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Detroit art space opens with punchy pop of colour

Collector Gary Wasserman looks to the Motor City’s post-bankruptcy future with new interdisciplinary venue

by Victoria Stapley-Brown  |  15 October 2015
Detroit art space opens with punchy pop of colour
Public opening of Wasserman Projects, with the installation THEFIRSTONEISCRAZYTHESECONDONEISNUTS, by Markus Linnenbrink and Nick Gelpi (2015). Photo: Wasserman Projects
“The ruins aren’t what’s interesting—what’s interesting is the future,” Gary Wasserman says of his native Detroit, which is slowly starting to recover after declaring bankruptcy in 2013. The philanthropist, collector and chief executive of Allied Metals Corporation in nearby Troy, Michigan opened his contribution to this future, Wasserman Projects, on 25 September during Detroit Design Week.

Wasserman has turned a former firehouse in the city’s Eastern Market District into a new interdisciplinary arts space, which will show installations, design and performances, and host both non-commercial and commercial initiatives. The venue aims “to become one of the many threads in the vibrant fabric that is Detroit,” according to its official mission statement.

The 9,000-sq-ft brick-walled space is open and ample. Flashes of red—Wasserman’s personal colour “obsession”—abound, including the metal beams and a new sculptural installation by Harley Valentine, The Dream Machine (2015), which greets visitors outside the main door. The atmosphere feels welcoming, thanks to touches like wooden stools, thickly varnished with multicoloured paint splashes, that people can carry around and sit on as they make their way around the galleries.

  • Jon Brumit inside his sound installation. Photo: Victoria Stapley-Brown
  • Exterior of new Wasserman Projects
  • Gary Wasserman in front of Harley Valentine’s sculpture The Dream Machine (2015)
The inaugural show is equally accessible, bright and fun. At the centre is a large-scale house-like installation on wheels, THEFIRSTONEISCRAZYTHESECONDONEISNUTS, a collaboration between the artist Markus Linnenbrink and the architect Nick Gelpi. The site-specific piece, which splits open to function as a stage, is clad in calm blonde wood on the outside, but the interior floor, walls and ceiling are striped with dripping candy colours to create a dizzying effect.

Outside, a sound project by the Detroit-based artist Jon Brumit, Elf Waves, Earth Loops and *Spatial Forces, includes a repurposed yurt-like metal grain silo that serves as a giant “speaker”. Visitors can plug in their phones or iPods and the silo will “play” the morphed music, primarily picking up bass beats.

Next autumn, Wasserman Projects is due to welcome some very special feathered live-in guests in a permanent installation of the Belgian artist Koen Vanmechlen’s Cosmpolitan Chicken Project, which began in the late 1990s and looks at the concept of global diversity through cross-breeding chickens from different regions of the world.

CORRECTION: The Wasserman Projects space is 9,000 sq ft, not 90,000, as we mistakenly reported in the original version. 

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