Tiff Massey and Laura Raicovich on why the art world needs a new model

Hannah Ongley in Document:

Entering Red Bull Arts Detroit, housed in the cavernous basement of the old Eckhardt & Becker Brewery in Eastern Market, you’re lured toward the main exhibition space by a pink fluorescent glow. The curious light emanates from a neon sign by the multidisciplinary Detroit artist Tiff Massey, one of Red Bull’s three artists in residence for the program’s first cycle of 2019, reading, “Bitch don’t touch MY HAIR!!” Written in cursive font and followed by exactly two exclamation points, it’s both foreboding and inviting, an entryway into Massey’s world. Massey, who holds an MFA in metalsmithing from Cranbrook Academy of Art, has exhibited in international galleries across Europe, but she’s adamant about who she creates for: black women. The centerpiece of her Red Bull Arts Detroit exhibition is a shrine-like display of 22 hairstyles, each braided and beaded in the same splendid shade of gold, and walled in on either side by distorted black-and-white photographs from an African-American hair salon, which feature primarily caucasian models. On an adjacent wall is a row of oversized pink barrettes repurposing another aspect of Detroit’s history: big manufacturing. “Craftsmanship is first,” Massey tells curator Laura Raicovich in the following conversation. “I want you to be seduced by the work. Whether it’s the colors, or the form, or whatever.”

Raicovich, through her work as a curator and author, is also a fearless advocate for equity in the historically exclusive art world. She resigned from her position as director of the Queens Museum at the beginning of last year, after riling more conservative board members with progressive initiatives including increased access for the local immigrant community.

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