Early Bets and Bully Pulpits

Artists Collection Staff

Bringing in emerging artists, such as Wu Tsang or Ellen Berkenblit, makes the museum a driver of discourse.

I think a thing that we try to do is also make early bets on artists that are young in their careers but we think are doing really great things and are showing a lot of promise. And one example of that is Wu Tsang, whose installation Mishima in Mexico we brought into the collection a few years ago and put it on view quite soon after we brought it in. And I think it's really a masterpiece, and one that I think the MCA's the only owner of that particular piece. When we see opportunities like that to have a signature work by an artist and really go out on a limb and bring them into the collection, it oftentimes has also a great effect on their careers and shows the rest of the world that a museum such as ours is putting faith in that artist and bringing them into our collection for perpetuity, and I think that's another great message that we could send. Again, using our collection as a driver of discourse and even art history, and so that's something that, again, a responsibility that I don't think we take lightly but also is really exciting when you can participate in that way.

Oftentimes I really feel like, with our collecting, we can kind of use it as a bully pulpit, almost, and challenge other museums and challenge other collectors to look in different corners of the art market that maybe they're not looking in or that aren't as publicized.

And so I've really been excited when we've gone forward and really put our money where our mouth is on a certain artist and then seeing other museums and/or other collectors really respond to that and also get excited by those artists. And I think one fun example of that is Ellen Berkenblit, who's a painter that I've admired for a long time, and I felt was just an incredible painter that had really not gotten her due, and so we brought a big canvas of hers into the museum a couple years ago.

Related Stories

Video still, Behind the Scenes at an Art Museum. © MCA Chicago.

Behind the Scenes

MCA staff members are interviewed in 1997 about their work. Interviews include Torri Johnson, security officer; Margaret Farr, assistant director of education; Pablo Helguera, coordinator of public programs; Dominic Molon,. . . more
1990s Community Education Staff