Detroit’s newest art gallery isn’t where you might expect to find it

Glass houses

click to enlarge There’s an unconventional art gallery tucked inside a Mies van der Rohe-designed townhome in Detroit. - Lee DeVito
Lee DeVito
There’s an unconventional art gallery tucked inside a Mies van der Rohe-designed townhome in Detroit.

Detroit’s latest art gallery doesn’t keep regular business hours. It doesn’t have the typical white walls. There’s also barely even any art in it, either.

But techno fans visiting Detroit for the Movement Festival might be interested in checking out the new 1364 gallery once it officially opens on Thursday. The project is the brainchild of Detroit techno icon Carl Craig and art curator Elysia Borowy.

The exhibition space is located in a steel-and-glass modernist townhome at 1364 Joliet Pl. in Detroit’s idyllic Lafayette Park community. The neighborhood was designed by Chicago-via-Berlin architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in the 1950s on the site of the city’s former Black Bottom neighborhood as an urban renewal project.

While appointments are available, the gallery is primarily accessible only by peering through the windows of the townhome. Its inaugural exhibition features only two artists, represented by one work each: a black-and-white image of the musician Prince by Detroit rock ’n’ roll photographer Leni Sinclair and a mixed-media piece by Chicago artist Cameron Spratley. It’s Spatley’s first showing in Detroit.

“I would definitely say that this is an avant-garde experiment in visual culture,” Borowy tells Metro Times. “The one thing that Carl and I really talked about quite a bit is that it is a true collaboration between us.”

Borowy says she did not want to be the spokesperson for the gallery, preferring for the art to speak for itself. Nevertheless, she granted Metro Times an interview explaining the project, which Borowy says was inspired in part by Maurizio Cattelan’s Wrong Gallery in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood.

“It was basically just a window,” she says. “And the door was always locked. It had artwork in the vestibule, and it would get reviews. There was this really cheeky way that people would talk about it, because they’d always say, ‘It was a great show, but it was at the wrong gallery.’”

The 1364 gallery is just about as minimal as you can get. To prep, Borowy and Craig installed track lighting and had the townhome’s walls painted black, “a nod to [Craig’s] experience in dance clubs,” Borowy explains. “Everyone paints their place white. ... so we’ve painted it black, like you’re entering the void.”

Borowy says she and Craig got to know each other in 2021 while working together on the Bottega Veneta fashion show in Detroit. They also both live in the Lafayette Park neighborhood.

Borowy admits she was also possibly inspired by the Mike Kelley Mobile Homestead, the art gallery built as a replica of the late eponymous artist’s childhood home that is part of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit’s campus, where she served as executive director until employees demanded her ouster, citing an alleged toxic workplace.

Borowy did not wish to talk about MOCAD.

The concepts of privacy and being public figures are important to both her and Craig, she says.

“We became public figures,” she says of their careers, adding, “I don’t know when I became a public figure. But now that I am, I’m really protective of my personal life.”

It’s perhaps counterintuitive for one to desire to maintain privacy while at the same time inviting strangers to peer into one’s home. When we suggest if the idea of putting a gallery in her neighborhood was more of a utilitarian choice than a conceptual one, Borowy disagrees. Lafayette Park is known for its openness, she says.

“The Mies van der Rohe townhomes are really better known as ‘the glass houses,’” she says. “And when you start looking around in the community, you can really see that they’re set up in a voyeuristic manner, and that point of engagement comes through the glass.”

She adds, “It’s very, very open, and so I took a big cue from that. And if you study how people live in the community, they set their furniture up and design [their spaces] almost as if to be viewed.”

Borowy says she’s also recently had a home studio built, and has returned to working in ceramics, which is what she studied in college. “Oh my god, it’s amazing,” she says. “I mean, I fell in love with clay. I love it.”

She says she hadn’t had much time to work in the medium during her professional career in museum administration.

“I think everyone knows that I gave my life to my work,” she says.

The 1364 gallery will feature more exhibitions, but likely about every three months or so, Borowy says. She says she hopes the project, which a friend described as “quirky,” can stand out as an outside-of-the-box art experience in Detroit.

“We have all these big galleries already,” she says. “Detroit is what I call an ‘opaque city.’ Like, it's for those who know, and this definitely is part of that. It just adds to its mystique as an international city.”

More information is available on Instagram, @1364_art_detroit.

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About The Author

Lee DeVito

Leyland “Lee” DeVito is the editor in chief of Detroit Metro Times since 2016. His writing has also been published in Hour Detroit, VICE, In These Times, and New City. He once asked porn star Stormy Daniels to spank him with an issue of Metro Times. She obliged...
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