Wayne Northcross recently relocated from NYC to his hometown of Detroit, bringing with him an impressive resume of stories and experiences, including a love of all things Portuguese. Ask him about his retirement plan. Because we didn’t. Nor did we ask who he’s dating.
Good luck finding Bairro Blue by Orelha Negra on Spotify.
Before he entered the art world, he was almost a lawyer. After that he was a writer. Still is. We’ll let his answers serve as the introduction.
CV Henriette: You work at MOCAD. What do you do there?
Wayne Northcross: I work in Membership and Development, fundraising and creating art experiences for MOCAD members like studio and gallery visits, parties, dinners, and exhibition tours.
CVh: You transitioned to the art world after studying law. How did that happen?
WN: I knew I would work in a creative field even while in law school. I was obsessed with fashion and contemporary art, seeing both as expressions of visual culture. After law school, I moved to New York City to find my niche, my tribe, and my career. Bill Bull, Detroit-native and Vogue contributor asked me to work for him in his design studio. Detroiters help each other! That connection opened a lot of doors. I worked a number of jobs in editorial fashion. My first was at Esquire as a fashion assistant. At the same time, I hung around galleries, spending most of my weekends in SoHo and Chelsea, getting to know artists, dealers, and curators. One day, I was asked to join a gallery.
“Patient and skillful observation is a key skill in this business.”
CVh: Memorable adventures to share?
WN: Oddly dragging around duffel bags filled with shoot clothes. One year, as a fashion assistant at Esquire, I traveled to Capri and Rome with photographer Noe DeWitt and shoot producer, Barbara DeWitt, nephew and sister of Bruce Weber, respectively. Barbara was a legend in the business, one of the unsung heroes who was so instrumental in producing fashion shoots on location. Barbara scouted the best locations found the most incredible “real people” on the street to be models. And she knew all the little places, off the beaten track. She was so lively, kind, and passionate about the business. That experience was defining. It’s all about the work.
CVh: When did you first get into art? Did you ever imagine making art?
WN: I never imagined making art. I like to work behind the scenes. I am a consummate spectator. I love to watch. Patient and skillful observation is a key skill in this business.
“In 2004, I saw an exhibition Dtroit, at Gigantic ArtSpace in TriBeCa, curated by Trevor Schoonmacher, which tipped me off that there was an emerging artist scene that was different than what I knew growing up. And I wanted to know more.”
CVh: After a long stretch in NYC, you spent a lot of time researching Detroit before returning. What drew you back? How has the city changed since you left?
WN: My family has lived in Grandmont-Rosedale since 1975. And I would often come back to visit. And so many friends I grew up in clubs like Liedernacht, Asylum, Todds. They still live and work in Detroit. They’re like a second family. In 2004, I saw an exhibition Dtroit, at Gigantic ArtSpace in TriBeCa, curated by Trevor Schoonmacher, which tipped me off that there was an emerging artist scene that was different than what I knew growing up. And I wanted to know more. After MOCAD opened a few years later as a hub for contemporary art in the region I felt it was time to focus on artist and cultural production in the city. Certain facets of the landscape have changed, downtown and southwest, Woodward Ave. But the biggest change for me is the number of artists and cultural producers who are contributing. They give me hope for the future.
CVh: How has New York City changed during your time there?
WN: I don’t have a clear sense of who or what a New Yorker is anymore. I used to have an immediate connection to strangers on the street. I felt we recognized each other by a look, dress, or bearing. I don’t recognize New Yorkers today. Either New Yorkers have changed or I have.
DII: Do you remember the last show you saw in NYC?
WN: In June, I saw Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination at the Metropolitan Museum and The Cloisters.
CVh: Most recent show you saw in Detroit?
WN: Danielle Dean and Annabeth Rosen at Cranbrook Museum.
CVh: Sun sign?
WN: I had to look this up! I am a Gemini.
CVh: Sunrise or sunset?
CVh: First song that comes to mind?
WN: Sensual World by Kate Bush.
CVh: Dinner in silence or music in the background?
CVh: Digital or analog?
CVh: High school soundtrack?
WN: Fame and Xanadu.
CVh: Favorite instrument?
CVh: Least favorite instrument?
CVh: Do you play an instrument?
WN: No. I tried to learn piano when I was a child. That didn’t go well.
CVh: First song in the morning?
WN: These days it’s Erotica by Madonna, Live Girlie Show, remix for the gym.
CVh: Music in the shower? Sing to your plants?
WN: No music, and I don’t sing to plants.
CVh: Last book you’ve read about music?
WN: Tropical Truth: A Story Of Music And Revolution In Brazil by Caetano Veloso. I read it to learn more about the milieu in which Brazilian artist Helio Oiticica created his famous parangole wearable sculptures.
CVh: Best Live Show? Ever.
WN: Siouxsie and the Banshees in Detroit 1986.
CVh: Artist You Most Wish You Saw Live, in their prime?
WN: Paul Weller. And he is so incredible now.
CVh: Last album you heard in its entirety.
WN: Vinyl or digital? Last digital, The Split by Leo Nite. Vinyl, I can’t remember.
CVh: Favorite soundtrack or musical?
CVh: What’s next?
WN: I do think about opening a gallery in Detroit, a lot.
CVh: Question I forgot to ask?
WN: Who are you dating?