Museum of Contemporary Art

museum of contemporary art

As the eternally sage Andy Warhol once said, “Art is what you can get away with.” No saying is more apropos for the Museum of Contemporary Art wtih a collection of post World War II pieces that makes the work of Jackson Pollock and Marcel Duchamp look mundane and commonplace. The most arguably “normal” structure in the museum is an almond-shaped koi pond that can be seen from the stair landings on each of its four levels. At the MCA, as it is often abbreviated, anything goes, from the inventive to the truly bizarre.

The MCA opened its doors in 1967. Its original home was a small, single-level building that had been built to house a bakery, but at one point served as administrative offices for Playboy. In 1996, it moved to its current location, an imposing building in Streeterville. The 2,500 pieces that make up the permanent collection include paintings, sketches, sculptures, photos, videos, and 3-D structures, though only a small number of these works are on display at any given time in order to make room for visiting exhibits. In addition to the artworks, the MCA also boasts a gift shop, bookstore, restaurant, 300-seat theatre, and a sculpture garden with a breathtaking view of Lake Michigan.

The art and exhibits displayed at the MCA are unlike any you have probably previously encountered. During my first trip to the MCA, the showcased exhibition was Production Site: The Artist’s Studio Inside-Out. This themed exhibit, which gave the impression that one had been invited into a personal art studio, emphasized not only the art, but the space in which it was created. Ryan Gander’s “A sheet of paper on which I was about to draw, as it slipped from my table and fell to the floor” was one work I encountered on my trip to the museum. The artwork bearing this verbose title consisted of 100 crystal balls scattered randomly (or was it random?) across the large floor space as if someone had dropped their bag of oversized marbles. Inside each of the globes, which visitors were encouraged to walk amongst, a small, nearly transparent piece of paper was configured as though it was falling listlessly through the air.

This work, though part of a temporary exhibit, is representative of the types of work you can expect to find at the MCA. At first glance, the piece seems strange and quite simplistic. However, after taking a step back from the artwork and considering it more thoroughly, you realize that the work is actually quite brilliant and, in conjunction with its rambling title, manages to incorporate the concepts of space, movement, and art into one aesthetically pleasing presentation. The works displayed at the MCA are as much a study of the creativity of the human brain as they are pieces of art.

The allure of the MCA is that — from the displays to the visitors — it is extraordinary. It makes you consider art (and if you’re feeling really profound, people as well) in completely different terms than you are used to. You may think twice before you plop onto one of the benches scattered throughout the museum, as it could easily be someone’s masterpiece. So whether you come to enjoy one of the many exhibits, or just want to stop by the First Fridays cocktail party, chances are you will leave slightly more aware than when you entered.

Basic Info:
Location: 220 East Chicago Avenue
Phone: 312-280-2660, 312-397-4010

Admission Hours and Prices:
Closed Monday
Tuesday: 10am-8pm
Wednesday-Sunday 10am-5pm

Suggested General Admission: $12
Students with ID and Senior Citizens: $7
MCA members, members of the military, children under 12: Free
FREE all day on Tuesdays!!

Brittany Clingen

About Brittany Clingen

Born and raised twenty miles outside Chicago and now residing in Wrigleyville, this life long Cubs fan enjoys running along the lake, taunting Sox fans, reading books, dabbling in screenwriting, and pampering her pug named Pug. On the weekends she frequents a number of popular North side watering holes and tours around the city with friends, welcoming any adventure that might come her way.

One Comment

  • Matt L.
    April 8, 2010 | Permalink | Reply

    This explains a lot about the museum I didn’t know, and I’ve lived in Chicago my whole life haha

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