Originally written for suite101, published on 01/03/09, now hosted over at Xomba.

The Museum of Contemporary Art is many things, stark and ever changing, but it is very clear on one point, the art it houses is not modern. Without an extensive knowledge of art it can be hard to fathom the difference between modern and contemporary art beyond pure semantics. However, considering the museum’s work and art on display things become a little clearer.

There is very little of the abstract blocks, dots and lines that most casual observers associate with modern art. Instead there are examples of innovative techniques, combining photography and painting, silhouettes and social history. The majority of the art has something to say, whether quietly about the nature of time or loudly about racial stereotypes, there is very little art for art’s sake and it makes a refreshing change.

Selections from the Museum’s Collection

The museum itself has an extensive collection of visual art dating from the mid-1940s onwards with a focus upon Chicago artists. Surrealism, minimalism and conceptual photography also feature heavily and are often used to create revolving displays that grace the museum’s lobbies. Only a small selection of the 2345 objects in the collection can be on display at any one time, so repetition is quite rare.

The museum prides itself on displaying and documenting contemporary visual culture in a wide variety of mediums: from painting and sculpture to photography and film, seeking to find new ways to combines its collections with interactive, educational and performing arts programmes and practices. Attempting to engage with its audience and community to stimulate the creation of new art and culture.

Sculpture Garden

Not many museums can boast of a sculpture garden, fewer still in the heart of a city. The garden of the MCA is strangely calm for all its proximity to the city’s Magnificent Mile, especially at sunset. Although some of the statues are quite abstract, the contrast with the natural setting seems to work in their favour.

To the left of the main entrance to the museum stand three amorphous yellow and white figures (Ganz Grosse Geister by Thomas Schutte). At 16ft tall these chimerical figures, draw the attention and fascination of the casual passer-by, standing in stark contrast to the somewhat unassuming façade of the museum itself.

Ganz Grosse Geister

Ganz Grosse Geister

Opening Hours & Getting There

220 East Chicago Avenue, one block east from Michigan Avenue (across the park from the Water Works Visitor Information Centre).

Opening Hours:

Monday: Closed

Tuesday: 10 am to 8 pm (Admission Free)

Wednesday – Sunday: 10 am to 5 pm

Open every day except: Thanksgiving, Christmas and Boxing Day


General Admission: $12

Students (with ID) & Senior Citizens: $7

MCA members, Children under 12 and Members of the Military: Free

For further information and bookings for upcoming events and exhibitions:

Telephone Enquires – 312.280.2660

Box Office – 312.397.4010

Website – www.mcachicago.org