'Detroit in the World:' Dazzling art from one collection at new gallery

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News
You know you're at Collected Detroit gallery when you see Nicole Macdonald's banner above the entrance.

What do you do when you and your wife have collected 600 works of art, much of which you have to keep in storage?

Easy — you acquire 4,000 square feet near Detroit's Cass Technical High School and open a gallery named Collected Detroit. Then you mount "Detroit in the World: Selections from a Detroit Art Connoisseur's Collection," which is up through Feb. 28. 

Some 300 pieces from 150 artists, both local and international, are represented in this sprawling, deeply interesting exhibition, all drawn from the collection of Charles and Susie Duquet, who own the gallery. 

Urban Jupena's astonishing "Cave Rug" in "Detroit in the World" at Collected Detroit gallery.

Duquet, a gregarious guy with a black-and-gray ponytail, says a friend initially advised the Bloomfield Hills residents to open their gallery in Troy. But Duquet wasn't having it. 

"I said, ‘No – I want that thrill of being in Detroit.’ And now my friend agrees," he added, "seeing how many people have taken this place to heart."

Collected Detroit's aim, says Managing Director Nancy J. Rodwan, who's also done large shows at The Annex at 333 Midland in Highland Park, among other venues, is to exhibit Detroit artists next to international luminaries. 

"Our goal is to have collectors from around the world look at Detroit as a destination for buying art," she said. "You lure them in with the big names and then get them to look at the local artists." 

Detail from Al Loving's "Card Players" at the new gallery, Collected Detroit.

That's certainly the case with "Detroit in the World."

Robust Detroit names like Nicole Macdonald, Robert Sestok, Brenda Goodman and Charles McGee rub shoulders with Picasso, Fernand Léger and Joan Miró, among other global stars. 

There are some strange and marvelous things here.

Perhaps the best example is the room-sized "Cave Rug" by Urban Jupena, a shag rug on steroids boasting floor, wall and overhanging ceiling complete with fuzzy stalactites.

"Urban's a graduate of Cranbrook from the early 1970s," said Duquet. "He's taught at Wayne for 35 years or so. He had a piece in a Smithsonian exhibition and has shown internationally. He’s just a fabulous, fabulous fiber artist."

Detail from Charles McGee's "Animal Spirit I" at the new Collected Detroit gallery.

Also worth seeking out is "Card Players" by Detroit native Al Loving, who died in 2005. The first African-American to get a solo show at New York's Whitney Museum, "Card Players" is a smoky, loose rendering of a tense game being played out under naked light bulbs. 

McGee, the dean of Detroit artists, is well represented with both the colorful painting, "Squares and Things," as well as the elegantly muted "Animal Spirit I." 

Not muted at all, but exuberantly colorful is Bryant Tillman's "Pork Steak with Broccoli and Corn," another painting that underlines his firm command of the neo-realist idiom. 

"Pork Stead with Broccoli" by Bryant Tillman in "Detroit in the World."

The gallery's next exhibition will be a tribute to the late Gilda Snowden, the much-loved artist and College for Creative Studies professor, titled "Textures of the City." 

"We went to look at Gilda's estate to hand-pick the pieces," said Rodwan. "We have all of her various techniques – painting, encaustic, as well as her wood wall sculptures." 

There will be 25 Snowden pieces on display, along with works by local artists Darius Baber, Donald Calloway, Eric Fogle, M. Saffell Gardner, Najama Ma'at, Mandisa Smith and Paula Zammit.

"The other Detroit artists either were students, very close friends," Rodwan added, "or, with Darius, just someone very much inspired by Gilda." 

The "Textures" opening will run from 6 p.m. - 10 p.m. Mar. 8, with live music by Spencer Barefield.


'Detroit in the World: Selections from a Detroit Art Connoisseur's Collection'

Through Feb. 28

Collected Detroit, 2439 Fourth, Detroit 

11 a.m. - 6 p.m. Wed. - Fri; 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Sat.

(313) 656-4190

Upcoming show at Collected Detroit:

'Textures of the City'

Mar. 8 - Apr. 6