Inevitably, Galapagos Art Space Blowback Begins -- Harshly

"Always Look on the Downside of Life" seems like an anthem for some Detroiters -- an unamusing reversal of Eric Idle's 1979 classic comedy song.

It took just two days for public pissing to begin in reaction to news that Galapagos Art Space, a prestigious Brooklyn gallery and cabaret theater, is relocating to Highland Park.

The landing page of a 14-section website about its plans.

"Plenty of great Detroit creatives have built a very appealing brand that Galapagos is moving in to capitalize on," complains Detroit designer Dylan Box. "The rest of the great venues and art organizations around the city will just have to live in its big, New York-designed shadow."

Box, a 2012 UM graduate who runs the Wedge Detroit studio, likens the East Coast newcomers to absentee property speculators from China. 

At his Box Blog, he writes Wednesday: :  

In an ironic twist, to escape the effects of gentrification caused by artists moving to Brooklyn, they've bought up 6 buildings in Highland Park and Detroit in order to create a bit of gentrification themselves. I wonder what is going to happen in 20 years when they're feeling the pinch of rising Detroit real estate prices? Don't worry; this time they'll control the land and the housing and studio developments in their own little Williamsburg.

It's pretty offensive to me how they talk about their building purchases, too. . . . In a city where people are having trouble paying their taxes, water bills and mortgages, bragging about what a great deal you got doesn't really inspire a lot of desire to connect with the your new neighbors.

Don't let the cover of an artistic background fool you. This is just as troubling to me as Chinese real estate investment snatching up neighborhoods at the county tax auction. . . . When the Detroit art scene is having a hard enough time trying to be acknowledged on a national scale, having a big player airlift in and control the narrative with property and big pockets is sure to push existing Detroit artists further to the sidelines of the conversation. . . .

The young entrepreneur, who has a fine arts degree and lives in East English Village, casts himself in the post as a "constant critic."

Gripes about Galapagos include the choice of four New York designers to create its Highland Park spaces. "At least other out of town businesses would have hired local architects," Box posts.

What really gets him riled -- F-bomb riled -- are two red-flag sentences on one of the 14 sections at a moving-to-Detroit website that Galapagos launched this week. A "Why?" page links the move partly to spiking New York rents that price lofts and studios beyond the reach of emerging artists:

"You can’t paint at night in your kitchen and hope to be a good artist. It doesn’t work that way."

Box explodes:

Fuck you.

Seriously, go fuck yourselves. If you can give me a good reason to believe that you remember what it's like to be a artist and not just a wealthy venue owner, I'll apologize, but until then, you can piss off.

I know plenty of incredibly talented artists here in Detroit who produce beautiful work in basements, on Home Depot work canvas, and kitchen tables. It has nothing to do with where you're making art or with what materials . . .  but it has everything to do with the skill, talent, and drive you put into your work.

You've completely missed one of the driving and defining elements of the Detroit art scene's "brand" that you're capitalizing on: You don't have to have a lot to make the art that matters. I guarantee that every great artist has spent much of their formative years painting in spaces that aren't the industrial-style artist lofts that you will undoubtedly be renting out soon.

But I guess that's the narrative you want to send? That Detroit is in desperate need of your artistic and real estate genius.

But that's the problem isn't it? . . . We already have a "well-functioning creative ecosystem." Just get off your high horse and you might see it.

He continues for another 500-plus words, which you can see by clicking on "Read More" below.

Also this week at Deadline Detroit:

Guests at a 2010 Galapagos event on Main Street near the Brooklyn Bridge. (Facebook photo)
Read more:  Box Blog

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