Contemporary art gallery Library Street Collective has announced that it will relocate from its current home at 1260 Library Street in the heart of downtown Detroit to a new flagship space located directly next door on the ground floor of the historic L.B. King and Company building. Set to open in February of next year with a KAWS-curated exhibition of the works of Sam Friedman, the new gallery space will be designed by New York-based collaborative design practice Snarkitecture. Best known for creating playful and unexpected public installations and ephemeral retail environments, the project is the first freestanding dedicated gallery space designed by the practice and also the first time it has worked on a historic building.
While it’s certainly not a big move geographically speaking for Library Street Collective, the transition to a new space does further fuse the gallery with The Belt, “a culturally redefined” alleyway of murals and artistic interventions that runs parallel to Library Street and directly behind the L.B. King Building, a six-story structure built in 1911 as headquarters for a china wholesaler. A key feature of Snarkitecture’s design referred to simply as “the portal” will serve as a direct link between The Belt, which is conceptualized and curated by Library Street Collective, and the new gallery space.
“The portal functions as both a window into the gallery and an architectural intervention within The Belt,” Anthony Curis, cofounder of Library Street Collective, explained to AN. “This duality is synonymous with our interests as a gallery, finding purposeful ways to push beyond the brick and mortar and into the community.”
Brick, as it turns out, played an integral role in creating the gallery’s provocative, alley-facing aperture-slash-architectural intervention.
“We worked with the materials that were present on site—the historic brick of the building facade—and also played a bit with the ‘bricked up’ existing condition of the window,” explained Snarkitecture cofounder Alex Mustonen, who led the project team along with Clarisse Empaynado and lead Breanna Urquhart. “By treating the brick as a sculptural material, we were able to push and mold the opening to bring the exterior of The Belt towards the interior of the gallery. What appears as a concave excavation from the exterior reveals itself one to one on the interior as a convex sculptural form pushing into the space.”
Mustonen added that “The portal through the facade of the gallery animates several aspects of Snarkitecture’s practice, but particularly the idea of working between the disciplines of art and architecture—the piece is both an art installation within the context of the public art program of The Belt, while also being a permanent intervention within the facade of the historic L.B. King and Company Building, revealing a window that looks into the gallery space.”
Also known as the Annis Furs Building in reference to the wholesale and retail furrier that occupied the structure from the early 1930s through 1983, the white terra cotta-clad L.B. King and Company Building was designed by Rogers and MacFarlane, a prolific Detroit firm in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Executed in the Chicago-born Commercial style that was wildly popular at the time, the building was designated as a Michigan State Historic Site in January 1987 and added to the National Register of Historic places later that year.
Curis Enterprises (Anthony Curis is also a real estate developer) and Bedrock Real Estate Services acquired the historic 36,000-square-foot building in 2015. Curis told AN that Library Street Collective will maintain its current gallery space next door at 1260 Library Street and transition it into other uses such as a private showroom and administrative office space. Library Street Collective’s sister gallery, Louis Buhl & Co. is also located at the same address and accessible via The Belt.
As for the forthcoming flagship gallery space, it will take full advantage of the L.B. King and Company Building’s soaring ground-floor ceilings and features flexible elements like a display wall doubling as a partition. Mustonen noted that the “crisp, monochromatic envelope within the historic structure allows for the display and viewing of a wide array of artwork through Library Street Collective’s program.”
“The intent with the portal and the project as a whole is to create a moment of pause or wonder for people visiting The Belt and Library Street Collective, inviting them to look through this strange, anomalous opening and to explore the undiscovered worlds might exist within,” added Mustonen.
Snarkitecture’s design of Library Street Collective’s new home marks the second time the practice has worked with the gallery. In 2019, the gallery conceptualized and produced the Detroit edition of The Beach. The globe-traveling interactive design installation was first commissioned by the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., where it debuted in the summer of 2015. And in other Snarkitecture-in-the-Midwest news, Daniel Arsham, the practice’s co-founder along with Mustonen, was recently named as creative director of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The first-of-its-kind position was, as first reported last month, initiated by Grant Gilbert, Director of Brand Strategy for the Cavaliers, and Curis.