Art In Detroit


Art In Detroit

If our times have known a city’s fall from grace, Detroit is it. Motor City, Motown, American Dream maker, with its signature feel-good music and once-sparkling factories and skyscrapers, has been long in precipitous decline. America’s industrial crown jewel until the disastrous unraveling of American manufacturing in the latter half of last century, Detroit was in its heyday a grand city with exorbitant riches and well-distributed prosperity. Nowadays, the white-collar blue-collar paradise has been reduced to a blighted and half-empty inner city with a crumbling infrastructure, droves of abandoned buildings, a plummeting population and a disproportionately high crime rate.

As the city decays, however, valiant photographers from the world over have arrived in droves to immortalise its grand old buildings as they crumble and rot. Although a nuisance to residents eager to sweep their city’s problems under the rug, for worry of scaring off the outside world, their photos have garnered attention the world over and likely provide a much-needed boost to the economy. And as urban planners, designers, sociologists and politicians have grappled unsuccessfully with the city’s myriad problems for decades, the photographers meanwhile portend a quiet renaissance (naissance?) of the city’s art scene.

Unbelievably cheap real estate, abundant warehouse space (abundant space in general) and a (rickety but functional) urban infrastructure has attracted gritty, true-to-their-craft artists keen to strike out new territory. And Motown’s tenuous socioeconomic setting should provide jarring and raw inspiration, as well as allowing artists to work inside the art world yet partially outside the normally vicious (and arguably counterproductive) circle of work-sell-work-sell. Successful communities such as the Motown are doing well, and several standouts have made names for themselves far beyond the city, such as Frenchman cum Detroiter Romain Blanquart and Detroit-native Brian Widdis’ together with their ‘Can’t Forget The Motor City,’ and KT Andresky with her DIY ‘World Headquarters’ art space.

With a perfect climate for upstart galleries, good schools nearby, and many well-lined pockets still populating the many verdant suburbs of its periphery, the art scene only looks fertile for more and better work. And with a host of still world-class cultural institutions around the city such as MOCAD and Detroit Center For Contemporary Photography, Motown’s role as a gritty art outpost is an auspicious bookend to one of the 20th century’s, and America’s, greatest industrial successes.

Tag Christof – All images from ‘Cant Forget The Motor City’