The Detroit Institute of Art (DIA) is offering an in-depth look into the complexities of the contemporary art world through a series of conversations and panel discussions featuring top players in today’s art scene. The DIA auxiliary group Friends of Modern & Contemporary Art (FMCA) is presenting the series, which begins Sept. 21, 2014 and runs through March 2015. The events are free.
Which Side Up: What Moves Contemporary Art? is organized as a “contemporary art world 101” primer and includes one talk per month—two evenings of casual conversations and five moderated panel discussions. The series was inspired by Sarah Thornton’s 2008 bestseller Seven Days in the Art World, which reveals the inner workings of the contemporary art world, including exploration of an auction, an art school “crit,” an art fair, an artist’s studio, an art prize, a magazine and a biennale.
Rebecca Hart, DIA associate curator of contemporary art, leads the first discussion on Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. with an overview of the series and a description of each talk. Among the other speakers in the series are Michelle Grabner, co-curator of the 2014 Whitney Biennial; Kevin Beasley, a featured artist in the 2014 Whitney Biennial; Sarah Turner, dean of the Cranbrook Academy of Art; author Sarah Thornton; Vince Carducci, art critic and dean of undergraduate studies at the College for Creative Studies; and Alex Rotter, head of Sotheby's New York contemporary art department.
Sunday, September 21: Unpacking the Concept, Kresge Court, 7 p.m. (Kresge Court open at 6 p.m.) Refreshments, Cash Bar and Conversation. Rebecca Hart, DIA curator of contemporary art, presents an informal introduction to Which Side Up? She focuses on Thornton’s book, how it inspired the series and then details the topics for each program. Members of Detroit’s art community join Hart to offer their personal stories, including an artist on getting a prize and a collector on the artwork that got away.
Wednesday, October 15: Starting the Conversation: Art School, the Crit and the Biennial; Co-Sponsored by FMCA and the College for Creative Studies Woodward Lecture Series, Danto Lecture Hall, 7 p.m.
As the creative ventures of artists evolve, so do critiques of art. Addressing the rapidly changing strategies in the assessment of art, this discussion looks at conversations that begin in graduate school and continue to inform career milestones, including biennials and museum shows, while revealing the exchange of ideas and collaborative processes that exist between curators and artists.
Sunday, November 23: Sarah Thornton: Are Artists 21st-Century Entrepreneurs?, Danto Lecture Hall, 7 p.m.
Sociologist and author Sarah Thornton published Seven Days in the Art World in 2008. In her newest book, 33 Artists in 3 Acts, she shifts her focus from the structure and activities of the art world to the role of the artist, asking if being an artist is a radical form of entrepreneurship or a vocational calling like the priesthood. Are their practices an extension of philosophy or an offshoot of entertainment?
Thursday, December 11: The New Art Marketplace: Is Connoisseurship Giving Way to Speculation?, Danto Lecture Hall, 7 p.m.
The cultural tradition that equates wealth with connoisseurship and patronage is changing rapidly. Today art may be purchased and traded like a commodity, with galleries and auction houses seeking alternative streams of revenue. The panel investigates when, why and how commerce is driving the art world and where artists fit in.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015: Fair / Not Fair: The Media, the Art Fair and the Prize, Danto Lecture Hall, 7 p.m.
Art fairs and awards proliferate as cities use the arts to encourage cultural and economic development. This event looks at how the media, the recent cult of the art fair and the art prize have affected the choice of featured artists and how such events act as incubators for the creative class. Does an art fair make a city more visible as an arts destination? How do individual artist prizes, fellowships and residencies affect a city? Where does the media factor in?
Wednesday, February 25, 2015: Mavericks: The Shape of Things to Come, Danto Lecture Hall, 7 p.m.
New interactions, transient roles and virtual formats interact and compete with traditional museums, galleries, publications and artworks. Specialists leverage such developments by revolutionizing models for creative output, interactions and art itself, including the museum as creative workspace; the way institutions respond to the art of our time; the changing role of commercial galleries; and evolving community hubs.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015: Packing/Unpacking–Detroit Responds, Kresge Court, 7 p.m. (Kresge Court open at 6 p.m.), Refreshments, Cash Bar and Conversation.
What do artists, art professionals and collectors think about the art market, the institutions and machinations that support the concepts of artist as entrepreneur and art as commodity? A panel of Detroit-based, art-engaged individuals responds to Which Side Up?
Museum Hours and Admission: 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Tuesdays–Thursdays, 9 a.m.–10 p.m. Fridays, and 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. General admission (excludes ticketed exhibitions) is free for Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county residents and DIA members. For all others, $8 for adults, $6 for seniors ages 62+, $4 for ages 6–17. For membership information, call 313-833-7971.