The MCA organizes Vito Acconci: A Retrospective 1969–1980 as well as solo shows for Martin Puryear and Lawrence Weiner. The diverse exhibition schedule also includes Outsider Art in Chicago, Late Entries to the Tribune Tower Competition, and German Realism of the Twenties: The Artist as Social Critic.
Among the highlights are exhibitions of Roger Brown’s paintings, Robert Smithson’s sculptures, and Chuck Close’s paintings and photographs. The MCA organizes solo shows for Margaret Wharton and Charles Simonds, who creates a permanent wall installation in the museum’s café. Helyn D. Goldenberg is elected president.
The MCA mounts the groundbreaking traveling exhibition Magdalena Abakanowicz, the Polish artist’s first exposure in the United States. New Music in America, a festival of experimental music, is warmly received by the community. Also featured during the year are works by Laurie Anderson, Yves Kline, and Nam June Paik.
MCA founding president Joseph Shapiro and his wife, Jory, promise more than thirty works of art as gifts to the MCA’s Collection. In addition, the legendary George Costakis collection is featured in Art of the Avant-Garde in Russia. The MCA also presents retrospective exhibitions for Chicago photographer Kenneth Josephson, New York sculptor Louise Bourgeois, and British painter Malcolm Morley.
Dada and Surrealism in Chicago Collections examines the extraordinary concentration of art from these movements that exists within the city. Hockney Paints the Stage fills the museum with colorful opera set designs. Expressions: New Art from Germany introduces such artists as Anselm Kiefer and Georg Baselitz to Chicagoans. I. Michael Danoff begins his tenure as director. The board of trustees commissions an independent study on the museum’s prospects for growth.
Options exhibitions showcase four emerging local artists: Jo Anne Carson, Jin Soo Kim, Paul Rosin, and Ken Warneke. Other provocative exhibitions include Eric Fischl: Paintings and a Gordon Matta-Clark retrospective. The MCA presents Robert Ashley’s Atalanta (Acts of God) in cooperation with Goodman Theatre as part of The Electronic Language performance and new media series. A planning study confirms the critical need for a larger MCA facility.
The MCA mounts Jannis Kounellis: A Retrospective in its galleries and at four other sites around the city. Memorable exhibitions celebrate Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s career and Robert Morris’s work from the 1980s. A group of nine trustees commit $5 million as seed money for building a new museum. Governor James R. Thompson appoints a task force to determine the future of the Illinois National Guard Armory on Chicago Avenue. John D. Cartland becomes president.
The MCA organizes Donald Sultan and A Quiet Revolution: British Sculpture since 1965 and hosts David Salle and The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890–1985. The museum is awarded a $450,000 National Endowment for the Arts challenge grant. Governor Thompson’s task force recommends demolition of the Armory and development of the site as a park with a museum and sculpture garden. The MCA submits a proposal to the governor.
Christian Boltanski: Lessons of Darkness and Gerhard Richter: Paintings are organized by the MCA and tour internationally. Other highlights include Jeff Koons’s first solo museum show and the first comprehensive survey of Nancy Spero’s work. Governor Thompson grants the Armory site to the MCA in exchange for the Donnelley building on Calumet Avenue, which will be renovated for the National Guard’s use. The MCA begins working with architectural consultant Marcy Goodwin to develop the building program document.
The touring exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment draws the highest attendance in the MCA’s history, without a whisper of controversy. Other provocative exhibitions include Chicago Artists in the European Tradition and Object, Site, Sensation: New German Sculpture. Paul W. Oliver-Hoffmann becomes chair of the board of trustees. A fundraising study confirms strong support for a new museum building. Jerome H. Stone accepts chairmanship of the Chicago Contemporary Campaign, which raises funds to operate and endow a new facility. A campaign goal of $55 million is established. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awards a $2 million grant to the MCA. Kevin E. Consey is named director and chief executive officer.