To Honor Mike Kelley, a Replica of His Home

14 May 2012

Sometimes, artists’ homes are turned into museums after they die.

Perhaps fittingly in the case of Mike Kelley, the anarchic Detroit-born artist who committed suicide in January, a museum of sorts dedicated to his memory will now be built as an almost precise replica of his childhood suburban ranch home — down to the dimensions of the walls and the white siding.

The project, “Mobile Homestead,” had been in the planning stages for several years, and a small piece of the home, a trailer-house-size recreation of part of its facade, made a kind of ancestral journey — on wheels, towed behind a truck — in 2010 from downtown Detroit back to the suburb of Westland where the former Kelley family home still stands. (Three videos that Mr. Kelley made documenting that journey and other parts of the project will be shown as part of the Whitney Biennial beginning May 16.)

After his death, the full project was put on hold and there were doubts that it would ever be realized. But the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, along with the London-based art philanthropy Artangel and the Luma Foundation, a nonprofit based in Switzerland, are set to announce on Monday that construction on the full-size home will begin in June on a vacant lot behind the museum, and the home is expected to open by early 2013.

It will function nothing like a traditional museum or gallery and will show none of Mr. Kelley’s work, at his own insistence. The mobile-home part will remain detachable and will sometimes take its leave of the rest and journey through Detroit. The home as a whole will operate as an unconventional community service office, providing things like haircuts, social services, meeting space and a place to hold barbecues and perhaps for the homeless to pick up mail. “We’re thinking that our education staff will actually move out to the homestead and work from there,” said Marsha Miro, the acting director of the contemporary art museum.

She added: “To have something like this in the city will be so important, not just for the city but for Mike.”

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