Cultured Magazine

Fall 2015

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Thirty-ish. Artist. Brooklyn-based. The modern-day mariners heeding the siren call of Detroit belong to a very precise demographic. Even though Gary Wasserman doesn't fit that profile, the 65-year-old is still poised to amplify the Motor City's song with the opening of Wasserman Projects on September 25. Spanning thousands of square feet inside a converted firehouse maintenance facility, located in the Eastern Market neighborhood, the space will be a nexus for artists, both homegrown and newly installed. Wasserman's provenance indeed flaunts the pioneer archetype: He championed Detroit before it was cool to do so. Until 1996, he supported the people and events that created continuity through Detroit's descendant times—producing the International Freedom Festival, joining the Cranbrook Academy of Art board—all the while running a steel business and collecting artwork by the likes of Peter Zimmermann, Anish Kapoor and Michele Oka Doner. That year, frustrated by the lack of progress in Detroit, Wasserman moved to Florida and began channeling his philanthropic energy to the Wolfsonian-FIU museum and other local cultural institutions. Fifteen years later, Wasserman returned to Detroit to find the city moving toward the same creative vision he once had. The talk of a renaissance was coming true. "I didn't just drink the Kool-Aid at that point," he says. "I dove head first into it." Wasserman Projects opened "in the safe environment of a wealthy suburb" until he was able to find the right place in Detroit. Kunsthalle is frequently cited in conversations about the venture, given that space is allotted for artists-in-residence to make and sell new work. Wasserman Projects could also be likened to a community center. Concerts and performances will take place in and around a 26-foot-long freestanding pavilion designed by Miami-based architect Nick Gelpi, and whose interior is clad in a walk-all-over painting by Markus Linnenbrink. Beyond its walls, Detroit-based Jon Brumit has finished an outdoor sound installation, and Gelpi is starting design of a 1,500-square-foot rooftop extension. The program sounds ambitious, Wasserman observes, because conditions warrant it: "Failed cities are the frontier of the 21st century. It is incumbent upon society to resolve these places because they don't go away." Yet, this urban trailblazer does not think his homecoming is the cornerstone of revival. "A city is a texture of available experiences," he says. "We're not trying to save Detroit with this project. What we're trying to do is create another attraction; we're another thread in a fabric." 110 CULTURED Gary Wasserman transformed a former maintenance facility into Wasserman Projects, opening this month. PHOTO COURTESY OF WASSERMAN PROJECTS A KUNSTHALLE OPENS IN DETROIT Dealer Gary Wasserman opens an art space to help revive a decaying city. BY DAVID SOKOL

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