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PAST / CURRENT / UPCOMING

The People's Biennial
September 12, 2014 - January 4, 2015

Curated by Jens Hoffmann and Harrell Fletcher

People's Biennial

Photograph of Xav Leplae, courtesy of the artist

The People's Biennial is an exhibition series conceived by artist Harrell Fletcher and curator Jens Hoffmann in 2009. It examines the work of artists and other creative individuals, who operate outside the conventional art world. As such it recognizes a wide array of artistic expression present in many communities across the United States. In covering the little known, the overlooked, the marginalized, and the excluded, the project offers a view into a diverse range of creative practices in America today. The People’s Biennial also proposes an alternative to the standard contemporary art biennial, which mostly focuses on art from a few select cities (New York, Los Angeles, occasionally Chicago, Miami or San Francisco). It questions the often exclusionary and insular process of selecting art that has at times turned the spaces where art is exhibited into privileged havens seemingly detached from the realities of everyday life.

Following the People’s Biennial 2010, which focused attention on underrepresented artists from five diverse non-art center geographical regions in the United States (Portland, Oregon; Rapid City, South Dakota; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Haverford, Pennsylvania), the People’s Biennial 2014 will attempt again to showcase artwork that might otherwise not be shown in a museum context.

For the second iteration of this exhibition series the curators have asked 17 recognized artists based in a wide set of locations around the United States to connect and collaborate with creative individuals they personally know who are not part of the art world in any way. These solo presentations will each be displayed in free-standing structures within the refurbished Woodward Gallery of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit creating a creative community of the unknown, overlooked surprising.

About the curators:

Harrell Fletcher has produced a variety of socially engaged, participatory projects since the early 1990s for institutions, museums and exhibitions around the world. He received his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and his MFA from the California College of the Arts. He studied organic farming at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He went on to work on a variety of small farms, which impacted his work as an artist. He participated in the 2004 Whitney Biennial and is the 2005 recipient of the Alpert Award in Visual Arts. In 2002 Fletcher created Learning To Love You More with Miranda July, a participatory website now in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Fletcher is an Associate Professor of Art and Social Practice at Portland State University.

Jens Hoffmann is the Deputy Director and Head of Exhibitions and Public Programs of The Jewish Museum, New York and guest curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. He has curated more than 50 exhibitions internationally since the late 1990s, including the 2nd San Juan Triennial (2009), the 12th Istanbul Biennial (2011) and the 9th Shanghai Biennale (2012). He was the Director of the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco (2007–12) and Director of Exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London (2003–7).

Participating Collaborations:

  • Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla and Roberto Rabin & Nilda Medina
  • Carson Ellis and Hank Meloy
  • Dara Friedman and Ishmael Golden Eagle
  • Wendy Ewald and Denise Dixon
  • Lee Walton & Harriet Hoover and Mr. Coopers
  • Colter Jacobsen and Lance Rivers
  • Liz Magic Laser and Wendy Osserman
  • Sharon Lockhart and Fearless Fred
  • Cary Loren and Jimbo Easter
  • Rick Lowe and Jonathan the Plant Man
  • Ken Lum and Dave Lane
  • Jeffry Mitchell and Vic Oblas
  • Scott Reeder and Xav Leplae
  • Alec Soth and George Wurtzel
  • Hank Willis Thomas and Baz Dreisinger
  • Transformazium and James Kidd
  • Steven Yazzie and Jonathan Bond



The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization supported through invaluable contributions from individuals and members. The Richard and Jane Manoogian Foundation provides leading support for the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit since 2006. General operating support for MOCAD is generously provided by Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, General Motors Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Masco Corporation Foundation and The Taubman Foundation. Additional funding for programming and educational initiatives is provided by Edith S. Briskin/Shirley K. Schlafer Foundation. Valuable in-kind support is provided by Dykema. Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit is also supported, in part, by The Andy Warhol Foundation For the Arts, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Leveraging Investments in Creativity in partnership with the Ford Foundation, and ArtPlace, a collaboration of top national foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts and various federal agencies to accelerate creative placemaking across the U.S.