Establishing the Collection
The MCA's early acquisitions relied on grants and the generosity of Chicago collectors, whose interests helped shape the collection.
We really did look at what collectors in the community were collecting, and would outright ask for things. And say, "This is why you need to give it, because it needs to support this strength already," or we need to start realizing that we don't have minimal sculpture, except for a few things. So, people really rose to the occasion, because the majority of the early collection was donation. There were some grants back in those days, which I actually wrote a lot of the grants that got things into the collection with National Endowment for the Arts grants. Remember those? No, no one remembers that there were grants that you could get art works in your collection from the federal government. But there were also State of Illinois grants, which a number of Illinois artists came into the collection that way. So, we always had to match those grants, and it was a way of going to collectors and saying, "This isn't what you are collecting, because we need to buy it, because it's not something you're collecting. But, you can give the money to match." So a lot of collectors get their name on things that they then learned about.
So, again, some of the early Chicago photography and Chicago sculptors, like Tony Tasset, kind of came into the collection that way. And Richard Rezac, actually, is another one that I remember very distinctly writing a grant to get a work of art of his into the collection. But the collection really did grow organically out of the unique interests of Chicago collectors. But at the time, when we moved into this building, we did a big survey, and realized we needed to go beyond that, and start buying some things, because there were just things that were never going to be, you know, donated. And that's at the point that we actually did do some deaccessioning.