Suburban galleries head to Detroit

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

Everyone knows the history: Businesses abandoned Detroit for greener pastures in the suburbs for decades. Now, two significant Birmingham art galleries — David Klein Gallery and Wasserman Projects — are bucking that trend.

In another sign of Detroit’s mounting appeal, David Klein will unveil its new 4,000-square-foot Washington Boulevard branch with a public reception Thursday evening.

Klein will keep its 25-year-old Birmingham gallery as well, but Wasserman Projects, which opens Sept. 25, is moving its entire operation to a cavernous, renovated firehouse in Eastern Market.

Gallery owner David Klein says he and his director, Christine Schefman, sensed where the local art world was moving.

“A few years ago, Christine and I could feel the center of things shifting from the suburbs to the city,” he says.

“We may be getting in a little early,” Klein adds, noting that at present there’s very little retail activity on Washington Boulevard, “but we worried that in two years we’d be too late.”

Wasserman Projects, which opened in Birmingham three years ago, always intended to be a Detroit gallery, says owner Gary Wasserman. The Oakland County space was just a place-holder until he found the proper Detroit location.

“When this space became available,” Wasserman says, “I closed the Birmingham gallery down as fast as I could. The mission was always to be part of the energy that’s growing in Detroit.”

His new 7,000-square-foot space in Eastern Market will host art as well as contemporary musical performances.

These moves reverse the trend of the 1980s and ’90s, when long-established businesses like the Feigenson Gallery and the Donald Morris Gallery relocated from the big city to Birmingham.

Wasserman and Klein aren’t the first suburban galleries to recognize the potential south of Eight Mile Road, however. They follow in the footsteps of Royal Oak’s 323East, which closed several years ago and reopened as the Inner State Gallery at Eastern Market.

The Butcher’s Daughter also jumped in recent years from Royal Oak to Detroit, but after a short stint on Cass Avenue (during which a car crashed into its space), owner Monica Bowman moved the gallery last year to New York City.

Brand-new galleries have been popping up in the city, as well, including stArt, What Pipeline, Galerie Camille, Whitdel Arts, and Live Coal Gallery (which has temporarily suspended operations).

All of which might lead some to wonder how many galleries a city like Detroit can realistically support. But existing gallery directors pooh-pooh the idea that the market is anywhere close to being saturated.

“I’ve been eagerly awaiting the David Klein Gallery,” says Matt Fry, executive director of the Detroit Artists Market, noting that it will be just around the corner from his apartment in the newly renovated David Whitney Building.

“It’s exciting to see suburban galleries coming into the city.”

At Galerie Camille on Cass Avenue, which opened a year ago, artist and owner Adnan Charara argues more galleries will just boost Detroit’s emerging reputation as an art center.

“If we all engage together and create a community where we reach out,” he says, “there’s no reason why Detroit couldn’t be just like Chicago or anywhere else with a lot of galleries.”

For his part, Klein will exhibit contemporary work at his Washington Boulevard space, reserving the Birmingham gallery for 20th-century art.

Thursday’s opening of “First Show” will feature work by 31 Klein artists including Kristin Beaver, Carlos Diaz, Andrew Moore, Kelly Reemtsen and Stephen Magsig, among others. (Because of the large number, works on display will rotate through the run of the show, which closes on Halloween.)

Wasserman’s opening on Sept. 25 will feature a collaboration between Miami Beach architect Nick Gelpi and Brooklyn-based painter Markus Linnenbrink. In addition, a large outdoor installation by Detroit sound artist Jon Brumit will include what the gallery calls “a sonorous grain silo” and other marvels.

Wasserman — who relocated from Naples, Florida, to take advantage of Detroit’s new energy — couldn’t be happier.

“I’m dedicated to this whole idea of Detroit,” he says, “and being a thread in the community fabric.”

‘First Show’

Thursday-Oct. 31

Opening reception: 6-9 p.m. Thursday

David Klein Gallery, 1520 Washington Blvd., Detroit

Noon-6 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays

(248) 433-3700

‘Linnenbrink / Gelpi / Brumit’

Sept. 25-Dec. 12

Opening reception: 6-9 p.m. Sept. 25

Wasserman Projects, 3434 Russell (enter on building north side)

11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays

(313) 818-3550