MCA: Museum of Contemporary Art

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), on the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago, opened in 1968 as a temporary art center for local collectors and modern art enthusiasts. The main objective of the MCA is to offer a view of the contemporary visual arts in painting, sculpture, photography, video, film, and performance since 1945. Through its permanent and temporary exhibitions, it encourages the contemplation and appreciation of the historical, social, and cultural aspects of modern art.

In 1969, Christo wrapped the Museum in 8,000 feet of tarpaulin in his first building wrap in the U.S. After 1968, artistic works by George Segal, Marisol, the Venezuelan sculptor, and objects given by the Mayer’s of Chicago were added to the Museum’s collections. Subsequently, numerous solo exhibitions featured artists in imagery, surrealism, dadaism, and figurative sculpture. Art collections continued to expand along with donations and endowments from private collectors such as Joseph Shapiro, thus prompting the need for more gallery space and a larger, more attractive building. In 1992, the Berlin architect, Josef Kleihues was commissioned for the new design and in 1996, the remodeled Museum and new sculpture garden opened to a record crowd of more than 25,000 visitors during a 24-hour period.

Within the Museum are barrel-vaulted naturally lit galleries for the impressive permanent collections and temporary exhibits of over 7,000 objects of minimalism, post-minimalism, and conceptualism art. These collections include artists and artists’ books such as Magritte, Calder, Warhol, LeWitt, Kline, H.C. Westermann, Simpson, Sherman, Serra, and Koons. Through the years, the Museum has continued to feature special events, performances, and numerous artists in solo exhibitions. Some of the more impressive installations include Dan Flavin’s retrospective art Pink and Gold, an impressive display of fluorescent tube lighting in ten colors and five shapes and Catherine Opie’s conceptual photography of Chicago architecture and the changing seasonal views of Lake Michigan. Another exhibit, Drawn into the World, is a collection that highlights the different mediums of over 60 graphic artists who use techniques such as charcoal, gunpowder, soil, and petroleum jelly.

The Museum also sponsors the impressive display of renowned architect Bruce Mau in Massive Change. Through the conceptual imagery of manufacturing, health, transportation, military, ideas, and people, Nauman’s presentation emphasizes the real human capacity to change the world through the power and responsibility of design. Another interesting feature at the MCA is Patty Chang’s video installation of Shangri-La, reflecting her personal journey to this imaginary place. Other attractions and performances include Rudolph Stingel’s creative artworks using rubber, aluminum, carpet, and paint and a series of one-act plays honoring the 100-year anniversary of Samuel Beckett’s birth. Upcoming musical performances include the World Music Festival with classical music from India and Brazil, the Patricia Barber vocalist concert of jazz and contemporary music, the Digital Film Festival, and performances by the famous Martha Graham Dance Company.

The Museum has a bookstore, gift store, 300-seat theater, and a sculpted terraced garden, with a grand view of Lake Michigan. Puck’s full-service restaurant, express counter, and outdoor dining is open during the week for lunch and brunch on Sundays. On the first Friday of each month, MCA hosts a cocktail party from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., with live entertainment and catering by Puck’s, for $14.00 which includes admission to the Museum. Free gallery talks and daily 45-minute tours by curators, educators, and artists.

Hours: Tuesday, 10:00 a.m. — 8:00 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. — 5:00 p.m. Closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Admission: $10.00, students with ID and seniors $6.00; MCA members, children under 12, and the military are free.

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