Sneak peak of the N'Namdi Center

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The new N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art has its grand opening Saturday (evening into Sunday morning) and Sunday afternoon. But we tagged along recently as George N’Namdi gave a pre-opening walk through of what promises to be a major addition to Detroit’s cultural and social landscape. What has in the past been an auto repair shop, a body shop and the home of the Detroit Science Center is completing a years-in-the-making transformation as the area around Forest and Woodward. The neighborhood, which includes MOCAD and the showcase green apartment building 71 Garfield, is slowly but surely transforming into the Sugar Hill residential-entertainment district.
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At the N’Namdi Center, its pork-pie hatted visionary beamed as he showed off a spacious main gallery, stocked with works from the renowned N’Namdi Collection, which concentrates on African-American abstractionists (though it’s neither exclusively African-American, nor all abstract; N’Namdi proudly touts his aesthetic and cultural diversity). A smaller “black box” has more figurative pieces from his collection and will double as a 125-seat performance space. To be finished for the opening is yet another mid-size exhibition space that will double as a “movement” studio for dance and yoga (the latter to get its inaugural asanas at 6 a.m. Sunday). An outdoor space is in transition to become a dining area and a sculpture garden (and will also be available as a place to present music). Some other spaces are still in progress. To open later this year is a wine bar and a restaurant, both to be operated by Seva, out of Ann Arbor. A bookstore and additional spaces for two independent galleries are being completed. For the handful who showed up for the personal tour, N’Namdi pointed out some of his favorite artists, including Sam Gilliam and Al Loving, Howardena Pindell and Ed Clark. The anchors for his collection, he explained, are now mostly in their 60s to 90s, pioneers all. But — diversity again — he noted the prominent piece by thirthysomething Rashid Johnson, an expansive piece boldly displaying the letters “HNIC.”
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It stands, N’Namdi explained with a chuckle, for “Head N’Namdi in Charge.” Saturday's opening activities include ...
  • 7 p.m.: Bedtime Band Quartet
  • 8 p.m.: George Shirley, actor-operatic tenor
  • 9 p.m.: DJ Espy (neo-soul)
  • 9:30 p.m.: Film Dear Me directed by ka’RAMUU KUSH
  • 10 p.m.: Oliver Pookrum presents Pearls of Wisdom; capoeira Angola demonstration
  • 11 p.m.: Azzah Smith fashion show; Charity (vocals, acoustic guitar)
  • Midnight: Film Black August, Detroiter Dream Hampton’s award-winning documentary featuring Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common and others
  • 12:30 a.m.: jessica Care moore (poetry)
  • 2 a.m.: Short films
  • 4 a.m.: DJ Sicari
  • 6 a.m.: yoga
The opening resumes at 2 p.m. on Sunday with an artists panel, book signing and lectures. Also see nnamdicenter.org. (How long has the center been in the works? George N'Namdi talked to us about it for a profile in 2001.)

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