When Dan Gilbert's Bedrock Real Estate Services bought 1550 Woodward for $176K from Wayne County at auction in 2011, at least 43 other bidders had high hopes for this property. We at Curbed Detroit were no different—in fact, we called the building "the hottest property in the Wayne County tax auction." Fast forward four years and Bedrock hasn't developed the property or had any luck renting it, despite creating renderings to show potential tenants what the place would look like as a hipster farm-to-table restaurant with a pretentious name. This week, Bedrock transformed the building's exterior into intriguing/creepy public art, part of a worldwide installation by New Orleans artist Candy Chang. Ferndale artist Mark Serra used Chang's rubric in painting the massive chalkboard that asks pedestrians to finish this sentence: "Before I die I want to…" Perhaps Dan Gilbert, whose real estate company commissioned the artwork, would write "Before I die I want to…rent out this building for a decent ROI."
Doing things before we die seems like a solid plan, given the metaphysical (and physical) difficulties involved in doing things afterwards. Nevertheless, at least 90 people filled in those blanks less than 24 hours after the installation went up, so clearly something about this piece really captured the imaginations of many Detroiters on Woodward Ave this week. One wanted to "travel the world" doing good works, another simply to "marry the gurl [sic]."
While this art piece seems well suited to Detroit, it's part of a much larger series created by Chang. To date, "Before I Die" walls—and even an entire house—have invited people in 70 different countries to write their hopes and plans in brightly colored chalk. Some other venues for the work include Iraq, China, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Japan, Argentina, and South Africa. A book based on Chang's work catalogues many of these ideas.
Whether the Detroit installment in the series simply exists to charm and delight (and confuse and creep out) passersby, or is a smart way of drawing attention to a vacant building someone would very much like to rent out (before he dies), this artwork has invited Detroiters into an existential discussion, both on the building, and on Twitter, where it has its own hashtag.
·The Hottest Property in the Wayne County Tax Auction So Far [Curbed Detroit]
·A Vision for Dan Gilbert's Auction Property Score: The Grocery [Curbed Detroit]
·Mark Serra Studio [Mark Serra]
·1550 Woodward [Bedrock Real Estate Services]
·Before I Die House [Candy Chang]
·Before I Die Project Site [Before I Die]
·Passersby invited to jot down dreams on Detroit chalkboard [Detroit Free Press]
·Before I Die Wall [Twitter]