foster a more creative environment in the city, has invigorated Shanghai’s cultural ambitions. Over the last few years, new creative/lifestyle venues like 1933 (a restored Jazz Age abattoir), the Shanghai Songjiang Creative Studio, and the Rockbund Art Museum have opened their doors. Though red tape and fly-by-night private gallery owners continue to plague the industry, by 2015, Shanghai plans to open 16 more large-scale museums and galleries.

As Shanghai Daily writes this week, one of these 16 planned museums and galleries, the massive “China Art Palace,” is attracting particular attention. For the art “Palace,” the China Pavilion from last year’s Shanghai World Expo is being transformed into an art museum “on a par with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Musee d’Orsay in Paris,” according to a senior official. From the article:

The China Art Palace will collect top-level art from home and abroad, primarily to showcase the origins and development of China’s modern arts.

It is part of a plan by the city government to build 16 new major museums and art galleries and many smaller museums by 2015 and make Shanghai an “international cultural metropolis,” said Zong.

“In the future, Shanghai residents will be able to find a museum and cultural venue within a 15-minute walk of their homes,” she said.

“The number and quality of art galleries and museums is an important measure of cultural standing – cities such as New York and Paris are famed for their top-level galleries,” said Teng Junjie, art director of the Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture Radio Film and TV.

The palace, which will cover an area of 70,000 square meters, will open on a limited basis next October, Zong said.

Most facilities from the former China Pavilion can be retained, bringing considerable savings, she said.

The three levels of the former main exhibition hall of the Expo pavilion will showcase the history and development of modern art of Shanghai and China, while the former joint pavilion for Chinese provinces and municipalities will have separate exhibition rooms for famous Chinese modern artists, including top Shanghai painter Cheng Shifa, said Teng.

As Teng Junjie added this weekend, the aim for cultural officials is to establish three major museums in the city by 2015: “the existing Shanghai Museum, the Shanghai Art Palace and the China Contemporary Art Museum – for historic, modern and contemporary artworks.” But, large scale public projects aside, more museums and galleries won’t do much to transform Shanghai into a cultural hub to rival New York, Paris or even Beijing unless, as Jing Daily pointed out earlier this month, the regulatory environment for private museums and galleries is transformed as well.

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Super-Collector Wang Wei’s Dragon Art Museum Hits Construction Milestone

2 tweets

12,000 Square Meter Museum Located In Shanghai’s Pudong District

Zhong Song's exterior design, featuring a projection of Chen Yifei's 1987 painting, "The Flute Player"

Zhong Song’s exterior design, featuring a projection of Chen Yifei’s 1987 painting, “The Flute Player”

This past February, Jing Daily covered Chinese art “super-collector” Wang Wei’s long-discussed private art museum in Shanghai, which Wang and billionaire investor husband Liu Yiqian plan to open next year. The “Dragon Art Museum” (龙美术馆) will showcase Wang and Liu’s extensive collection of blue-chip Chinese contemporary art on the ground floor, Wang’s Mao-era “Red Classics” from 1949-1979 on the second, and traditional works and ancient artifacts on the third floor.

Taking over a section of the former Tomson Centre (汤臣别墅商业中心) building in Shanghai’s Pudong district, near the Shanghai New International Expo Center, Wang’s museum will expand the original 8,000 square meter space to 12,000 square meters. With around 15 months to go until the museum’s planned November 18, 2012 grand opening, last weekend construction teams hit a milestone, starting work on the building’s facade.

Designed by Zhong Song (仲松), a “post-70s generation” artist and architect who started off his career at the studio of the late Beijing artist Chen Yifei, the museum’s facade is at tasteful and minimalist, going against the current preference for all things large and loud in the world of Chinese architecture. According to Zhong, the concept of the building’s facade is “clean and quality,” adding that he will use only light-colored granite for the exterior, installing fewer and smaller windows in order to give “a feeling of wholeness” to the building.

Based on an artist rendering of the exterior, which shows a projection of Chen Yifei’s 1987 work, “The Flute Player” on the museum’s facade, expect some high-tech features to be worked into the low-key granite-and-glass design. In addition to the facade currently under construction, crews will soon start work on the auxiliary warehouse, with all construction expected to be complete by the end of this year.

As Wang Wei told the Chinese art magazine Art Finance earlier this summer, she and Liu Yiqian have already invested over 200 million yuan (US$31 million) in the project, and are projecting an annual operating budget of 5 million yuan (US$774,000).

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http://imgace.com/pic/2012/09/comic-art-museum-in-china/

MVRDV: china comic and animation museum


‘china comic and animation museum’ by MVRDV, hangzhou, china
images © MVRDV

dutch practice MVRDV has won the international competition for the ‘china comic and animation museum’
in hangzhou, china. composed of eight balloon shaped volumes, the design looks to create an internally complex
experience measuring 30,000 square meters in total. fantastical and whimsical in its approach, the proposal is
part of a larger master plan that will include a series of parks, a public plaza and an expo center.


comic book library with view into interactive exhibition zone

set to break ground in 2012, the museum seeks to create a platform which will unite the evolving worlds of art
and entertainment. the application of one of the most iconic cartoon motifs – the speech bubble – allows the unit
to be instantly recognized as a place for comics, animation and cartoons. as text is projected onto the
monochromatic exterior surface, the forms come to life, further transforming the two dimensional motif into a
three dimensional reality.


interactive exhibition space

each of the eight volumes, occupied by unique and independent functions, are interconnected allowing for a
circular tour of the entire building. large voids at the point of interception provide visual connection and access
between the dynamic programs, which include a comic book library and three cinemas.


exhibition space

accommodating a range of versatile exhibition spaces, the museum will feature a permanent collection that is
presented in a chronological spiral along with smaller, adaptive halls for temporary displays.


exhibition space


entrance and view into multiple balloons


interactive light elements


aerial view of site


diagram of programs

additional images of the circulation zones:

==

http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/9/view/20727/foster-partners-datong-art-museum.html

foster + partners: datong art museum


‘datong art museum’ by foster + partners, datong, china
all images © foster + partners

construction has begun in datong, china on the ‘datong art museum’, designed by london-based practice foster + partners.
four pyramidal roof peaks interlock to define the exterior form, evoking the imagery of an erupted landscape. the external surfaces
are clad with corten steel, a material with earthen hues and will continue to weather over time. one of four new buildings bordering
a new cultural plaza, the 32,000 square meter center will be slightly sunken into the earth, matching the scale of its neighbors.
visitors descend through a stepped courtyard of sculptures to enter the museum.

at the ground level, a grand gallery with a 37 meter tall atrium with a clear span of 80 meters provides a centerpiece area
for large-scale installations and exhibitions. skylights within the high ceilings introduce northern and north-western daylight,
creating an optimal environment to display artworks with natural illumination and minimal solar gain.


aerial view of the entry plaza at night

perimeter exhibition spaces will contain state-of-the-art climate controls. artificial lighting runs along tracks within ceiling recesses
and a 5 meter grid along the floor integrates security, data and power. with 70 percent of the structure formed from a roof,
the building is insulated almost twice more than code requires, reducing the presence and necessary maintenance with only
10 percent overall glazing.

scheduled to open in 2013, the venue will represent the country in the ‘beyond the building’ basel art international tour.


main entrance

==================

http://www.design42day.com/2011/11/the-national-art-museum-of-china-by-unstudio/

The National Art Museum of China by UnStudio

The-National-Art-Museum-of-China-by-UnStudio-7

The architectural design concept for The National Art Museum of China by UnStudio reminds the artifact of ancient Chinese “stone drums”.  Historically, the Stone Drum bears inscriptions that represent precious piece of the fragmentary puzzle of the Chinese script. This special form of the museum highlights the identity of the country, its spirit and essence. Moreover, the design concept is based on the duplicities that complement each other: day and night, inside and outside, fast and slow, dao or tao, individual and collective.
The main aim of this design concept is to give diversified and visible spaces for pieces of art. Also, the role of light is extremely important in the design of this building. The edifice is constructed in such a way that gives more opportunities for artists and curators in displaying their works and showing their ideas. Designers of the museum creating their work did not forget about the visitors. So, internally it is organized in such a manner that gives visitor a possibility to explore the museum by different paths around thematic consistencies of art.
Museum is greatly involved in urban context and provides the strong cultural presence for the area.

Tania Sinitsa
16/11/2011

=====================================================

http://www.iguzzini.com/Museum_Lighting_National_Museum_Of_China

Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini
Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini

Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China – Art and culture iGuzzini

Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini
Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini
Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini
Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini
Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini
Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini
Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini
Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini
> <
About the project
One of the most ambitious project for the museum lighting made by iGuzzini is certainly the National Museum of China, completed in 1959 as one of ten important public buildings in Tiananmen Square, in direct proximity to the Forbidden City, the museum is still a milestone in the history of modern Chinese architecture.

The conversion and extension of the Chinese National Museum combines the former Chinese History Museum with the Chinese Revolutionary Museum. Outline plans were invited from ten international architectural firms and the project was awarded to Gerkan, Marg & Partners (gmp) for its submission, together with Beijing’s CABR, ahead of Foster & Partners, Kohn Pedersen Fox, OMA & Herzog & de Meuron.

The original GMP submission envisaged gutting the existing museum. The aim was to join the northern and southern wings in a single complex, by removing the central structure. The 260 metre long hall acts as its central access area. It widens to embrace the existing central entrance which opens onto Tiananmen Square. The ‘forum’ thus created acts as an atrium and multi-functional events area, with all services for the public, that is to say, cafes and tea shops, book shops and souvenir stores, ticket offices and toilets.

The museum lighting for the coffered roof extending along the entire forum and in the central Hall was designed by the lighting design office conceptlicht. A key feature of the concept is a special luminaire, developed by conceptlicht and produced by iGuzzini, which creates a welcoming atmosphere throughout the building.

This project required a customized solution to conceal the lighting source into the coffers. The project utilized down light optics with both traditional and LED sources.

==

http://architecturelab.net/2008/08/art-museum-of-yue-minjun/

Art Museum of Yue Minjun

 posted in News

from Architectural Record

Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Image courtesy Studio Pei-Zhu

Studio Pei-Zhu, a Beijing-based firm, has designed a museum that will house the work of Yue Minjun, a Chinese contemporary artist known for his repetitive images of large, smiling figures.
—————————————————————————————-

“While the devastating Sichuan earthquake in May left a large portion of Western China in ruins, signs are emerging that some notable building projects in the area are pushing forward. One of these projects is the Art Museum of Yue Minjun, designed by Beijing-based Studio Pei-Zhu, a 2007 Design Vanguard winner.

Located near the Qingcheng Mountains, and adjacent to the Shimeng River in Sichuan Province, the 10,700-square-foot museum will house the work of Yue Minjun, a Chinese contemporary artist known for his repetitive images of large, smiling figures. It will be one of 10 new museums on the same site, each dedicated to the work of an influential Chinese artist. Zhang Xiaogang and Wang Guangyi are among the other artists to be showcased. The complex, which is being developed by the local government of Dujingyuan, is the brainchild of Lu Peng, an art professor at the China Central Academy of Fine Art.

Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Images courtesy Studio Pei-Zhu

The Yue Minjun museum will contain exhibition space and a small artist’s studio. According to Pei Zhu, one of the firm’s principals, a river rock that he picked up one day inspired the building’s form—a large, oblong sphere. “Everything is based on the natural stone, which has a very strong relationship between the creek and the mountain and nature,” explains Zhu.

Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Image courtesy Studio Pei-Zhu

On the exterior, curvilinear walls will be clad in highly polished zinc, a soft metal that blends in with the natural surroundings while also giving the building a futuristic look. “Normally, architects will use a local material and vernacular language,” says Zhu. “We believe we needed to make something both futuristic and very natural.” It’s a striking departure from another recent project designed by the firm for the 2008 Summer Olympics: Digital Beijing, a control center whose façade resembles computer circuitry.

Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Image courtesy Studio Pei-Zhu

Work is already underway on the art museum. Site preparation began earlier this year, and the building should be completed by early 2009. Zhu says the earthquake delayed the project a mere three months, at most. “The developer still really wants to push this project [forward],” he says, “and we think that this will still benefit the society and the city.”

Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Images courtesy Studio Pei-Zhu

—-

https://i1.wp.com/www.e-architect.co.uk/images/jpgs/china/art_museum_yue_minjun_spz050608_3.jpg
————————————————————————========================================

http://www.infoteli.com/beijing-art-museum-by-arata-isozaki-associates.htm

CAFA Art Museum

Beijing Art Museum by Arata Isozaki & Associates

Beijing Cafa Art Museum Photo
Beijing CAFA Art Museum
CAFA Art Museum Architecture
Interior of Beijing CAFA Art Museum
Wall Design Beijing CAFA Art Museum

CAFA Art Museum, located at the northeast corner of campus CAFA (China Central Academy of Fine Arts), is set from curvilinear walls covered with traditional Chinese slate.

The walls are separated at the ends to which natural light enters the building through skylights and large windows.

From the main entrance, located in the center of the building, access to a large atrium in height with long straight ramps that ascend gradually to the various floors of the museum. Natural light spreads throughout the museum through the membranes of fiberglass skylights.

The ground floor can accommodate large installations that can be seen from the different levels of the ramp. The permanent collection, focusing on traditional Chinese art, is located on the first floor galleries, temporary exhibitions in the second and third floors.

Large open spaces with natural light, curvilinear walls, allow many different kinds of contemporary art installations. The exhibition space on the third floor is open to the double volume of the second floor.

There are four floors above ground, two below ground. The library and cafeteria are located in the main space on the ground floor. Basement 1 includes a reading room, a study room and a conference room. 2 In the basement offices are located in conservation of paintings and calligraphy, including the restoration room, laboratory and warehouse of temporary and permanent collections. Technical equipment protected stairways and elevators are located in rectangular volumes, covered with marble.

==

Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio

  • 22 Feb 2009
©

In Iwan Baan‘s website, we found one of the latest works he photographed, the Ningbo Historic Museum designed by Wang Shu, .

An amazing stone work, more pictures after the break:

Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (1) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (2) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (3) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (4) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (5) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (6) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (7) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (8) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (9) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (10) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (11) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (12) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (13) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan

MoMA Chengdu / Studio Ramoprimo

By: Lidija Grozdanic | February – 22 – 2012

Organized by the Chengdu Ministry of Culture and the Chengdu Culture and Tourism Development Group, the Competition for the Chinese MoMA was part of an initiative for creating a double ring of public facilities around the Tianfu Square in Chengdu. The first ring is supposed to consist of cultural facilities. The second and larger one is planned for highrises.

Museum of Modern Art china

Designed by Studio Ramoprimo, the winning entry proposes a dialogue with the surrounding, drawing physical references from the existing urban and architectural condition. The basic idea is to enlarge the existing public space of Tianfu Square and make it “climbing” on the roof of the new building. The new museum is a group of volumes creating a small cultural city.

Two main axis cut the site area defining a comfortable pedestrian island where people can walk away from cars. The new urban situation is also establishing new visual and physical connections between existing parts of the city. People can pass through the plot and easily come from the Tianfu square and reach the surrounding museums. The four museum blocks create an arising slope on which people can walk, seat, play, have a rest, enjoy the view to the central square like in a open public theater. The whole shape according the function is rising step by step from the earth to the sky, while the ending corner of the building replaces the original position of the ancient and forgotten city wall.

The Museum Of Contemporary Art & Planning Exhibition proposal is located at Futian District, Shenzhen’s most important central region for administration, business and culture. The building functions as part of Shenzhen’s civic centre, where the City Library, Opera House, Central Bookstore, Youth Activity Hall (YAH) and other civic building have been built. The international competition held in 2007 required The Museum Of Contemporary Art & Planning Exhibition (MOCAPE) to include two independent and yet inter-connected parts: The museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and Planning Exhibition (PE). Designed by Rome-based LABORATORIO 543, the proposal is a 90.000 square meter structure that aims to enhance the service of Shenzhen’s new civic center.

The building is divided into two parts: the first rests on the ground and the other is suspended on the upper level. These undulating segments have multiple connection points, ensuring the overall stability of the structure and facilitating communication between different programs. The structural frame, which is required to support the suspended level, can be compared to a cantilever. Located at ground level, the main entrance belongs to a composition of

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Art Museum of Yue Minjun

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posted in News

from Architectural Record

Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Image courtesy Studio Pei-Zhu

Studio Pei-Zhu, a Beijing-based firm, has designed a museum that will house the work of Yue Minjun, a Chinese contemporary artist known for his repetitive images of large, smiling figures.
—————————————————————————————-

“While the devastating Sichuan earthquake in May left a large portion of Western China in ruins, signs are emerging that some notable building projects in the area are pushing forward. One of these projects is the Art Museum of Yue Minjun, designed by Beijing-based Studio Pei-Zhu, a 2007 Design Vanguard winner.

Located near the Qingcheng Mountains, and adjacent to the Shimeng River in Sichuan Province, the 10,700-square-foot museum will house the work of Yue Minjun, a Chinese contemporary artist known for his repetitive images of large, smiling figures. It will be one of 10 new museums on the same site, each dedicated to the work of an influential Chinese artist. Zhang Xiaogang and Wang Guangyi are among the other artists to be showcased. The complex, which is being developed by the local government of Dujingyuan, is the brainchild of Lu Peng, an art professor at the China Central Academy of Fine Art.

Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Images courtesy Studio Pei-Zhu

The Yue Minjun museum will contain exhibition space and a small artist’s studio. According to Pei Zhu, one of the firm’s principals, a river rock that he picked up one day inspired the building’s form—a large, oblong sphere. “Everything is based on the natural stone, which has a very strong relationship between the creek and the mountain and nature,” explains Zhu.

Beijing To Build “World’s Largest Art Museum”: What’ll They Fill It With?
Source:Jing Daily Date: 2011-03-18 Size:
This week, as part of its 12th five-year plan, Beijing announced a new phase for the National Art Museum of China, a massive, glass-covered structure that is being touted as “the world’s largest art gallery.” Currently in the design process, the new National Art Museum will be located next to the current museum and near the Beijing National Stadium, with construction expected to begin next spring.

Chinese Contemporary Art Getting Scarcer; Can Auctions Be Museums’ Only Source For Top Art?

Preliminary design for the National Art Museum of China new phase

This week, as part of its 12th five-year plan, Beijing announced a new phase for the National Art Museum of China, a massive, glass-covered structure that is being touted as “the world’s largest art gallery.” Currently in the design process, the new National Art Museum will be located next to the current museum and near the Beijing National Stadium, with construction expected to begin next spring. While the new National Art Museum sounds like another example of the Chinese government building a mammoth public venue for the sake of getting another “world’s largest” title under its belt, as museum director Fan Di’an told delegates at the recent National People’s Congress, China’s public art facilities haven’t lived up to the promise of the country’s burgeoning interest in the arts.

As Fan pointed out last week, the current National Art Museum — which was built in 1963 in Beijing’s Dongcheng district — is a meager 8,300 square meters in size. Compare that to New York’s Museum of Modern Art, at 58,529 square meters, and the Louvre, which boasts over 60,000 square meters of exhibition space. Since attendance became free at the National Art Museum on March 2, according to Fan Di’an, it has clocked nearly 6,000 visitors at peak times, “nearly hitting capacity,” according to Xinhua. Clearly, the current digs are inadequate, certainly for a city that most consider to be the cultural heart of China. But how will director Fan Di’an fill the 130,000 total square meters of exhibition space he’ll have when the new phase is complete?

One clue comes from an interview Fan Di’an recently gave at the “Art Power” awards in Beijing, where he was named “Best Museum Administrator.” Speaking to Sina, Fan said that the Chinese contemporary art world is becoming stronger as more artists become globally recognized, more curators have the ability to promote Chinese art, and more (and better) museums are built across the country. Fan’s interest in contemporary art and the priority he places on public arts education have made him something of a star in the Chinese art world, a break from the stereotype of the stodgy apparatchik or stuffy administrator. Fan also counts many first-generation Chinese contemporary artists as close friends, such as his former Central Academy of Fine Arts classmate Xu Bing. With the ample room he will be afforded with the new National Art Museum, expect to see Fan display an impressive array of contemporary Chinese works alongside his other interests, which include everything from 1950s Chinese prints to artifacts from Dunhuang in Xinjiang province.

With so much room to fill, not just in Beijing but in new provincial art museums throughout mainland China, it won’t be surprising if we see museum and gallery representatives showing up at the upcoming Sotheby’s spring auctions in Hong Kong, where works by some of China’s top artists will be on the block. Directors like Fan Di’an would almost certainly love to get some pieces from the Ullens collection on the walls and prevent them from leaving the country once and for all. Now that new Chinese private collectors are getting more involved with the auction market and works by blue-chip Chinese artists are getting scarcer and scarcer, it’s no surprise that excitement is growing in China for the upcoming spring auction season.

——————–

New Abstract Paintings: The Cosmos suite (2012)

Cosmos. Oil on canvas  2012 by Vincent Johnson

Cosmos Red Yellow Green. Oil on canvas 2012 by Vincent Johnson

Green God. Oil on canvas 2012 by Vincent Johnson

This new painting series is part of my ongoing exploration of painting materials and techniques from the history of painting. The works combine knowledge of painting practices of both abstract and representation paintings. The works concern themselves purely with the visual power that paintings can do through the manipulation of paint. Some of the underpaintings are allowed to dry for months; some of those are built dark to light, others light to dark. None are made in a single setting. Most are worked and reworked using studio materials. Each new series takes a different approach to the painted surface from how the paint is applied, to varying the painting mediums. This suite concerns itself with the layering of paint by building up the surface and altering and reworking the wet paint with studio tools.

Two larger paintings will be completed and photographed on Sunday, July 15, 2012 and posted here.

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles

Vincent Johnson’s Nine Grayscale Paintings – installation shot – 2
Vincent Johnson’s Nine Grayscale Paintings – studio shot – 1 (Silver hand)
Vincent Johnson – in my studio working on my Nine Grayscale Paintings
Vincent Johnson’s Nine Grayscale Paintings – first stage of grayscale painting
Los Angeles based artist and writer Vincent Johnson
Vincent Johnson received his MFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California 1997 and his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Painting 1986. He started out as a student in Pratt’s painting department. He is a 2005 Creative Capital Grantee, and was nominated for the Baum: An Emerging American Photographer’s Award in 2004 and for the New Museum of Contemporary Arts Aldrich Art Award in 2007 and for the Art Matters grant in 2008, and in 2009 nominated for Foundation for Contemporary Art Fellowship, Los Angeles. In 2010 he was named a United States Artists project artist. His work has been reviewed in ArtForum, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, Art in America, Art Slant and many other publications. His photographic works were most recently shown in the inaugural Pulse Fair Los Angeles. His most recent paintings were shown at the Beacon Arts Center in Los Angeles.

Great New Contemporary art gallery and museum spaces in Los Angeles

Stephanie Diani for The New York Times

Two founders of Guess are turning a former Masonic temple in Los Angeles into a private contemporary art museum in Los Angeles.

The building is 90,000 sq. ft.

After decades of not having premier exhibition spaces in Los Angeles, a new world of spectacular museum and gallery spaces is coming. These spaces will be in direct competition with the existing LA artworld institutions. There is actually a new tier of exhibition space in LA that only recently was uncorked in New York and London – the 10, 15, 20,000 sq. ft. commercial gallery space. For those who remember LA in the 1990’s, there were small spaces with 500-100 sq. ft. Now there are galleries in LA that are essentially kunsthalle’s with massive operating budgets, with all of the works being for sale. There are pop-up artist warehouse shows, but none of these is a dedicated permanent space with funding. This is happening concurrently with the rise of upscale performing arts venues, bringing to us more variety and greater quality of performing arts than at any time in the city’s history. These are interesting times indeed.

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles

http://www.vincentjohnsonart.com

Other notable forthcoming spaces:
Michael Kohn gallery opens its 10,000 sq. ft. space next door to Perry Rubenstein gallery on Highland avenue.
Hauser & Wirth and Schimmel gallery.
David Kordansky gallery – 15,000 sq. ft, fall 2014. Will be close to Kayne Griffin Corcoran gallery on South La Brea. This will be a new gallery district for LA.
Recently opened spaces:
Francois Ghebaldy, 5,000 sq. ft, located next to the year old Night gallery, at 6,000 sq. ft. Both are located east of downtown LA.
The Broad Contemporary opens in LA in 2014. It will have 50,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space. It across the street from MoCA on Grand avenue.
birdseye

Kayne Griffin Corcoran Gallery

e

Kayne Griffin Corcoran Gallery – Adaptive reuse: A 10,000 sq ft building converted to art gallery.

The architectural design of the gallery transforms a typical bow-string truss warehouse into a museum-like gallery space, and the project incorporates the permanent site-specific work of James Turrell.

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kayne griffin corcoran gallery - courtyard

kayne griffin corcoran gallery – courtyard
kayne griffin corcoran gallery - main gallery

kayne griffin corcoran gallery – main gallery

BLUM & POE at 2727 S. La Cienega Blvd.

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LAURA OWENS 12,000 sq. ft. space named 356 Mission is with Gavin Brown Enterprises, just east of downtown LA.
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HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

Hot on the Scene L.A. Gallerist Maggie Kayne on Contemporary Art

Maggie Kanye Portrait - P 2013
Courtesy of Annabel Mehran
Maggie Kayne

The art dealer of Kayne Griffin Corcoran opens an exhibit featuring the work of French abstractionist Francois Morellet and will debut an exhibit by David Lynch in November.

Maggie Kayne greets a visitor at her L.A. gallery, Kayne Griffin Corcoran, with a conspiratorial gleam in her eye. “I want to show you the conference room,” she says, beckoning down a side corridor to a nondescript white door. Inside is a room, awash in an arctic blue glow, that induces a soothing effect both potent and instantaneous- like snorting a Xanax. “It’s a James Turell Sky Space,” explains Kayne, pointing up to one of the artist’s signature ceiling apertures — a rectangular dome illuminated by a framework of LED lights that are programmed to shift color gradually. As she settles into a chair, the walls blush a pale pink.  “I’m always mellow and this brings people down to my level,” says Kayne.

A little bit hippie (she mentions her zodiac sign, Gemini, and owns an infrared sauna), a little bit rock n’roll (she zips around town on a Ducati in a Rick Owens men’s leather jacket) Kayne gives off serious cool girl vibes. Yet the 29 year old insists that wasn’t always the case. “[In high school] my mom used to make my sister, Jenni, take me out and include me,” she laughs. Jenni, of course, is Jenni Kayne, the West Coast fashion mainstay whose eponymous collection of breezy sportswear is a favorite among L.A.’s young social set. Although close, the siblings differ noticeably — evidenced by their wardrobes. “Jenni is more of a lady. … I’m a chic bum,” says Maggie, who today is sporting battered Alden desert boots with Proenza Schouler black jeans and a denim vest.

Moreover, unlike Jenni, who launched her line in 2003, Maggie’s career success is freshly minted. The gallerist first caught the art world’s attention in 2011 when she orchestrated a gallery partnership with notable industry veterans Bill Griffin and James Corcoran. The dynamic plays to their individual strong suits with Kayne spearheading programming and scouting fresh talent while her two cohorts broker behind the-scenes deals. “I’m not really a born sales person,” says Kayne. “So they kind of make up for that.”

In May, the trio moved from their Santa Monica location into a stunning, new 15,000 square foot space befitting a blue chip gallery. Turell, whom Kayne befriended through Griffin and Corcoran, was brought on board to design the Sky Space along with the building’s lighting scheme and various outdoor elements like the trellises and landscaping. “I wanted something that felt warm and casual and very L.A.,” says Kayne, gesturing to the bougainvillea-festooned courtyard that can double as an al fresco exhibition space.

Kayne’s management style is similarly laid back. Rather than amass a permanent stable (she bristles at the mention of “representation”), she prefers to maintain close relationships with established talent like Turrell, David Lynch (who has a show of artworks opening there Nov. 23), and Deanna Thompson while arranging one-off exhibits with artists she discovers along her travels. In July, she tapped Berlin-based conceptual artist, Daniel Knorr, for a solo show that found an unlikely muse in Los Angeles’ urban sprawl with resin sculptures taken from casts of street potholes. This week, an exhibit featuring the work of French abstractionist Francois Morellet opens. Entitled No End Neon (through Nov. 15), the show includes paintings and adhesive wall installations along with the Morellet’s famous large-scale neon works. “The more I learned about him the more excited I became to bring his work to Los Angeles where he hasn’t had any previous exposure,” says Kayne who commissioned a major site-specific piece comprised of 29 argon neon tubes for the exhibit.

Despite her obvious enjoyment of the job, Kayne says gallery ownership was never the plan. Not that she really had one. After graduating high school in 2002, she drifted in and out of college — from Berkley to NYU to USC – unmotivated, unsure of what she wanted to do. It wasn’t until a friend began picking up artworks like Basquiat drawings and Warhol polaroids –that the light bulb went off. “I realized that I could participate in contemporary art,” explains Kayne. “[It] was not just the A.P. class that I had to memorize paintings in.” With the support of her father, wealthy financer, Richard Kayne, she began collecting herself — a Ken Price here, a Craig Kauffman there — while taking on internships at LACMA and local gallery, Overduin and Kite. “I needed exposure and work experience in order to figure out my path,” says Kayne. “And I wasn’t going to get it in school.”

Today, Kayne’s lack of a formal art history education — or rather the iconoclastic streak which prompted her to reject one — is proving an asset. “The L.A. art world has for a long time itself been missing,” says Turrell. “But that has changed and that change is represented by people like Maggie coming into it. It’s sort of reinvigorated what’s always been possible in L.A., but at a much higher level.”

Kayne puts it more bluntly: “James Turrell says that taste and convention are kinds of restrictions and that L.A. is a revenge of the tasteless. So there really is no limit to what I can do here. I’m not really bound by any sort of definition of a gallery.”

==

Museum | WENDE MUSEUM Culver City

THE WENDE MUSEUM is a research and educational based institute with a collection of 70,000 Cold War artifacts. The artifacts are preserved as resources and made available for historical and scholarly research, with the intentions of applying the lessons of the past to the present. The Wende Museum contains the largest collection of cold war artifacts in the world, including the largest collection of Berlin Wall outside of Berlin.

Kommentare sind geschlossen.

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Prism gallery is on Sunset boulevard in West Hollywood.

renzo piano + zoltan pali: academy museum of motion pictures update

designboom
renzo piano + zoltan pali: academy museum of motion pictures update

renzo piano + zoltan pali: academy museum of motion pictures update
9
‘academy museum of motion pictures’ by renzo piano, california, USA
all images © renzo piano
upon realizing the initial goal to collect 100 million dollars, the academy of motion picture arts and sciences has announced its
plans for the new, and first, ‘academy museum of motion pictures’ in beverly hills, designed by italian architect renzo piano and
local architect zoltan pali. the 300,000 square-foot structure will be the result of a revitalization of the historic may company
wilshire building in los angeles, restoring the facades which face wilshire and fairfax streets amidst the los angeles county museum of art campus.
originally constructed in 1938 and left vacant for the past 20 years, the addition of exhibitions, gallery spaces, screening rooms,
an interactive education center and demonstration laboratories will weave the building back into LA’s urban and cultural fabric.the collection will feature over 140,000 films, 10 million photos, 42,000 original film posters, 10,000 production drawings, props, costumes,
equipment and behind-the-scenes personal accounts from artist and technical innovators to illustrate the rich history of cinema
and its constant development.update:

we have updated the original article published on october 19th, 2012 with additional images and drawings below to
further illustrate the structure.


model


site plan
floor plan / level 0


section


section

‘the design for the museum will finally enable this wonderful building to be animated and contribute to the city after sitting empty for so long,
I am very inspired by the academy’s name and mission, the idea of the arts and sciences working together to create films. our design will preserve
the may company building’s historic public profile while simultaneously signaling that the building is taking on a new life that celebrates
both the industry and art form that this city created and gave to the world.’
– renzo piano



large iconic dome on the backside of the structure



the scale and character of the original building is restored, paying homage to the history of film


entrance

apr 14, 2013
Jun 24, 2013

Sep 13, 2013
The Academy Film museum will be located on LACMA’s campus.
06.06.2013
LACMA’s new museum plan

Academy film museum to include 3 theaters, Oscar ‘experience’

April 11, 2013|By Julie Makinen and Nicole Sperling
  • The current architectural rendering for The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
The current architectural rendering for The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. (?Renzo Piano Building Workshop/?Studio…)

A spaceship-like, 1,000-seat theater may be the most striking feature of the Motion Picture Academy’s planned film museum at LACMA, but the organization has also revealed a bevy of other details about what the six-story, 290,000-square-foot facility opening in 2017, will include. Some highlights:

Ground Floor: This will consist of a public piazza, the museum lobby, a cafe and a gift store. The piazza will connect the film museum to the rest of the LACMA campus. The academy says “a majestic red carpet and Cannes-style grand staircase” will take visitors into the soaring 1,000-seat, domed “premiere theater,” to be named for David Geffen, who has pledged $25 million to the $300-million museum.

From the piazza, visitors will enter the ground floor of the exhibit space where they will find a two-story 12,000-square-foot “making of…” experience. The academy says this permanent and interactive exhibition “will recreate the experience of real-life theatrical moviemaking” and will “allow visitors to make lasting memories while learning how to shoot and edit a film, light a set, oversee a voiceover session, score a film, overlay visual effects, color correct, become a Foley artist, utilize a green screen and more.”

 

Connected to the “making of” exhibition will be a “demonstration stage” with room for 150 people to watch as “academy members and other moviemaking professionals who will conduct clinics and master classes tied to the arts and sciences of moviemaking.”

Also planned for that section of the museum is a two-story, 6,200-square-foot gallery to present traveling shows and special exhibitions, some of which may be developed in collaboration with other cultural institutions.

Second floor: This story will include more than 10,000 square feet devoted to this history of the movies. Topics to be covered in this section include:

— Lumière and the Cinématographe

— Edison and the Kinetoscope and Vitascope

— the Silent Age of Cinema

— the rise and influence of the studio system

— the defining of classic film genres — musicals, westerns, gangster films, horror films

— the impact of World War II on movie making

— film noir and the blacklist

— the impact of TV on the movie industry

— epics and 3-D

— the business of moviemaking, including exhibitors, studios, guilds, agencies

— foreign films

— teen culture

— independent cinema

— animation throughout the decades

— digital versus film; the impact of new technologies; and more.

A 144-seat theater will be part of the film history gallery and will host screenings tied to the exhibits. The academy says this theater will also showcase film series and retrospectives, independent and experimental movies, and foreign films. Also planned for the second floor is a Founders Room, to be used as a “luxurious dining and special events space.”

Third Floor: This level will be largely devoted to chronicling the academy itself, with a permanent exhibit on the organization and the Oscars. A planned 8,700-square-foot multi-media and interactive exhibition will let visitors “walk the red carpet, learn about the history of the academy and the Academy Awards, explore the work of recent nominees, and even have the ability accept their own Oscar.” The academy bills this section of the museum as “thrilling.”

This section will allow visitors to learn about “every Oscar winner in every category throughout the history of the Academy Awards.” Attendees will also be able to view still shots and film footage of Academy Award shows and watch videos of acceptance speeches of past Oscar winners. (It remains to be seen whether this section will allow visitors to revisit Seth MacFarlane’s “We Saw Your Boobs” song from the 2013 show or Rob Lowe’s notorious musical number with Snow White from the 1989 telecast.) Another 144-seat theater will be embedded within the third floor, screening films related to the Oscars.

Fourth Floor: This will house a 8,700-square-foot gallery space for touring exhibits and a 1,500-square-foot education center, targeted at K–12 students.

Roof: Billed as “one of the most spectacular special event and scenic view spaces” in Los Angeles, the rooftop terrace is slated to host cocktail receptions, post-premiere parties, and other special events. A dining room and garden will accommodate 1,000 guests and the academy believes it will become “Los Angeles’ leading location for galas, awards ceremonies, and academy special events.”

Lower Level: The basement level will allow visitors a peek into the museum’s storage areas, giving them a glimpse of artifacts in the museum’s permanent collection not currently on display — including props, scripts, posters and photographs.

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LACMA Tar Patch
Govan, Zumthor shed light on designs for Los Angeles’ new museum.

Zumthor’s plans for rebuilding LACMA.
Courtesy Museum Associates / LACMA

Finally, plans for LA’s most anticipated new piece of architecture in more than a generation are starting to move beyond the realm of speculation. This week, Swiss architect Peter Zumthor and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) director Michael Govan sat down in front of an audience to discuss new designs for the museum, while at the same time the exhibition The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA opened for previews.

The plans are far from complete, but at this point Govan and Zumthor are hoping to replace most of the museum’s 1960s and 1980s structures with a two-story, amoeba-like building that curves its way around the east side of the LACMA campus. A six-ton (yes, six-ton) model of the design is now the centerpiece of The Presence of the Past.

   
 

After more than three years of relatively fruitless investigations with Govan, Zumthor admitted that he came up with the sinuous shape “out of pure desperation,” jotting the sketch down in haste. “The only way to relate to everything was to be its own thing,” noted Govan of Zumthor’s inspiration, which despite its shapelessness is still very much informed by the site, curving around existing buildings (including Bruce Goff’s Japanese Pavilion, which will be preserved) and landscape features. And from this point the two went about remaking what a museum can be.

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In a White Room
Top architects design five new galleries in Los Angeles.

Regen Projects.
Joshua White

“Today, Los Angeles is to New York what New York was to Paris in the 1950s,” said Perry Rubenstein, the latest Manhattan art dealer to recognize LA’s concentration of creativity and open a satellite there.

Like Matthew Marks Gallery and L&M Arts when they opened LA outposts, Rubenstein invited a local architect, Kulapat Yantrasast, principal of wHY Architecture, to fashion inventive variations on the white cube, giving it a strong sense of place within a gritty location. Los Angeles-only galleries like Blum & Poe, Regen Projects, and Samuel Freeman Gallery have taken a similar design approach.

Meanwhile, in recent years the LA art scene has branched out from affluent Santa Monica and West Hollywood, with clusters of galleries filtering into Chinatown, Culver City, and now the studio district of Hollywood. Their migration in search of affordable space has mimicked the march of galleries in New York City, from Madison Avenue to Soho and then to Chelsea and the Lower East Side.

Samuel Freeman Gallery.
Amy Stoner

What makes this urban experimentation so exciting for architects as well as the art world is clients’ passion for collaboration and excellence—rare qualities in a city where much new construction opts for expediency. Regen Projects owner Shaun Regen spent years searching for the ideal space in which to consolidate her activities. “When I first met Michael Maltzan about this project, the criteria were very simple: great proportions, beautiful light, and flexible space,” Regan recalled. She settled on Hollywood for its urbanity, history, and the opportunity to have a roof terrace overlooking the hills and city. Maltzan shared her enthusiasm. He designed an irregularly massed, white stucco block that plays off the form of a soaring Bekins storage facility a block away. The layered interior features a sweeping top-lit gallery flanked by a narrow street in front, with intimate rooms to the rear.

Matthew Marks Gallery.
Joshua White

Yantrasast pursued a similar course in remodeling a film storage facility for Perry Rubenstein a few blocks away. Rubenstein wanted something different from the generic big boxes of New York’s Chelsea district—a space that was “grand, but gracious and human in scale; visually dynamic and quietly poetic.”

Matthew Marks found a former upholstery shop on a residential street a mile to the west of Perry Rubenstein’s gallery and hired Venice architect Peter Zellner to design the freestanding building. He then invited Ellsworth Kelly to add a wall sculpture. The artist superimposed a black bar atop the blank white facade. This powerful artwork complements Zellner’s gallery, a serene white volume lit from a grid of six deep-set skylights.

Gagosian Gallery.
Joshua White

Young LA gallerist Samuel Freeman recently relocated from Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station Arts Center to Culver City, two blocks from Blum & Poe. (After first moving to the neighborhood in 2003, Blum & Poe assumed new quarters in 2009, designed by California-based Escher GuneWardena Architecture.) Warren Wagner of W3 Architects exploited the trapezoidal corner site to create exhibition spaces of varied sizes, each with glass sliders that open to an inner courtyard. He clad the exterior in white stucco and cold-rolled steel. Each gallery is ideally proportioned, and clerestories and skylights pull in natural light from different directions, giving the rooms a residential quality.

Meanwhile, the world’s most successful gallerist has returned to his roots. Larry Gagosian, who went from selling posters in Los Angeles’ Westwood neighborhood to running a global empire, recently commissioned Michael Palladino, a Los Angeles design partner of Richard Meier + Partners, to extend the Beverly Hills gallery his firm designed in 1995. With the addition seamlessly joined on the street facade, the building bears a new interior incorporating a bow-truss ceiling vault flanked by skylights. These forms, in turn, play off the upturned curve of the original structure, complementing its ethereal precision with simpler, earthier forms.

Michael Webb
Perry Rubenstein Gallery.
Christopher Norman

Remarkable Art Museum Expansions Across America

HOUSTON

Asia-Society-Texas-Center.jpg

Asia Society is the leading pan-Asian organization dedicated to promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among peoples, leaders and institutions of Asia and the United States in a global context. They recently opened their new Yoshio Taniguchi-designed home in April.

MENIL COLLECTION EXPANSION, MENIL DRAWING INSTITUTE AND OTHER PLANNED STRUCTURES

“Those facilities include the Menil Drawing Institute and Study Center, an auditorium, a café, additional space for Menil archives and buildings devoted to the work of individual artists.”

 –
SWAMPLOT
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What the New Collection of Menil Collections Might Look Like

The firm of British architect David Chipperfield has been selected to design a master plan for the expansion of the Menil Collection campus. What’s to be added?

Those facilities include the Menil Drawing Institute and Study Center, an auditorium, a café, additional space for Menil archives and buildings devoted to the work of individual artists.

The Menil Foundation is also interested in developing “income-producing properties” along the coming Richmond rail line, reports Douglas Britt in the Houston Chronicle.

Fitting in so many new buildings, of course, will be a lot easier once the Menil decides which of its many neighboring properties it wants to knock down. And owning 30 acres in the area means there are plenty of possibilities!

Which will go first? The gray-washed arts bungalows? The small rental properties? Richmond Hall? Richmont Square?

* * *

Chipperfield, one of six architects initially in the running for the planning job, presented four initial ideas to a Menil committee. “Chipperfield is incredibly open and flexible,” Menil deputy director Emily Todd tells Britt.

Those preliminary schemes don’t appear to have been released, but British website Building includes these images with its report of the Chipperfield selection:

Resized and spliced together, they appear to be a much-wider-angled version of this view of the Menil campus looking south from Sul Ross, just east of Mulberry minus, of course, all those oaks.

The large porticoed structure on the right appears to represent the Menil itself. Notable also: the small brownish building just left of center looks to be one of the few Menil bungalows left standing in this scheme — several of them now line the south side of Branard.

ARTNEWS

News

Thinking Big

By Posted 05/29/12

Gary Tinterow returns to Texas to run the Museum of Fine Arts—and to grow it even larger

“My role will be different than it ever could have been at the Met,” says Tinterow of his new position in Houston.

F. CARTER SMITH/COURTESY MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, HOUSTON

Gary Tinterow is having his Proustian moment. After leaving Houston 40 years ago to attend Brandeis University in Massachusetts and then graduate school at Harvard, he spent almost three decades at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, since 2008 as chairman of the department of 19th-century, modern, and contemporary art. Earlier this year, Tinterow returned to his hometown to take over the directorship of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He felt well prepared for the job but not for the rush of dormant memories triggered by certain smells or voices.

“When I left for college, I couldn’t get far enough away from Texas,” said Tinterow during a brief trip back to New York in February for the Met’s opening of “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde,” organized under his stewardship. “I wanted to go to an environment with brick sidewalks and gas lamps, someplace historic. Houston I felt was all about new. Coming back, the big change for me is how great it feels to be in Houston.” Indeed, the tall, willowy 58-year-old, who often seemed in perpetual motion in the galleries at the Met, projects a new sense of calm.

Tinterow is returning to a museum—he interned under the former MFAH director William Agee in 1975 and 1976—that was formative to his early love of art. He has indelible memories of sketching the Mies van der Rohe– designed pavilion as a teenager and of seeing a show of Color Field paintings by Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis, and Jules Olitski. Tinterow feels lucky to have inherited such a financially healthy institution from his predecessor, Peter Marzio, who died in late 2010. During his 28-year tenure, Marzio built the encyclopedic collections to 63,000 objects and oversaw the Rafael Moneo–designed expansion that opened in 2000, making the museum one of the ten largest in the country. Its endowment is valued at approximately $1 billion, behind only the Getty’s and the Metropolitan’s. Underway for some time have been plans for a third museum building, to house modern and contemporary collections. The institution acquired a two-acre site, currently a parking lot, across the street from the two museum buildings and adjacent to both its Isamu Noguchi–designed sculpture garden and Glassell School of Art. In February, with Tinterow’s input, the museum named Steven Holl as the project architect.

“Among the most compelling of Holl’s ideas on a practical basis was the proposal to excavate two floors of underground parking underneath the entire new museum site and Glassell School, allowing for a low-rise building that would be respectful of Moneo and Mies,” says Tinterow of the structure, which will likely connect by tunnel under the street to the existing galleries. He also feels that Holl’s proposal to use a translucent skin of milky glass that would glisten by day and be illuminated by night would provide a harmonious contrast with the black steel of the Mies building and the limestone of the Moneo. He estimates that the overall project will cost from $250 to $300 million, and at the top of his to-do list is to begin raising the money.

If spearheading a new building from the ground up is a monumental project, Tinterow anticipates it being easier than the challenge he just left: negotiating an outpost for the Metropolitan’s modern and contemporary art in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Madison Avenue building once the Whitney’s staff and collections move to its new home downtown, in 2015. Tinterow first had the epiphany for an off-site facility while looking at the back of the head of Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate in London, who was sitting a few rows in front of him on a plane in 2008. “I thought, Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Britain—Met Modern, Met,” he recalls saying to himself as he realized there was going to be an empty building on Madison. While he received immediate interest in the idea from then-chairman of the Whitney board Leonard Lauder and former Metropolitan director Philippe de Montebello, bringing the Met’s trustees on board took much longer than he expected. Last May, both institutions agreed in principle to a multiyear collaboration.

“The Met’s trustees asked very tough questions, as they should given their role as governors of the institution,” says Tinterow, noting the museum’s complicated and sometimes contentious relationship with contemporary art, dating back a century to when trustee J. Pierpont Morgan questioned what the Met was doing buying the work of the contemporary French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Yet Tinterow feels the perception of the Metropolitan’s resistance to contemporary art was a gift to him because anything he was able to accomplish in that area looked significant. He is particularly proud of how he enlivened the rooftop garden with works by living artists, including Cai Guo-Qiang, Roxy Paine, Jeff Koons, and Mike and Doug Starn—who, with a team of rock climbers, continually constructed a monumental bamboo structure with internal pathways, which visitors could traverse, throughout the course of the 2010 exhibition.

“There were many naysayers, but in fact ‘Big Bambú’ was a spectacular success, a great work of art, and the public loved it,” says Tinterow. “It really gave the Met a different sensibility.” During his tenure, Tinterow organized more than 40 exhibitions, built up the museum’s great collection of 19th-century paintings, and addressed some of the holes in the 20th-century collection with, for instance, the acquisition of the Metropolitan’s first major Rauschen­berg.

While Tinterow unequivocally refers to the Metropolitan as “the greatest museum in the world,” he clearly has settled into his new life. “Texans like to think big,” says Tinterow, who relishes the space and light of the new house he bought with his partner and has found a dog sitter as well as a tuner for his harpsichord, which he hopes he will find more time to practice. He wants to build on Marzio’s active engagement with the city’s diverse communities and provide opportunities for young people to have the kind of experiences that he had as a kid there, zooming around the museum district on his bike.

Tinterow hopes to work with other museums in the district and with the city to create a more pedestrian-friendly zone—with better crosswalks, more cafés, and retail stores, the kind of amenities that will encourage people to stay longer in the area. “That’s where my role will be different than it ever could have been at the Met,” he says. “In these early days, the opportunities seem infinite. In New York, I knew all too well what would not be possible. I don’t yet know that about Houston and I hope I never find out.”

Hilarie M. Sheets is a contributing editor of ARTnews.

Copyright , ARTnews LLC, 48 West 38th St 9th FL NY NY 10018. All rights reserved.

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ST. LOUIS

Architizer News

Chipperfield’s Museum Expansion Set To Finally Open In St. Louis

February 15, 2013

Chipperfield

It’s been a long time coming, but  Sir David Chipperfield‘s expansion of the St. Louis Art Museum is finally scheduled to open later this year.

The museum, which houses one of the most comprehensive art collections in the United States (including an impressive catalog of post-war German artists), is located in the city’s large urban landscape, Forest Park. In 2005, the Museum Board selected Chipperfield to design the expansion, with St. Louis-based HOK serving as the project’s architect of record. Two years later the Museum finally released plans and renderings of the design, which sparked controversy among local residents.

Halted in 2008 during the economic downturn, the project did not break ground until 2010. Now, eight years in the making, the expansion—Chipperfield’s largest U.S. project to date—will finally open this summer. Read more.

Chipperfield

Chipperfield

Featuring a polished concrete façade that incorporates Missouri river aggregates, innovative skylights, and large windows, the new East Building design is decidedly more modern than the Beaux Arts-style building designed by Cass Gilbert for the 1904 World’s Fair. The modern design was actually a point of controversy among some residents, who feared the addition would clash with the iconic building. Thankfully, Chipperfield’s design provides a seamless transition between the two buildings, featuring a distinctive coffered ceiling that provides natural light and dynamic viewing experiences within the galleries. The oscillation of daylight was one of the central themes behind the design of the space, and which creates better light conditions to view the artworks as well as highlighting the architecture of the galleries. The new building, which sits on over 211,000 square feet, includes 21 new galleries as well as a new parking garage (an important amenity for a city so reliant on car travel!)

Chipperfield

CHipperfield

All photos: via St. Louis Art Museum 

While the St. Louis Art Museum is a public institution supported by regional property tax, the expansion was funded entirely through private donations. The construction of the expansion, which totaled $130 million, was the largest capital campaign for a cultural institution in the history of the city. The museum will be open  to all, and admissions will be free, following a 100-year old ordinance that uses regional property tax to cover the operating costs of the city’s cultural institutions. Continuing it’s commitment to the local community, the construction of the East Building has allowed for the expansion of the education infrastructure, creating new classrooms and study spaces within the building, as well as renovations to the 480-seat auditorium.

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ART MUSEUM

St. Louis Art Museum debuts $160 million expansion

Located in one of America’s most splendid urban parks, next to one of St. Louis’ grandest structures, the new East Building at the St. Louis Art Museum aspires to be adored on its own terms.

White oak floors and a dark polished facade, skylights and concrete coffers – the East Building is both airy and weighty.

On June 29, St. Louisans get their first look at the building and the museum’s extensive modern and contemporary art collection. Even director Brent Benjamin is amazed by the experience.

“I’ve seen the objects but never the extent and quality of this material out at one time,” said Benjamin. “The fact that we were able to more than double the presentation of the postwar material, but also increase the presentation of everything from Asian art to antiquities to African art to European art, is extraordinary.”

Designed by acclaimed British architect David Chipperfield, the Gold LEED-certified East Building is 210,000 square feet and features 21 galleries, a 300-space underground garage, a restaurant and a gift shop. The $160 million project also includes new classrooms, flooring and updated galleries in the main and south buildings, as well as $30 million to pay for increased operating costs.

“Visitors expect a gracious experience, and they should have it,” Benjamin said. “It seems kind of prosaic, but it’s really important.”

IF YOU GO

St. Louis Art Museum Grand Opening Celebration

When • 9:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, June 29, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, June 30

Where • St. Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive

How much • Free

More infoslam.org

Art Museum highlights

Twenty-one new galleries, 230 works of art.

The new East Building of the St. Louis Art Museum will offer art lovers a fresh look at some of contemporary art’s best works. Some pieces, such as Tony Smith’s “Free Ride,” have been locked in storage for decades; others, such as Donald Judd’s “Untitled,” have been on view, but never side-by-side with their acclaimed contemporaries.

Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol — all of the big names of modern art are represented. So are today’s hottest artists — Gerhard Richter, Kiki Smith, Kerry James Marshall and St. Louis’ own Tom Friedman.

Here, Simon Kelly, curator of modern and contemporary art, and Tricia Paik, assistant curator of modern and contemporary art, highlight of the most intriguing works featured in the new permanent exhibition space “A New View: Contemporary Galleries” and “Postwar German Art in the Collection,” the first exhibit in the East Building’s special exhibition galleries.

Robert Motherwell

“In Beige with Sand,” 1945

Influenced by European surrealists, Robert Motherwell was one of the youngest and most prolific members of the New York School, which also included Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Franz Kline. In this earlier work, Motherwell uses a number of media including sand and wood veneer.

“His best-known works play with stripes and circles and this one does too. You can see him looking forward to the later black and white paintings,” Kelly said.

Mark Rothko

“Red, Orange, Orange on Red,” 1962

Visitors will get a real “wow” moment as the enter the abstract expressionism gallery. This Mark Rothko painting literally glows with color.

“It’s really spectacular experience,” Kelly said. “He builds up these thin layers of luminous pigment to create these really wonderful, floating blocks of color. To me, it is abstract but it also suggest landscape. You have a sense of a horizon line and sunrise.”

Philip Guston

“Room 112,” 1957

Philip Guston served as an instructor at Washington University in the 1940s. He was replaced by another famous artist with a huge presence at the St. Louis Art Museum — Max Beckmann. The museum owns five of Guston’s paintings, including two featured in the New York School gallery — the colorful, abstract piece “Room 112” and the more monochromatic work, “Group 1.”

Tony Smith

“Free Ride,” 1962

Like many of the works returning to view, “Free Ride” required significant conservation. Specialists managed to restore the work’s dark, rich tone after years of outdoor exposure corroded its painted steel surface. This major work, one of an edition of three, reflects Tony Smith’s core interest in arranging cubic forms.

“In this case the composition was originally based on three Alka-Seltzer boxes he just started playing around with on a table,” Kelly said.

“Curtains,” 1962

Roy Lichtenstein

The East Building features two complementary Lichtensteins, the black-and-white painting “Curtains” and the ceramic sculpture “Black and White Head,” which the museum lent out for the recent traveling Roy Lichtenstein retrospective.

“There is this interest in suburban America in pop art of the 1960s,” Kelly said. “What’s interesting to me is the ironic element of their work that does critique of the grand aspirations of the abstract expressionists. The very fact he chooses curtains as the subject of a painting is interesting.”

Ellsworth Kelly 

“Spectrum II,” 1966-67

One of Ellsworth Kelly’s renowned “Spectrum” works, “Spectrum II” is a series of painted panels connected to create a single, almost glowing work. Like many of the works in this gallery, “Spectrum” is enormous — almost 23 feet long. The new East Building with its 16-foot ceilings and large galleries gives breathing room to works like Donald Judd’s “Untitled ” and Frank Stella’s 25-foot “Madinat as-Salam III.”

Richard Serra

“Untitled,” 1968

St. Louisans have been walking in and around the steel sculptures of Richard Serra for years. There is the 1981 sculpture “Twain,” located on the Gateway Mall and the 2000 work, “Joe,” located in the courtyard of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts. This earlier work, however, is made of rubber and lies flat. Serra mixed rubber with orange paint and poured it on a corrugated iron door to create three separate mats. The work has not been show in almost a decade.

“People don’t know his rubber pieces so well and I think it will be eye-opening for people,” Kelly said. “It is an important piece and it needs to be better known.”

Louise Nevelson

“New Continent,” 1962

Born in Russia, but obsessed with New York, Louise Nevelson called herself the original recycler. For “New Continent,” one of Nevelson’s famed wall sculptures, she scavenged the streets of New York for table legs, spindles and other found objects. Today, many artists transform trash into art, but in the 1960s, her approach was as curious as it was compelling.

Chuck Close

“Keith, 1970”

One of the best known works of the collection, “Keith” is a black-and-white large-scale painting of a photograph of friend Keith Hollingworth. Chuck Close used an airbrush to create the smooth surface yet the details — pores, wrinkles and hair — provide texture. Kelly calls it one of Close’s best works.

Tom Friedman

“Untitled (Seascape),” 2012

John Burroughs School and Washington University graduate Tom Friedman is an international art superstar. Known best for colorful, conceptual and often comic sculptures, “Untitled (Seascape)” is a folded piece of archival paper, creased to create the impression of moving waves.

“It’s an abstract but it speaks to the sea,” Kelly said. “One of the things I like about it is it has a great relationship with artistic tradition. You think of the photographer (Hiroshi) Sugimoto or Gerhard Richter seascapes and the minimalistic compositions of Gustave Le Gray. This is what he has done but has given it his own twist by the way he has created the sea in this clever way.”

El Anatsui

“Fading Cloth,” 2005

El Anatsui stitches together thousands of crushed metal caps and twisted foil wrappers from liquor bottles to create monumental wall sculptures that look like ornate undulating tapestries.

Grave Stele of Kallistrate, late 5th–early 4th century BC

The new East Building does feature one gallery of ancient art. One reason is practical: Located near the front door, these ancient objects of stone can stand up to fluctuations in climate better than their fragile counterparts of today. But the other reason is symbolic, says Lisa Çakmak, assistant curator of ancient art.

“The art in this gallery really is the beginning of art in the Western tradition,” Çakmak said. “The art of Renaissance Europe finds its origins in ancient Greece and Rome and that morphed into post-Renaissance, all the way to modern and contemporary. It’s sort of the great-great-great-great-grandfather of modern and contemporary Western art.”

Special exhibition galleries  

Gerhard Richter

“Betty,” 1988

Gerhard Richter made headlines in May when his painting “Domplatz, Mailand” sold for $37 million, a record for a work by a living artist. The previous record? That would be $34 million in 2012 for Richter’s work “Abstraktes Bild.”

Paik says his iconic work “Betty,” one of eight showcased in “Postwar German Art in the Collection,” is a prime example of his photorealistic painting techniques. She calls “Betty” the museum’s “un-‘Mona Lisa.'”

Joseph Beuys

“Felt Suit,” 1970

The museum dedicates an entire gallery to Joseph Beuys and the artists he taught and influenced. Paik calls him one of the last great Utopian painters of the 20th century. Beuys frequently used felt in his works believing the material offered warmth and healing. He wore this work in a performance piece protesting the Vietnam War.

“He’s someone who really tried to redefine what constituted art because he made artworks that were performances and participatory and ephemeral,” Paik said. “And yet, he still loved the art object. He valued them both.”

Georg Baselitz

“Seated Male Nude — Morocco,” 1976

Neo-expressionist pioneer Georg Baselitz is known today for his large-scale wooden sculptures, but in the 1960s he gained acclaim for paintings featuring upside-down people, buildings and landscapes.

“He is trying to slow down your understanding of the perception of the work by inverting it,” Paik said.

Anselm Kiefer

“Burning Rods,” 1984-87

In his meditation on both Egyptian mythology and the Chernobyl disaster, Anselm Kiefer uses lead, straw, porcelain, and iron to create “Burning Rods.”

Markus Lupertz

“Titan,” 1986

The 8-foot tall “Titan” looks out onto phase one of the art museum’s new sculpture garden. Unlike the ancient Greeks who created gods from polished marble, Markus Lupertz gives his hero a craggy face and clumsy hands. Still the effect is powerful.

“I like the way he’s peeking out of the space, almost like a threatening presence when you walk in,” Paik said.

Albert Oehlen

“Assistance in Drawing,” 1995

Like many artists in the 1980s, Albert Oehlen is exploring the nature of painting and drawing, first creating more figurative work before embracing abstraction.

“He’s exploring how you draw in different ways,” explained Paik. “There are these grand gestures and shapes but then these intimate and minute gestures used with ballpoint pen. He talks a lot about how he uses both expensive materials and cheap pigments.”

Thomas Struth

“Pantheon, Rome,” 1990

German photographer Thomas Struth has created monumental photographs of cities, rainforests and families. But some of his best-known works are pictures of museums or rather of the spectators who flock to them, awed by their grandeur.

CLEVELAND

Michael F. McElroy for The New York Times

A wall-size screen at the Cleveland Museum of Art shows all the objects on display. Visitors can use iPads to devise their own tours

THE ART NEWSPAPER LONDON

Cleveland Museum reopens entrance after seven-year refit

Vast atrium designed to be city’s new meeting space

By Pac Pobric. Web only
Published online: 05 November 2012


The Cleveland Museum of Art’s new 39,000 sq. ft Ames Family Atrium (Photo: Howard Agriesti)

Seven years after starting the project, the Cleveland Museum of Art officially opened its 39,000 sq. ft Ames Family Atrium on Sunday (29 October). The new space is part of a $350m expansion and modernisation, which is due to be completed in late 2013.

“The reason this has taken so long is that the entire campus was redone,” says David Franklin, the museum’s director. “The 1916 building was retrofitted and made state of the art, and [architect] Rafael Viñoly cleared away everything except for the original building and the 1971 Marcel Breuer wing. It will be a brand new museum by the end of 2013,” adding, “We’re right on budget.”

Around 40 local cultural groups took part in the opening, which highlighted the atrium as a civic space for discussion. The aim was to “symbolically return the museum to the city,” Franklin says. “We’re embracing as much as possible the full mosaic of cultural organisations in Cleveland. Each group will have its moment to shine”.

The festivities coincided with the opening of the show “Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes” (until 6 January 2013) and the unveiling of “Provenance”, the museum’s new restaurant, as well as a new museum store.

Steve Stephens | Dispatch photosThe Armor Court is one of the most popular displays at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

MEDIA BISTRO

Five Things You Should Know About the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland

By Stephanie Murg on November 8, 2012 2:33 PM


(Photo: Dean Kaufman)

With the ballots counted and the electoral votes tallied, the world can stop referring to Ohio using battle metaphors and take notice of what’s really swinging in the Buckeye State: art museums. There’s the reliably stellar Wexner Center (the first major public building designed by Peter Eisenman) in Columbus, Zaha Hadid‘s Contemporary Arts Center Cincinnati, and the Akron Art Museum, which in 2007 gained a soaring glass and steel structure by Coop Himmelb(l)au. But the big news is in Cleveland, where a Rafael Viñoly-designed expansion project is in full swing at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland is now welcoming visitors to its new $27.2 million home (above) by Farshid Moussavi. We paid a visit to MOCA Cleveland and have returned to offer these five informational morsels about the sleek and surprising new building–and what’s inside.

5. With six irregularly faceted sides clad primarily in mirror-finish black stainless steel, the 34,000-square-foot building’s striking exterior never looks the same twice. Moussavi happened upon the dusky Rimex paneling after her first choice (anodized gold aluminum) was nixed by the museum’s board of directors. “We discovered that this black steel acquired different dynamics when applied to our shape, with its surfaces that are tilted to different orientations and that catch the light differently,” said Moussavi during the museum’s opening weekend festivities. “It started playing with time.”

4. Visitors step inside to the “urban living room,” an airy ground floor space that includes the museum cafe and shop. Linger as long as you want: admission is only charged for those who ascend the craggy white central staircase to the exhibitions. First up, in the cozy second floor gallery, is David Altmejd’s largest vitrine piece to date, “The Orbit” (2012), a labyrinth of tumbling fruit, furry hands, and disembodied eyeballs. This marks the first time the artist has incorporated architectural elements into one of his Plexiglas-enclosed worlds. “I always deal with structures and of course I’m always confronted with their limitations,” the artist said in an interview with chief curator David Norr. “But I like the idea of constantly breaking that limitation.”

3. MOCA Cleveland director Jill Snyder had three main goals for the non-collecting institution’s new home. “What we strived for was flexibility, transparency, and sustainability,” she told us. Among the features of the soon-to-be-LEED-Silver-certified building are floors stacked to offer glimpses of usually behind-closed-doors museum functions (admin offices, the wood workshop, the loading dock), enclosed fire stairs that double as a sound gallery, and, underneath the adjoining public plaza, geothermal wells.

2. The inside of the building shell is painted dark, matte blue (think Yves Klein ultramarine at midnight). It’s the museum’s new signature color and Moussavi’s ingenious way of both eschewing the typical white box and linking the building’s eccentric exterior to the program inside–while not clashing with the art. “It is part of the dark shell. It’s the inside of it,” said Paul Westlake of Westlake Reed Leskosky, which served as architect-of-record, structural engineer, and lighting designer for the new MOCA Cleveland. “And on one reading, it’s only black. It’s just dark. And on the second reading, it’s color.”

1. Having faced and cleared the hurdles imposed by the recent global financial crisis during a six-year process of fundraising, design, and building, MOCA Cleveland is one sexy museum. “I’m reminded of the words of a friend of mine, who said that the process of doing a building like this is like having sex in the backseat of car: it’s terribly exciting, but it’s not very comfortable,” said Westlake. “That’s what this design process was like.”

RELATED:

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CLEVELAND MAGAZINE

Friday, September 16, 2011

TRANSFORMER STATION – 8,000 sq. ft. museum space.

Cleveland Museum of Art announces Ohio City gallery


Come this time next year, Ohio City will have a more contemporary feel.The Cleveland Museum of Art and the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Foundation will open the exhibition space Transformer Station on West 29th Street. Built in the 1920s as a power station for the Detroit Avenue streetcar line, the Transformer Station will be renovated and expanded into an 8,000-square-foot space for art programs, exhibitions and installations.“It’s an opportunity to extend our reach to more Northeast Ohioans, specifically to this important and vibrant West Side of the city,” said David Franklin, the art museum’s director, in a press conference this morning.The Transformer Station will be the museum’s first separate space outside University Circle. “Fundamentally, it strengthens our ancient mission of benefiting all the people forever,” Franklin said.Fred Bidwell, co-founder and co-director of the Bidwell Foundation, said they chose the building to showcase art because of its industrial feel. And there’s an huge crane on the ceiling that can lift 15 tons. Who doesn’t need that?“The diversity, the grit, the intimacy, the urbanity of Ohio City, with its dynamic art scene, we felt was a perfect place for this showplace for the contemporary art,” said Bidwell in the press conference.The hopes are to have the Transformer Station open in late 2012. Franklin wants to encourage curators and collaborators to use the space as a laboratory and set up installations more spontaneously. This space will also allow young and local artists to show their work on the same floor as international artists.City councilman Joe Cimperman, who represents Ohio City, thanked the Bidwells for opening the Transformer Station. “This neighborhood takes this gift very seriously,” he said. “We take you as gifts very seriously. We cherish what you’re doing here, and we are all too well aware that you could have done this anywhere.”

Cimperman predicted the gallery would become important to the neighborhood’s future. “One day, in this building there will be children like me — who grew up on East 74th Street — [who,] but for the arts, would not be able to live the life they lived. So, if you want to know what you are doing today for this community, look 20 years from now to the generation that you are fostering.

DENVER
ARCHDAILY

Denver Art Museum / Daniel Libeskind

  • 05 Oct 2010
© Bitter Bredt

Architects: Studio Daniel Libeskind
Location: Denver, Colorado,
Joint Venture Partner: Davis Partnership
Contractor: M.A Mortensen Co. (Colorado)
Structural Engineer: Arup (Los Angeles)
Structural Connection Design: Structural Consultants, Inc.
Civil Engineers: JF Sato and Associates
Mechanical Air: Arup-Los Angeles
Mechanical/Electrical: MKK Engineers and Arup (Los Angeles)
Structural Engineers: ARUP (Los Angeles)
Structural Connection Design: Structural Consultants, Inc.
Civil Engineers: JF Sato and Associates
Interior Designers: Studio with Davis Partnership
Landscape Architects: Studio Daniel Libeskind with Davis Partnership
Lighting Consultant: George Sexton and Associates
Theater Consultant: Auerbach Pollock Friedlander
Acoustical Consultant: ARUP (Los Angeles)
Exterior Façade Consultant: Gordon H Smith, ARUP, BCE;
Project Area: 146,000 sq ft
Project Year: 2006
Photographs: Bitter Bredt, DAM, SDL, Michele Nastasi

The Extension to the Denver Art Museum, The Frederic C. Hamilton Building, is an expansion and addition to the existing museum, designed by the Italian Architect Gio Ponti. Inspired by the vitality and growth of Denver, the addition currently houses the Modern and Contemporary art collections as well as the collection of Oceanic and African Art. The extension, which opened in October 2006, was a joint venture with Davis Partnership Architects, the Architect of Record, working with M.A. Mortensen Co.

ground floor plan

To complete the vision for the extension Studio Daniel Libeskind worked closely with the director, curators, core exhibition team, the contract architect and the Board of Trustees. Since its opening, the new building has become a major cultural landmark for Denver, attracting thousands of visitors to the museum complex.

© Bitter Bredt
© Bitter Bredt

“Nexus is conceived in close connection with the function and aesthetic of the existing Ponti museum, as well as the entire Civic Center and public library. The new building is a kind of city hub, tying together downtown, the Civic Center, and forming a strong connection to the golden triangle neighborhood. The project is not designed as a stand alone building, but as part of a composition of public spaces, monuments and gateways in this developing part of the city, contributing to the synergy amongst neighbors, large and intimate.

“The materials of the building closely relate to the existing context as well as innovative new materials (such as titanium) which together will form spaces that connect local Denver tradition to the 21st Century.

section 01
© Bitter Bredt

“The amazing vitality and growth of Denver — from its foundation to the present — inspires the form of the new museum. Coupled with the magnificent topography with its breathtaking views of the sky and the Rocky Mountains, the dialogue between the boldness of construction and the romanticism of the landscape creates a unique place in the world. The bold and forward looking engagement of the public in forging its own cultural, urban and spirited destiny is something that would strike anyone upon touching the soil of Colorado.

© Bitter Bredt

“One of the challenges of building the Denver Art Museum was to work closely and respond to the extraordinary range of transformations in light, coloration, atmospheric effects, temperature and weather conditions unique to this City. I insisted these be integrated not only functionally and physically, but culturally and experientially for the benefit of the visitors’ experience.

© Bitter Bredt

“The new building is not based on an idea of style or the rehashing of ready made ideas or external shape because its architecture does not separate the inside from the outside or provide a pretty facade behind which a typical experience exists; rather this architecture has an organic connection to the public at large and to those aspects of experience that are also intellectual, emotional, and sensual. The integration of these dimensions for the enjoyment and edification of the public is achieved in a building that respects the hand crafted nature of architecture and its immediate communication from the hand, to the eye, to the mind. After all, the language of architecture beyond words themselves is the laughter of light, proportion and materiality.”

China’s Spectacular New Art Museums

This is a collection of images and articles that cover the astounding new museums of art being built or already built-in China over the last few years. The startling rise of China’s gigantic economy is being matched by their movement and presence on the global stage. China has both centers for art production in Shanghai and Beijing, and a dazzling new international art market that will also be the third reveal of the phenomenal Art Basel art fair, which debuts in Hong Kong in 2013. No where else on earth is as fast-moving as the exponential growth in the China art scene and art worlds. China already has world-class collectors and collections, and is repatriating art purchased in the West back into its country of origin. China also is positioned in the secondary markets with its own global branded auction houses. China is building remarkable and gorgeous, stunningly beautiful museums that represent everything from a region to the nation to a single person contemporary artist. Yet what will further ground all the cultural movement are these new and amazing super-large scaled museums of art. Take for example the Chinese Museum of Wood. It is both spiritual and everyday, and holds most rewarding examples of works created in the woodworking tradition. Fortunately for us in the West, and in the US in particular, we will finally get to see China showcase itself in all of its cultural manifestations – no different than has Paris, with its various historic museums both small and enormous, that are markers of civilization for all the accomplishments of humanity.

Vincent Johnson

Los Angeles

10.9.2012

Two at Night (2012) from the Cosmos suite of paintings by Vincent Johnson in Los Angeles

http://vincentjohnsonart.com/

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http://www.evolo.us/architecture/national-art-museum-of-china-proposal-mad-architects/

National Art Museum of China Proposal / MAD Architects

By: Lidija Grozdanic | October – 1 – 2012

National Art Museum of China, MAD Architects, architecture competition, museum architecture, floating architecture, 2008 Olympics

The building was designed by MAD Architects, as proposal for the international competition for the future National Art Museum of China in Bejing. Their concept is based on an elevated public square which is protected by a floating mega volume above.

The original structure of the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) built in 1962, houses one of the country’s largest art collections and has played host to some of the influential exhibitions as recorded in contemporary Chinese history. The current plans are to move the institution into a new building, situated within a designated ‘art district’ on the central axis of the 2008 Olympic site.

National Art Museum of China, MAD Architects, architecture competition, museum architecture, floating architecture, 2008 Olympics

MAD’s design is organized into three layers, where programs are divided by each level. The one-storey ground floor houses all ancillary functions and is conceived in such a way that it can be operated independently from the museum in off hours. Above this, a 20,000 square meter urban plaza program acts as the main gallery for permanent art collections and exhibitions. The arrangement of this hall gives visitors the opportunity to decide how to engage with the works on show, while simultaneously being surrounded by outward views of the surrounding cityscape courtesy of windows that wrap around the perimeter of the structure. This level is also directly connected to the former Olympic park via a bridge, thus making use of an area of the urban plan which would otherwise be ignored.

National Art Museum of China, MAD Architects, architecture competition, museum architecture, floating architecture, 2008 Olympics

National Art Museum of China, MAD Architects, architecture competition, museum architecture, floating architecture, 2008 Olympics

National Art Museum of China, MAD Architects, architecture competition, museum architecture, floating architecture, 2008 Olympics

National Art Museum of China, MAD Architects, architecture competition, museum architecture, floating architecture, 2008 Olympics

National Art Museum of China, MAD Architects, architecture competition, museum architecture, floating architecture, 2008 Olympics

This is design of a Beijing based architecture firm named MAD, they unveiled their new museum for Chinese wood sculptures. The museum is located in Habrin main city in Northern China. The city itself is currently trying to defining itself as a regional hub for the arts at a time when the historic city is rapidly expanding. That’s why they choose to build this museum right there right now. The main idea of the Chinese wood sculptures museum is inspired by the unique local landscapes of the city. The museum is a contrast between the elegance of nature and the speed of daily life. The museum is about 200 meters long and for the concept is shaped to explore and reflect the relation between the building and the environment as a big frozen fluid. The interior of the museum is separated on two general parts. Each one represents an expedition. They are connected mutually by a centralized entrance which separates the two museums while simultaneously joining them. This is used to make the impression of symbiotic relationship between the two expeditions. Another good idea by the designers is the full glass roof, this not only make the outside of the building outstanding and looking futuristic, but also helps for the sunlight to lighten the entire museum and helping for the viewing atmosphere inside.

Siteplan of the China Wood Sculpture Museum
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Chinese architect Pei-Zhu’s OCT Design Museum in Shenzhen, China.
Courtesy Studio Pei-Zhu
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Shanghai To Transform China Pavilion Into Art “Palace”

City Sets Ambitious Goal To Open 16 New Museums By 2015

The China Pavilion Will Reopen as the China Art Palace next fall

The China Pavilion Will Reopen as the China Art Palace next fall

Shanghai may be known as a city obsessed with the pursuit of money, but in recent years China’s most populous metropolis has busied itself with another obsession: rivaling Beijing as a cultural and artistic hub. As Jing Daily noted this past May, while Beijing still enjoys its status as China’s cultural and political capital, the city’s rampant growth over the past decade has cannibalized many of its vibrant arts districts and threatened many others, alienating the creative community and, in some cases, pushing artists to relocate.

This shift in Beijing, and Shanghai’s well-capitalized initiative to foster a more creative environment in the city, has invigorated Shanghai’s cultural ambitions. Over the last few years, new creative/lifestyle venues like 1933 (a restored Jazz Age abattoir), the Shanghai Songjiang Creative Studio, and the Rockbund Art Museum have opened their doors. Though red tape and fly-by-night private gallery owners continue to plague the industry, by 2015, Shanghai plans to open 16 more large-scale museums and galleries.

As Shanghai Daily writes this week, one of these 16 planned museums and galleries, the massive “China Art Palace,” is attracting particular attention. For the art “Palace,” the China Pavilion from last year’s Shanghai World Expo is being transformed into an art museum “on a par with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Musee d’Orsay in Paris,” according to a senior official. From the article:

The China Art Palace will collect top-level art from home and abroad, primarily to showcase the origins and development of China’s modern arts.

It is part of a plan by the city government to build 16 new major museums and art galleries and many smaller museums by 2015 and make Shanghai an “international cultural metropolis,” said Zong.

“In the future, Shanghai residents will be able to find a museum and cultural venue within a 15-minute walk of their homes,” she said.

“The number and quality of art galleries and museums is an important measure of cultural standing – cities such as New York and Paris are famed for their top-level galleries,” said Teng Junjie, art director of the Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture Radio Film and TV.

The palace, which will cover an area of 70,000 square meters, will open on a limited basis next October, Zong said.

Most facilities from the former China Pavilion can be retained, bringing considerable savings, she said.

The three levels of the former main exhibition hall of the Expo pavilion will showcase the history and development of modern art of Shanghai and China, while the former joint pavilion for Chinese provinces and municipalities will have separate exhibition rooms for famous Chinese modern artists, including top Shanghai painter Cheng Shifa, said Teng.

As Teng Junjie added this weekend, the aim for cultural officials is to establish three major museums in the city by 2015: “the existing Shanghai Museum, the Shanghai Art Palace and the China Contemporary Art Museum – for historic, modern and contemporary artworks.” But, large scale public projects aside, more museums and galleries won’t do much to transform Shanghai into a cultural hub to rival New York, Paris or even Beijing unless, as Jing Daily pointed out earlier this month, the regulatory environment for private museums and galleries is transformed as well.

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Super-Collector Wang Wei’s Dragon Art Museum Hits Construction Milestone

2 tweets

12,000 Square Meter Museum Located In Shanghai’s Pudong District

Zhong Song's exterior design, featuring a projection of Chen Yifei's 1987 painting, "The Flute Player"

Zhong Song’s exterior design, featuring a projection of Chen Yifei’s 1987 painting, “The Flute Player”

This past February, Jing Daily covered Chinese art “super-collector” Wang Wei’s long-discussed private art museum in Shanghai, which Wang and billionaire investor husband Liu Yiqian plan to open next year. The “Dragon Art Museum” (龙美术馆) will showcase Wang and Liu’s extensive collection of blue-chip Chinese contemporary art on the ground floor, Wang’s Mao-era “Red Classics” from 1949-1979 on the second, and traditional works and ancient artifacts on the third floor.

Taking over a section of the former Tomson Centre (汤臣别墅商业中心) building in Shanghai’s Pudong district, near the Shanghai New International Expo Center, Wang’s museum will expand the original 8,000 square meter space to 12,000 square meters. With around 15 months to go until the museum’s planned November 18, 2012 grand opening, last weekend construction teams hit a milestone, starting work on the building’s facade.

Designed by Zhong Song (仲松), a “post-70s generation” artist and architect who started off his career at the studio of the late Beijing artist Chen Yifei, the museum’s facade is at tasteful and minimalist, going against the current preference for all things large and loud in the world of Chinese architecture. According to Zhong, the concept of the building’s facade is “clean and quality,” adding that he will use only light-colored granite for the exterior, installing fewer and smaller windows in order to give “a feeling of wholeness” to the building.

Based on an artist rendering of the exterior, which shows a projection of Chen Yifei’s 1987 work, “The Flute Player” on the museum’s facade, expect some high-tech features to be worked into the low-key granite-and-glass design. In addition to the facade currently under construction, crews will soon start work on the auxiliary warehouse, with all construction expected to be complete by the end of this year.

As Wang Wei told the Chinese art magazine Art Finance earlier this summer, she and Liu Yiqian have already invested over 200 million yuan (US$31 million) in the project, and are projecting an annual operating budget of 5 million yuan (US$774,000).

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http://imgace.com/pic/2012/09/comic-art-museum-in-china/

MVRDV: china comic and animation museum


‘china comic and animation museum’ by MVRDV, hangzhou, china
images © MVRDV

dutch practice MVRDV has won the international competition for the ‘china comic and animation museum’
in hangzhou, china. composed of eight balloon shaped volumes, the design looks to create an internally complex
experience measuring 30,000 square meters in total. fantastical and whimsical in its approach, the proposal is
part of a larger master plan that will include a series of parks, a public plaza and an expo center.


comic book library with view into interactive exhibition zone

set to break ground in 2012, the museum seeks to create a platform which will unite the evolving worlds of art
and entertainment. the application of one of the most iconic cartoon motifs – the speech bubble – allows the unit
to be instantly recognized as a place for comics, animation and cartoons. as text is projected onto the
monochromatic exterior surface, the forms come to life, further transforming the two dimensional motif into a
three dimensional reality.


interactive exhibition space

each of the eight volumes, occupied by unique and independent functions, are interconnected allowing for a
circular tour of the entire building. large voids at the point of interception provide visual connection and access
between the dynamic programs, which include a comic book library and three cinemas.


exhibition space

accommodating a range of versatile exhibition spaces, the museum will feature a permanent collection that is
presented in a chronological spiral along with smaller, adaptive halls for temporary displays.


exhibition space


entrance and view into multiple balloons


interactive light elements


aerial view of site


diagram of programs

additional images of the circulation zones:

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http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/9/view/20727/foster-partners-datong-art-museum.html

foster + partners: datong art museum


‘datong art museum’ by foster + partners, datong, china
all images © foster + partners

construction has begun in datong, china on the ‘datong art museum’, designed by london-based practice foster + partners.
four pyramidal roof peaks interlock to define the exterior form, evoking the imagery of an erupted landscape. the external surfaces
are clad with corten steel, a material with earthen hues and will continue to weather over time. one of four new buildings bordering
a new cultural plaza, the 32,000 square meter center will be slightly sunken into the earth, matching the scale of its neighbors.
visitors descend through a stepped courtyard of sculptures to enter the museum.

at the ground level, a grand gallery with a 37 meter tall atrium with a clear span of 80 meters provides a centerpiece area
for large-scale installations and exhibitions. skylights within the high ceilings introduce northern and north-western daylight,
creating an optimal environment to display artworks with natural illumination and minimal solar gain.


aerial view of the entry plaza at night

perimeter exhibition spaces will contain state-of-the-art climate controls. artificial lighting runs along tracks within ceiling recesses
and a 5 meter grid along the floor integrates security, data and power. with 70 percent of the structure formed from a roof,
the building is insulated almost twice more than code requires, reducing the presence and necessary maintenance with only
10 percent overall glazing.

scheduled to open in 2013, the venue will represent the country in the ‘beyond the building’ basel art international tour.


main entrance

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http://www.design42day.com/2011/11/the-national-art-museum-of-china-by-unstudio/

The National Art Museum of China by UnStudio

The-National-Art-Museum-of-China-by-UnStudio-7

The architectural design concept for The National Art Museum of China by UnStudio reminds the artifact of ancient Chinese “stone drums”.  Historically, the Stone Drum bears inscriptions that represent precious piece of the fragmentary puzzle of the Chinese script. This special form of the museum highlights the identity of the country, its spirit and essence. Moreover, the design concept is based on the duplicities that complement each other: day and night, inside and outside, fast and slow, dao or tao, individual and collective.
The main aim of this design concept is to give diversified and visible spaces for pieces of art. Also, the role of light is extremely important in the design of this building. The edifice is constructed in such a way that gives more opportunities for artists and curators in displaying their works and showing their ideas. Designers of the museum creating their work did not forget about the visitors. So, internally it is organized in such a manner that gives visitor a possibility to explore the museum by different paths around thematic consistencies of art.
Museum is greatly involved in urban context and provides the strong cultural presence for the area.

Tania Sinitsa
16/11/2011

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http://www.iguzzini.com/Museum_Lighting_National_Museum_Of_China

Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini
Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini

Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China – Art and culture iGuzzini

Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini
Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini
Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini
Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini
Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini
Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini
Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini
Museum Lighting: National Museum Of China - Art and culture iGuzzini
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About the project
One of the most ambitious project for the museum lighting made by iGuzzini is certainly the National Museum of China, completed in 1959 as one of ten important public buildings in Tiananmen Square, in direct proximity to the Forbidden City, the museum is still a milestone in the history of modern Chinese architecture.

The conversion and extension of the Chinese National Museum combines the former Chinese History Museum with the Chinese Revolutionary Museum. Outline plans were invited from ten international architectural firms and the project was awarded to Gerkan, Marg & Partners (gmp) for its submission, together with Beijing’s CABR, ahead of Foster & Partners, Kohn Pedersen Fox, OMA & Herzog & de Meuron.

The original GMP submission envisaged gutting the existing museum. The aim was to join the northern and southern wings in a single complex, by removing the central structure. The 260 metre long hall acts as its central access area. It widens to embrace the existing central entrance which opens onto Tiananmen Square. The ‘forum’ thus created acts as an atrium and multi-functional events area, with all services for the public, that is to say, cafes and tea shops, book shops and souvenir stores, ticket offices and toilets.

The museum lighting for the coffered roof extending along the entire forum and in the central Hall was designed by the lighting design office conceptlicht. A key feature of the concept is a special luminaire, developed by conceptlicht and produced by iGuzzini, which creates a welcoming atmosphere throughout the building.

This project required a customized solution to conceal the lighting source into the coffers. The project utilized down light optics with both traditional and LED sources.

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http://architecturelab.net/2008/08/art-museum-of-yue-minjun/

Art Museum of Yue Minjun

 posted in News

from Architectural Record

Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Image courtesy Studio Pei-Zhu

Studio Pei-Zhu, a Beijing-based firm, has designed a museum that will house the work of Yue Minjun, a Chinese contemporary artist known for his repetitive images of large, smiling figures.
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“While the devastating Sichuan earthquake in May left a large portion of Western China in ruins, signs are emerging that some notable building projects in the area are pushing forward. One of these projects is the Art Museum of Yue Minjun, designed by Beijing-based Studio Pei-Zhu, a 2007 Design Vanguard winner.

Located near the Qingcheng Mountains, and adjacent to the Shimeng River in Sichuan Province, the 10,700-square-foot museum will house the work of Yue Minjun, a Chinese contemporary artist known for his repetitive images of large, smiling figures. It will be one of 10 new museums on the same site, each dedicated to the work of an influential Chinese artist. Zhang Xiaogang and Wang Guangyi are among the other artists to be showcased. The complex, which is being developed by the local government of Dujingyuan, is the brainchild of Lu Peng, an art professor at the China Central Academy of Fine Art.

Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Images courtesy Studio Pei-Zhu

The Yue Minjun museum will contain exhibition space and a small artist’s studio. According to Pei Zhu, one of the firm’s principals, a river rock that he picked up one day inspired the building’s form—a large, oblong sphere. “Everything is based on the natural stone, which has a very strong relationship between the creek and the mountain and nature,” explains Zhu.

Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Image courtesy Studio Pei-Zhu

On the exterior, curvilinear walls will be clad in highly polished zinc, a soft metal that blends in with the natural surroundings while also giving the building a futuristic look. “Normally, architects will use a local material and vernacular language,” says Zhu. “We believe we needed to make something both futuristic and very natural.” It’s a striking departure from another recent project designed by the firm for the 2008 Summer Olympics: Digital Beijing, a control center whose façade resembles computer circuitry.

Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Image courtesy Studio Pei-Zhu

Work is already underway on the art museum. Site preparation began earlier this year, and the building should be completed by early 2009. Zhu says the earthquake delayed the project a mere three months, at most. “The developer still really wants to push this project [forward],” he says, “and we think that this will still benefit the society and the city.”

Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Images courtesy Studio Pei-Zhu

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https://i1.wp.com/www.e-architect.co.uk/images/jpgs/china/art_museum_yue_minjun_spz050608_3.jpg
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http://www.infoteli.com/beijing-art-museum-by-arata-isozaki-associates.htm

CAFA Art Museum

Beijing Art Museum by Arata Isozaki & Associates

Beijing Cafa Art Museum Photo
Beijing CAFA Art Museum
CAFA Art Museum Architecture
Interior of Beijing CAFA Art Museum
Wall Design Beijing CAFA Art Museum

CAFA Art Museum, located at the northeast corner of campus CAFA (China Central Academy of Fine Arts), is set from curvilinear walls covered with traditional Chinese slate.

The walls are separated at the ends to which natural light enters the building through skylights and large windows.

From the main entrance, located in the center of the building, access to a large atrium in height with long straight ramps that ascend gradually to the various floors of the museum. Natural light spreads throughout the museum through the membranes of fiberglass skylights.

The ground floor can accommodate large installations that can be seen from the different levels of the ramp. The permanent collection, focusing on traditional Chinese art, is located on the first floor galleries, temporary exhibitions in the second and third floors.

Large open spaces with natural light, curvilinear walls, allow many different kinds of contemporary art installations. The exhibition space on the third floor is open to the double volume of the second floor.

There are four floors above ground, two below ground. The library and cafeteria are located in the main space on the ground floor. Basement 1 includes a reading room, a study room and a conference room. 2 In the basement offices are located in conservation of paintings and calligraphy, including the restoration room, laboratory and warehouse of temporary and permanent collections. Technical equipment protected stairways and elevators are located in rectangular volumes, covered with marble.

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Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio

  • 22 Feb 2009
©

In Iwan Baan‘s website, we found one of the latest works he photographed, the Ningbo Historic Museum designed by Wang Shu, .

An amazing stone work, more pictures after the break:

Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (1) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (2) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (3) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (4) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (5) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (6) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (7) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (8) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (9) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (10) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (11) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (12) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio (13) © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan

MoMA Chengdu / Studio Ramoprimo

By: Lidija Grozdanic | February – 22 – 2012

Organized by the Chengdu Ministry of Culture and the Chengdu Culture and Tourism Development Group, the Competition for the Chinese MoMA was part of an initiative for creating a double ring of public facilities around the Tianfu Square in Chengdu. The first ring is supposed to consist of cultural facilities. The second and larger one is planned for highrises.

Museum of Modern Art china

Designed by Studio Ramoprimo, the winning entry proposes a dialogue with the surrounding, drawing physical references from the existing urban and architectural condition. The basic idea is to enlarge the existing public space of Tianfu Square and make it “climbing” on the roof of the new building. The new museum is a group of volumes creating a small cultural city.

Two main axis cut the site area defining a comfortable pedestrian island where people can walk away from cars. The new urban situation is also establishing new visual and physical connections between existing parts of the city. People can pass through the plot and easily come from the Tianfu square and reach the surrounding museums. The four museum blocks create an arising slope on which people can walk, seat, play, have a rest, enjoy the view to the central square like in a open public theater. The whole shape according the function is rising step by step from the earth to the sky, while the ending corner of the building replaces the original position of the ancient and forgotten city wall.

The Museum Of Contemporary Art & Planning Exhibition proposal is located at Futian District, Shenzhen’s most important central region for administration, business and culture. The building functions as part of Shenzhen’s civic centre, where the City Library, Opera House, Central Bookstore, Youth Activity Hall (YAH) and other civic building have been built. The international competition held in 2007 required The Museum Of Contemporary Art & Planning Exhibition (MOCAPE) to include two independent and yet inter-connected parts: The museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and Planning Exhibition (PE). Designed by Rome-based LABORATORIO 543, the proposal is a 90.000 square meter structure that aims to enhance the service of Shenzhen’s new civic center.

The building is divided into two parts: the first rests on the ground and the other is suspended on the upper level. These undulating segments have multiple connection points, ensuring the overall stability of the structure and facilitating communication between different programs. The structural frame, which is required to support the suspended level, can be compared to a cantilever. Located at ground level, the main entrance belongs to a composition of

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Art Museum of Yue Minjun

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from Architectural Record

Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Image courtesy Studio Pei-Zhu

Studio Pei-Zhu, a Beijing-based firm, has designed a museum that will house the work of Yue Minjun, a Chinese contemporary artist known for his repetitive images of large, smiling figures.
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“While the devastating Sichuan earthquake in May left a large portion of Western China in ruins, signs are emerging that some notable building projects in the area are pushing forward. One of these projects is the Art Museum of Yue Minjun, designed by Beijing-based Studio Pei-Zhu, a 2007 Design Vanguard winner.

Located near the Qingcheng Mountains, and adjacent to the Shimeng River in Sichuan Province, the 10,700-square-foot museum will house the work of Yue Minjun, a Chinese contemporary artist known for his repetitive images of large, smiling figures. It will be one of 10 new museums on the same site, each dedicated to the work of an influential Chinese artist. Zhang Xiaogang and Wang Guangyi are among the other artists to be showcased. The complex, which is being developed by the local government of Dujingyuan, is the brainchild of Lu Peng, an art professor at the China Central Academy of Fine Art.

Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Art Museum of Yue Minjun
Images courtesy Studio Pei-Zhu

The Yue Minjun museum will contain exhibition space and a small artist’s studio. According to Pei Zhu, one of the firm’s principals, a river rock that he picked up one day inspired the building’s form—a large, oblong sphere. “Everything is based on the natural stone, which has a very strong relationship between the creek and the mountain and nature,” explains Zhu.

Beijing To Build “World’s Largest Art Museum”: What’ll They Fill It With?
Source:Jing Daily Date: 2011-03-18 Size:
This week, as part of its 12th five-year plan, Beijing announced a new phase for the National Art Museum of China, a massive, glass-covered structure that is being touted as “the world’s largest art gallery.” Currently in the design process, the new National Art Museum will be located next to the current museum and near the Beijing National Stadium, with construction expected to begin next spring.

Chinese Contemporary Art Getting Scarcer; Can Auctions Be Museums’ Only Source For Top Art?

Preliminary design for the National Art Museum of China new phase

This week, as part of its 12th five-year plan, Beijing announced a new phase for the National Art Museum of China, a massive, glass-covered structure that is being touted as “the world’s largest art gallery.” Currently in the design process, the new National Art Museum will be located next to the current museum and near the Beijing National Stadium, with construction expected to begin next spring. While the new National Art Museum sounds like another example of the Chinese government building a mammoth public venue for the sake of getting another “world’s largest” title under its belt, as museum director Fan Di’an told delegates at the recent National People’s Congress, China’s public art facilities haven’t lived up to the promise of the country’s burgeoning interest in the arts.

As Fan pointed out last week, the current National Art Museum — which was built in 1963 in Beijing’s Dongcheng district — is a meager 8,300 square meters in size. Compare that to New York’s Museum of Modern Art, at 58,529 square meters, and the Louvre, which boasts over 60,000 square meters of exhibition space. Since attendance became free at the National Art Museum on March 2, according to Fan Di’an, it has clocked nearly 6,000 visitors at peak times, “nearly hitting capacity,” according to Xinhua. Clearly, the current digs are inadequate, certainly for a city that most consider to be the cultural heart of China. But how will director Fan Di’an fill the 130,000 total square meters of exhibition space he’ll have when the new phase is complete?

One clue comes from an interview Fan Di’an recently gave at the “Art Power” awards in Beijing, where he was named “Best Museum Administrator.” Speaking to Sina, Fan said that the Chinese contemporary art world is becoming stronger as more artists become globally recognized, more curators have the ability to promote Chinese art, and more (and better) museums are built across the country. Fan’s interest in contemporary art and the priority he places on public arts education have made him something of a star in the Chinese art world, a break from the stereotype of the stodgy apparatchik or stuffy administrator. Fan also counts many first-generation Chinese contemporary artists as close friends, such as his former Central Academy of Fine Arts classmate Xu Bing. With the ample room he will be afforded with the new National Art Museum, expect to see Fan display an impressive array of contemporary Chinese works alongside his other interests, which include everything from 1950s Chinese prints to artifacts from Dunhuang in Xinjiang province.

With so much room to fill, not just in Beijing but in new provincial art museums throughout mainland China, it won’t be surprising if we see museum and gallery representatives showing up at the upcoming Sotheby’s spring auctions in Hong Kong, where works by some of China’s top artists will be on the block. Directors like Fan Di’an would almost certainly love to get some pieces from the Ullens collection on the walls and prevent them from leaving the country once and for all. Now that new Chinese private collectors are getting more involved with the auction market and works by blue-chip Chinese artists are getting scarcer and scarcer, it’s no surprise that excitement is growing in China for the upcoming spring auction season.

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New Abstract Paintings: The Cosmos suite (2012)

Cosmos. Oil on canvas  2012 by Vincent Johnson

Cosmos Red Yellow Green. Oil on canvas 2012 by Vincent Johnson

Green God. Oil on canvas 2012 by Vincent Johnson

This new painting series is part of my ongoing exploration of painting materials and techniques from the history of painting. The works combine knowledge of painting practices of both abstract and representation paintings. The works concern themselves purely with the visual power that paintings can do through the manipulation of paint. Some of the underpaintings are allowed to dry for months; some of those are built dark to light, others light to dark. None are made in a single setting. Most are worked and reworked using studio materials. Each new series takes a different approach to the painted surface from how the paint is applied, to varying the painting mediums. This suite concerns itself with the layering of paint by building up the surface and altering and reworking the wet paint with studio tools.

Two larger paintings will be completed and photographed on Sunday, July 15, 2012 and posted here.

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles

Vincent Johnson’s Nine Grayscale Paintings – installation shot – 2
Vincent Johnson’s Nine Grayscale Paintings – studio shot – 1 (Silver hand)
Vincent Johnson – in my studio working on my Nine Grayscale Paintings
Vincent Johnson’s Nine Grayscale Paintings – first stage of grayscale painting
Los Angeles based artist and writer Vincent Johnson
Vincent Johnson received his MFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California 1997 and his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Painting 1986. He started out as a student in Pratt’s painting department. He is a 2005 Creative Capital Grantee, and was nominated for the Baum: An Emerging American Photographer’s Award in 2004 and for the New Museum of Contemporary Arts Aldrich Art Award in 2007 and for the Art Matters grant in 2008, and in 2009 nominated for Foundation for Contemporary Art Fellowship, Los Angeles. In 2010 he was named a United States Artists project artist. His work has been reviewed in ArtForum, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, Art in America, Art Slant and many other publications. His photographic works were most recently shown in the inaugural Pulse Fair Los Angeles. His most recent paintings were shown at the Beacon Arts Center in Los Angeles.

Chicago photographs: Busts at the Merchandise Mart Hall of Fame

Chicago Merchandise Mart: Bust of Robert Wood

Former US Brigadier General Robert Wood was President and Chairman of the Board of Sears, Roebuck after Julius Rosenwald.

Chicago Merchandizing Mart: Bust of Edward Filene

Edward Filene was based in Boston in the 19th century. He is responsible for Americans having credit unions. He had traveled abroad and noticed this scheme and desired to bring it to America to give everyday citizens the opportunity to save money and borrow it without usury or dealing with loan sharks.

From Wikipedia:

“To immortalize outstanding American merchants”, Joseph Kennedy in 1953 commissioned eight bronze busts, four times life size, which would come to be known as the Merchandise Mart Hall of Fame.

Behind the Merchandise Mart

Chicago Merchandise Mart: Bust of Huntington Hartford

Huntington Hartford inherited the A&P (Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea)  supermarket chain fortune, which once was the largest chain in the world with 16,000 store.

Chicago Merchandise Mart: Bust of John Wanamaker

John Wanamaker was born in Philadephia. He is considered to be one of the founders of modern advertizing and marketing. His department store was famous in both his native Philadelphia as well as in New York City.

Chicago Merchandise Mart: Bust of Julius Rosenwald

Julius Rosenwald developed the Sear, Roebuck & Co. mail order business when most Americans still lived in rural territories and small villages.

Chicago Merchandise Mart: Bust of Marshall Field

From Wikipedia:

“Field took an early 19th century consumer landscape that was centered around the principle of caveat emptor, or “buyer beware”, and transformed it into a plush shopping experience fit for the gilded age. Unconditional refunds, consistent pricing and international imports are among the Field innovations that became standards in quality retailing. The quotes “Give the lady what she wants” and “The customer is always right” are attributed to Field, though the latter may also be an invention of Harry Gordon Selfridge while employed by Field.

Marshall Field is responsible for the existence of the Field Museum of Natural History. He had to be convinced to fund the institution – and him being made aware of a living legacy did the trick. Marshall Field and John D. Rockefeller founded the University of Chicago.

Chicago Merchandise Mart: Bust of Montgomery Ward

Montgomery Ward founded the world’s first mail order business.  The stores named after him were once the largest chain in the United States.

Chicago Merchandise Mart: Bust of F.W. Woolworth

Vincent Johnson: Los Angeles art projects June 2011 (San Fernando Valley at Night)

Central Car Sales Canoga Park (2011)

Psychic Reader store 18561 Sherman Way, Canoga Park (2011)

Star Diner (with Fountain) Canoga Park (2011)

Ad Bush at Star Diner (2011)

Star Diner Drive Thru with Coke Umbrella (2011)

The Star Diner (2011)

Menu Board at the Star Diner Canoga Park (2011)

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles

LANYArtiststudio@gmail.com

Biography July 2011
Vincent Johnson lives and works in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited at Soho House, Los Angeles, Palihouse, West Los Angeles, Las Cienegas Projects, LAXART, the P.S. 1. Museum, the SK Stiftung, Cologne, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Adamski Gallery of Contemporary Art, Aachen, Locust Projects, Miami, the Sacramento Center for Contemporary Art, 18th Street Arts, Santa Monica and the Boston University Art Gallery. His photographic works engage both significant and neglected historical and contemporary cultural artifacts and is based on intensive research of his subjects. Upcoming are projects in Europe and Los Angeles.

Johnson received his MFA from Art Center College of Design in 1997. He studied with Mike Kelly, Jack Goldstein, Stephen Prina, Liz Larner, Chris Williams, Mayo Thompson (formerly of Art&Language), and Liz Larner. He is a 2005 Creative Capital Grantee, and was nominated for the Baum: An Emerging American Photographer’s Award in 2004 and for the New Museum of Contemporary Arts Aldrich Art Award in 2007 and for the Art Matters grant in 2008, and in 2009 nominated for Foundation for Contemporary Art Fellowship, Los Angeles. His work has been reviewed in ArtForum, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, Art in America and many other publications

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