‘to freeze in time a piece of my country’s history, and freeze in time myself along with it’

Ryan Mendoza

Ryan Mendoza and his team during the demolition

House from Detroit at Art Rotterdam


A home from Detroit was being demolished and shipped in containers to Europe. The home was reconstructed at the main entrance of Art Rotterdam so visitors could experience the impressive installation by visualartist Ryan Mendoza, a world première.

Imagine: Detroit, once the largest centre of automotive industry in the world. Till the credit crunch that is when car factories like General Motors, Ford and Chrysler got into financial trouble and had to close down. People were dismissed and were left with immense mortgage debts. The crisis on the housing market was the final blow. Residents left their homes and entire neighborhoods were abandoned. What once was a prospering city with 1,8 million inhabitants is now a ghost town of less than 700.000 inhabitants with chaos, decline and crime as a result. Homes are sold at auction for 1.000 dollar to prevent vacancy in the area. Houses dilapidate and are being town down with bulldozers all the time.

Ryan Mendoza 

‘to freeze in time a piece of my country’s history, and freeze in time myself along with it’

Visual artist, born and raised in New York, lives and works in both Berlin and Naples. In 2013 he returns – after 20 years- to his home ground. It is then he sees in Detroit the reality of the day. For Mendoza this project feels like a homecoming. With the destroyed Detroit home he tells a story. Mendoza: ‘I will be one lucky artist indeed to freeze in time a piece of my country’s history, and freeze in time myself along with it: through salvaging one house from demolition, and by transporting it and rebuilding it at Art Rotterdam and eventually at the Verbeke Foundation in Belgium, I will give people from all over Europe the chance not only to walk into one man’s memories, but to walk also into one country’s collective aspirations and unanticipated shortcomings.’

The White House

From Detroit, to Rotterdam, to Antwerp..

Geert Verbeke
Jeroen Dijkstra, from Livingstone Gallery The Hague, has been working with the artist for a number of years now. He knew about Mendoza’s intentions with the Detroit home and introduced him to Geert Verbeke of the Verbeke Foundation in Belgium.

Verbeke was always busy working for his transport company. He had scarcely been abroad and almost never took the time for a vacation. When he heard of the Mendoza project, he immediately took the airplane to Detroit to meet Mendoza. He was overwhelmed by what he saw. Entire streets were abandoned, just as schools, hospitals and office buildings. One instantly realizes that we live in such prosperity in Europe and you find yourself asking: can what happened in Detroit also happen here? That is what makes the project so very interesting. Used to doing what is not done by someone else, Verbeke only sees a challenge.

The home was demolished and transported to the Port of Antwerp. Verbeke seizes the opportunity to first show the home at Art Rotterdam before it is being rebuild at the Verbeke Foundation. A crowdfunding campaign took care of the transport costs from Antwerp to Rotterdam and the rebuilding and dismantling costs. Visitors of Art Rotterdam got the unique opportunity to experience Mendoza’s story in the Detroit Home.

‘A refuge’ for art
In the end the Detroit home will find a permanent place at the Verbeke Foundation, since 2007 one of the largest private initiatives for contemporary art in Europe. 12 hectares of scenic area and 20.000 square metre of exhibition space, once the warehouses of the transport company. Verbeke has been living on the outskirts of the nature reserve for about 35 years. An atypical collector who chooses to live– together with his wife Carla- between the art and nature, as free and independent as possible, because that is his objective. ‘A refuge’ for art; unfinished, unpolished, contradictory and always in motion. A stunning place for a beautiful project.

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