Modernist masterpiece on Lake St. Clair filled with new art for MOCAD gala fundraiser
Take one of Michigan’s most spectacular modern houses, fill it with site-specific artwork by rising stars both national and local, and you’ve got the makings for this summer’s gala fundraiser for the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.
Some 150 guests will attend “Unobstructed Views” Thursday evening, in the former W. Hawkins Ferry house on Lake St. Clair designed by noted architect William Kessler.
“This is such an honor,” said MOCAD Executive Director Elysia Borowy-Reeder. “The house is stunning, and has such incredible history in terms of art collecting in Detroit.”
The event is sold out, which is great for MOCAD — but tragic for Detroit-area art and architecture lovers who missed their chance to get inside this architectural gem.
The evening at the Grosse Pointe Shores home of JJ and Anthony Curis, who own Library Street Collective gallery in downtown Detroit, will feature cocktails and sweeping Lake St. Clair views, a strolling dinner by Detroit’s Flowers of Vietnam, and music by Valley Hush and Nydge.
All works by the 36 artists will be up for sale in a silent auction, and can be viewed on Paddle8.com. (Search for “MOCAD x LSC Gallery.”) Bidding starts at noon Thursday.
Kessler, a key Detroit modernist who worked with Walter Gropius and Minoru Yamasaki, also designed Detroit Receiving Hospital, the so-called “tinkertoy” Kresge-Ford Building at the College for Creative Studies, and the elegant steel addition to Detroit Cornice & Slate that houses the Metro Times across from Greektown Casino.
Ferry, an architectural historian and scion of Detroit’s Ferry Seed fortune, was an important local collector of 20th-century art whose death in 1988 was reported in the New York Times.
“He’s a Detroit icon,” said Borowy-Reeder, “because he made living with art real.”
Detroit artists who contributed works to “Unobstructed Views” include, among others, Beverly Fishman, James Benjamin Franklin, Tyree Guyton, Tiff Massey, Willie Wayne Smith and Charles McGee.
Most of the artists will be at Thursday’s event.
The project, said Anthony Curis, was in gestation a little over a year.
He, JJ and Borowy-Reeder invited some of their favorite contemporary artists to participate, from the Detroit area and around the country. Each was asked to create a work for a specific spot in the house.
“The choice of artists was based more on relationships and relationship-building,” Curis said, “whether they were artists we know, who’ve worked with MOCAD or have done projects in the city. Essentially,” he added, “we sent them photos, information on placement and dimensions, and asked them what they’d like to do.”
The results are striking, not least because some are large enough to take up most of the wall space under 18-foot ceilings.
Gracing the back wall of the airy, light-filled living room is a huge, cheerful painting of watermelons by New Yorker Katherine Bernhardt — a striking green-and-pink composition.
“Her painting is just so joyous,” said Borowy-Reeder. “It’s a beautiful piece.”
In the dining room, guests will find one of Guyton’s signature tropes, a bin full of shoes — all painted an identical purple.
An unusually large steel sculpture by Detroiter Massey, best known for her metal “wearable art,” oversees the master bedroom upstairs.
The guest bedroom, by contrast, boasts a large, freestanding pillow by Cranbrook graduate Sheida Soleimani, imprinted with the picture of an Iranian woman killed under Sharia law — one of the Providence, Rhode Island, artist’s recurring themes.
All in all, “Unobstructed Views” promises to be a visual feast for those lucky enough to have scored one of the $200 tickets ($175 for MOCAD members).
“It was just an opportunity I thought made sense for us,” said Borowy-Reeder of both location and project.
“The timing was right and the energy was right. It was really perfect in every way.”