The Lee Bontecou Exhibition

2000s Artists Curatorial Exhibitions

Elizabeth Smith, a chief curator for 10 years, put on an incredible Lee Bontecou show that later travelled to MoMA and the Hammer.

Elizabeth Smith, who was our chief curator for 10 years, was a big aficionado of her work. Before she came to the MCA, she'd actually curated a small exhibition of Lee's work in California. And it'd always been her dream to do a full museum retrospective of Bontecou. And long story short, she got to do it. She finally convinced her to come out of obscurity, and we partnered with the Hammer to mount the show.

And the exhibition—not only did it win all sorts of awards, it was probably one of the most astounding things that the museum has ever done here. It was just incredible. The show occurred at the Hammer, here, and then it went to the Museum of Modern Art. And it also brought Lee Bontecou back out of obscurity, into the public eye, and her career really resumed. Now unfortunately I think she's suffering from dementia. Not making work anymore. But that was only recently. So she got to fulfill the rest of her—I think her career goals. I mean, she always made art, but didn't display it. And she has been displayed regularly, and in many institutions today.

Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1966. Welded steel, canvas, epoxy, leather, wire, and light; 78 ½ x 119 x 31 in. (199.4 x 302.3 x 78.7 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of the Robert B. Mayer Family Collection, 1991.85. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1966. Welded steel, canvas, epoxy, leather, wire, and light; 78 ½ x 119 x 31 in. (199.4 x 302.3 x 78.7 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of the Robert B. Mayer Family Collection, 1991.85. Photo © MCA Chicago.

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