Recently Resigned MOCAD Curators Have Launched a Digital Exhibition to Show What a More Equitable Art World Would Look Like

“ARTWORK” is part of "Art Mile," a weeklong digital event coordination venues from Detroit.

Darryl DeAngelo Terrell, With Expensive Taste...That’s It, Ain’t Nothing Broke Over Here (2019). Courtesy of the artist. Presented in "ARTWORK."

So many of the people that make the wheels of the art world go round—docents, fabricators, curators, and so on—are artists themselves. They don multiple hats to pay the rent, but also because they invest their emotions in an industry that, despite its systematic inequities, promotes the work of their friends and idols.  

A new digital exhibition celebrates the scrappiness of several such artists in Detroit who double as professors, preparators, and registrars, among many other professions.

The online show, titled “ARTWORK,” was co-organized by Jova Lynne and Tizziana Baldenebro, two curators who each resigned from the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit in this year over instances of racism, bullying, and labor-exploitation from the institution’s director, Elysia Borowy-Reeder. (Borowy-Reeder was fired from her position this week.)

Their exhibition isn’t a response to those events, they explain. Nor is it explicitly connected to the pandemic, a crisis that has laid painfully bare the plight of gig workers in the American economy.

Jetshri Bhadviya, <i>Manifestations of TheIpseity</i>. Courtesy of the artist. Presented in "ARTWORK."

Jetshri Bhadviya, Manifestations of TheIpseity. Courtesy of the artist. Presented in “ARTWORK.”

Yet in another sense, those events “had everything to do with it because it opened up a door,” says Lynne, an artist herself. She notes that the idea has been in her head for years.

“A lot of the things we were talking about related to the larger ideas and narratives about labor history and its relationship to Detroit,” says Baldenebro. “It all pointed back to the resourcefulness of our city and its artists. They create an ecosystem or shared network where they are relying on each other in ways that we don’t see in many other cities.”

Megan Major, Untitled, (2019). Courtesy of the artist. Presented in "ARTWORK."

Megan Major, Untitled, (2019). Courtesy of the artist. Presented in “ARTWORK.”

Lynne and Baldenebro’s exhibition is one facet of Art Mile, a weeklong all-online art event coordinating 60-some museums, galleries, and artists from Detroit. Created by dealers Terese Reyes and Bridget Finn of Reyes | Finn in conjunction with Red Bull Arts and communications consultancy Cultural Counsel, the event is part online viewing room, part virtual exhibition space, and part programming platform. 

Now through August 5, from the comfort (or discomfort) of your home, you can view and buy works of art from Detroit dealers before settling down to watch a film screening, or take a virtual tour of a museum before queuing up a panel discussion or studio visit.

It’s a model that is no doubt shaped by the necessities of quarantine. But for a city looking to reset the culture of some of its institutions, the spirit of the event also offers up a paradigm for post-quarantine life.

“I think Art Mile has the potential to be a beautiful example of what a more equitable art world might look like,” says Baldenebro. “It’s not perfect, but I think of it as a pilot for leveling the field a little bit and really giving people a more accurate and expansive view of what art with a capital A can look like.”

Jova Lynne and Tizziana Baldenebro will speak with artists Sabrina Nelson and Graem Whyte in Art Mile’s keynote panel on Thursday, July 30 at 6 PM ET.

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