This is not Detroit: Tal R’s “intricate, multipart installation manifests the artist’s fantasy of Detroit, acting as a meditation on dream places, identity, and whimsy”—MOCAD, Detroit. Like the waves of European filmmakers before him, whose fascination with Detroit’s architectural grandeur and open spaces served to remind us who we were—those early advocates of the train station, making pilgrimages to the Packard Plant and Brewster Projects—it sometimes takes the objectivity of an outsider to interpret our dreams.  

It is this simultaneous knowing and not knowing that the artist fully embraces in his conversation with Vogue Magazine—”I know all these things, but I know them like an outsider, like a ghost.” A ghost who happens to be one of the most influential artists in the world right now, creating works inside the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.  

In his solo exhibition and site-specific work, the Copenhagen based artist has created seven large scale paintings inside the museum as well as an original 52-page newspaper about Detroit, available for visitors to take home.  

We reached out to MOCAD’s Director, Elysia Borowy-Reeder, to learn more about Tal R, Detroit, and her own personal journey into the art world.  

“Our community welcomes and nurtures individuality, which in turn promotes craft that is anything but stagnant.”

CV Henriette: What was your journey into the art world? 

Elysia Borowy-Reeder: The DIA used to offer Saturday morning art classes. In the mornings, before the museum opened to the public, the space was ours. We could walk the grounds at our own leisure, familiarize and build relationships with the artists and artworks on view. We grew to feel at home with the objects—I decided I wanted to pursue that more largely. 

CVhWhat words best describe the art scene in Detroit? What style of contemporary art do you predominantly see collected in Detroit? 

EBR: The artists here are incredibly diverse in their pursuits. I’m not sure there is one style or genre that you can pin as predominant. Our community welcomes and nurtures individuality, which in turn promotes craft that is anything but stagnant. I would say that this sentiment is also reflective of the engagement by and with local collectors. 

CVh: You’re granted one art wish – what would be the best “gift” to the Detroit art world? 

EBR: I’d love to see more curatorial fellowships—museum education should be in the service of young people.  

CVh: Tal R is coming to MOCAD. This is a big deal. How’d you make this happen?  

EBR: It is! Tal R is one of the most renowned artists in Scandinavia.  

I had a studio visit with him for a MOCAD board trip in Scandinavia. I invited him to Michigan, and he came to visit in November, fell in love and decided to pursue a show with us! 

CVh: It’s my understanding he’s made this work in Detroit. How’s that been? Have you gotten to know each other well? Do tell.  

EBR: All of the works were made on site at MOCAD. It’s been an unbelievable experience for all.  

He first wanted to call the show “Snow,” I said but it will be Spring when it opens—I just hope it won’t be snowing!


The exhibition is on view now through Sunday, 29 July, 2018.