Leapfrogging the Masters

1960s Artists Directors Exhibitions Firsts

The DNA of the MCA's 1967 founding continues to influence the museum and has resulted in a number of US "firsts."

Still today, as in 1967, we are absolutely artist-activated. We continue to commission work, whether it's Susan Philipsz's sound piece or Mark Bradford's murals—and we catalyze art. So we don't only present, we actually help create art history and we support, promote, and—leapfrog the masters and mistresses and masterpieces of tomorrow. One of the things that we instituted as part of the vision is what we call an Ascendant Artist series. This series, which began with the work of Rashid Johnson, is dedicated to organizing the first exhibition and first major catalogue of an artist that we in our wisdom know will be part of the future of art history.

This actually is directly related to the DNA and founding source of the MCA Chicago going back to 1967. We have a long history of firsts, including the first US museum to organize a Frida Kahlo exhibition, the first US museum to organize a Gerhard Richter exhibition, the first to organize a Jeff Koons exhibition. The only museum in the United States to give Gordon Matta-Clark a commission and project to execute. And so we wanted to maintain that spirit. So there are aspects of the 21st-century museum that maintain honor and develop the DNA of museums going back to the sixties.

Installation view, Frida Kahlo, MCA Chicago, Jan 13–Mar 5, 1978. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, Frida Kahlo, MCA Chicago, Jan 13–Mar 5, 1978. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, Frida Kahlo, MCA Chicago, Jan 13–Mar 5, 1978. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, Frida Kahlo, MCA Chicago, Jan 13–Mar 5, 1978. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, Frida Kahlo, MCA Chicago, Jan 13–Mar 5, 1978. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, Frida Kahlo, MCA Chicago, Jan 13–Mar 5, 1978. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Gordon Matta-Clark, Circus or The Caribbean Orange, 1978. Silver dye-bleach print; installed: 42 ¼ x 64 ½ in. (107.3 x 163.8 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, restricted gift of Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Bergman and Susan and Lewis Manilow, 1978.1.a–b. © Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Gordon Matta-Clark, Circus or The Caribbean Orange, 1978. Silver dye-bleach print; installed: 42 ¼ x 64 ½ in. (107.3 x 163.8 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, restricted gift of Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Bergman and Susan and Lewis Manilow, 1978.1.a–b. © Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, Circus: The Caribbean Orange, MCA Chicago, Jan 28–Feb 13, 1978. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, Circus: The Caribbean Orange, MCA Chicago, Jan 28–Feb 13, 1978. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, Circus: The Caribbean Orange, MCA Chicago, Jan 28–Feb 13, 1978. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, Circus: The Caribbean Orange, MCA Chicago, Jan 28–Feb 13, 1978. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, Circus: The Caribbean Orange, MCA Chicago, Jan 28–Feb 13, 1978. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, Circus: The Caribbean Orange, MCA Chicago, Jan 28–Feb 13, 1978. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, Jeff Koons: Works 1979–1988, Jul 1–Aug 28, 1988. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, Jeff Koons: Works 1979–1988, Jul 1–Aug 28, 1988. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, Gerhard Richter: Paintings, MCA Chicago, Sep 17–Nov 27, 1988. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, Gerhard Richter: Paintings, MCA Chicago, Sep 17–Nov 27, 1988. Photo © MCA Chicago.

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