Detroit’s art scene has long thrived, even when the city itself hasn’t. Alongside established art museums like the DIA and MOCAD, its famous folk art installations and its abundance of public art and murals, Detroit’s many great independent galleries offer space and support for local and international artists. These are the best places to catch exhibitions, events, programs and more in Detroit.
Opened in October 2008 in Midtown, the Simone DeSousa Gallery was an evolution of the Re:View Contemporary Gallery. Of her gallery DeSousa says, “It was born as a physical reminder of art’s connectivity to community and social transformation, a space designed to channel inspiration in the form of some of the best manifestations of contemporary art today, and cultivate a new culture of art collecting in Detroit.” The gallery shows emerging and established artists, both local and international, in all artistic media, and is also home to EDITION, an unconventional art gift store.
One of the coolest spaces in the city, the Tangent Gallery is a minimalist industrial venue that regularly hosts artists of all media, offering them a blank slate to fill with their work. It features two rooms, the main gallery and mezzanine (a.k.a. the white room) and the ballroom (a.k.a. the dark room), each suited to different art forms. The Tangent also prides itself on providing a space at a price accessible to local artists and community organizations.
Michigan native David Klein started his gallery when he was just 23 after dropping out of law school. The David Klein Gallery added a second location on Washington Boulevard in downtown Detroit in 2015 after 15 successful years in Birmingham. Its focus is on Post-War American Art includes painting, sculpture and work on paper, with exhibitions typically changing every other month.
Adnan Charara first opened a gallery under his own name in Boston in 1987, but changed the name when his first daughter, Camille, was born. For years, the Boston gallery was operated from Detroit, until in 2013 when a larger, permanent space finally opened in the Cass Corridor. Its mission has been to create an environment to aid the passions of living artists from many different backgrounds, while also partnering with various community projects, facilitating collaborations between artists and institutions and hosting unique exhibitions.
An historic institution founded in 1907 by a collection of artists, the Scarab Club has always been a significant place for Detroit’s artistic community. These days its mission is to provide “an enduring home for the cultivation and celebration of the visual, literary and performing arts in Detroit.” Sketch sessions, poetry readings and music programs are all common and open for all to drop in on, while rotating exhibitions are constantly on display.
Art dealer and educator George N’Namdi came to Detroit in the 1970s, establishing his first gallery in the city in 1981. His current space, the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, is not only an art gallery but also a non-profit dedicated to promoting understanding, appreciation and knowledge of the arts. It features four exhibition spaces, including indoor and outdoor performance areas, as well as a variety of programs. It also houses a large collection of African American art.
Another non-profit gallery with a long history is the Detroit Artists Market. Started in 1932 by local art patrons to help the city’s young artists earn a living, it remains committed to exhibiting and selling the work of local artists, as well as connecting artists, collectors and communities. Alongside exhibitions, gallery talks and special events, it has a sales gallery, which is one of the best places in the city to buy original and affordable artworks.
Founder and owner of the Baltimore Gallery Phil Simpson was born and raised in Detroit, and opened his gallery on Baltimore Ave in 2013. The intimate space is a multi-purpose venue, hosting local and international artists of all cultures and disciplines, as well as movie nights, poetry slams and more.