The MCA’s galleries and front facade are installed with monumental sculptures for A Primal Spirit: Ten Contemporary Japanese Sculptors. Alison Saar and her mother, Betye, exhibit together at the MCA, which also presents a survey of Robert Longo’s work. The MCA signs a 99-year lease on the Armory site with the Illinois Department of Conservation and turns over the Donnelley building to the National Guard. The international search for an architect begins.
Cuba-USA: The First Generation and Memory and Metaphor: The Art of Romare Bearden 1940–1987 reflect the increased emphasis on diverse programming. Sigmar Polke and Jean-Pierre Raynaud receive solo exhibitions. Allen M. Turner becomes chair of the board of trustees. The trustee phase of the Chicago Contemporary Campaign surpasses all expectations, as the board contributes $37.5 million toward the goal of $55 million. In March, Josef Paul Kleihues of Berlin is named architect of the new building and conceptual design begins. In December the board of trustees approves Kleihues’s conceptual design for the new building and sculpture garden.
Robert Rauschenberg: The Early 1950s and John Cage: Scores from the Early 1950s are presented simultaneously and draw record crowds. The MCA organizes touring exhibitions of work by Yasumasa Morimura and Lorna Simpson, the first major one-person shows for each. Art at the Armory: Occupied Territory transforms the future site of the MCA’s new building from a military facility to a temporary art museum featuring eighteen installations. The MCA unveils designs for the new building at its 25th anniversary gala.
Exhibitions are mounted for Russian artist Ilya Kabakov and British artist Rachel Whiteread. The MCA hosts three major traveling exhibitions: In the Spirit of Fluxus; Susan Rothenberg: Paintings and Drawings; and Hand-Painted Pop: American Art in Transition, 1955–1962. Mrs. Beatrice Cummings Mayer is recognized for giving $7.5 million to establish the Mayer Education Center in the new building. The facility will include a 300-seat auditorium, classrooms, and a 15,000-volume library. The Armory is demolished. On November 30 a ground-breaking ceremony for the MCA’s new building is held with new National Endowment for the Arts Chair Jane Alexander as the keynote speaker.
Radical Scavenger(s): The Conceptual Vernacular in Recent American Art is the first exhibition organized by Richard Francis, the museum’s new chief curator and James W. Alsdorf Curator of Contemporary Art. Jeanne Dunning, Jim Lutes, Dan Peterman, Kay Rosen, Vincent Shine, and Hollis Sigler are featured in a series of one-person shows focusing on artists who live and work in Chicago. Trustee Gerald S. Elliott passes away; his bequest of 105 minimalist, conceptual, and Neo-Expressionist works is the largest gift of art received in the MCA’s history. The Kresge Foundation awards the MCA a $750,000 challenge grant to assist the museum in reaching the $55-million campaign goal. The “topping out” of the new MCA structure is celebrated on December 10 in a public ceremony attended by Mayor Richard M. Daley and 700 guests.
The MCA organizes Jeff Wall and Beverly Semmes, the first major solo museum exhibitions for each artist. Beyond Belief: Contemporary Art from East Central Europe is the first American museum exhibition to examine recent art from the region. The final showings of the MCA’s Collection in the current facility feature installations of work by Bruce Nauman and Robert Smithson. The Museum hosts Franz Kline: Black and White 1950–1961 and Andres Serrano: Works 1983–1993, as well as the only US presentation of Some Went Mad, Some Ran Away…, which features works chosen by British artist Damien Hirst. The Lannan Foundation announces it will divide its collection among three museums, including the MCA.
The MCA’s Ontario Street building closes in January. The new building and sculpture garden opens on June 21–22, on the summer solstice, hosting more than 25,000 visitors during a 24-hour public preview. Enjoying five times the gallery space of the old facility, the museum, for the first time in its history, can display its collection and mount temporary exhibitions simultaneously. Shadow of Storms: Art of the Postwar Era from the MCA Collection features 125 works from the collection, while the major inaugural exhibition, Negotiating Rapture: The Power of Art to Transform Lives, explores art’s transcendent power. Art in Chicago, 1945–1995, celebrating five decades of Chicago’s rich artistic legacy, opens in November. The MCA launches the Refco Projects Series, featuring new work by young and emerging artists, such as Jennifer Pastor and Jorge Pardo. The MCA premieres its monthly after-hours event First Fridays.
Groundbreaking exhibitions continue at the MCA, which mounts the interactive exhibition Performance Anxiety and Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum’s first major solo show in America. The MCA also renews its commitment to bringing important touring shows to Chicago, such as Richard Misrach’s Desert Cantos series, Hall of Mirrors: Art and Film Since 1945, and a major retrospective focusing on the dean of American photography, Harry Callahan. The Museum receives one of the largest gifts of art in its history: 85 artworks from the Lannan Foundation. Penny Pritzker becomes chair of the board of trustees. After one year of operations in its new home, MCA attendance, revenues, and membership have quadrupled. The Chicago Contemporary Campaign reaches $72.5 million, far surpassing the original $55 million goal.
The MCA presents Cindy Sherman: Retrospective, the most comprehensive exhibition of Sherman’s work ever mounted. The MCA also organized the major exhibitions: California Scheming, Envisioning the Contemporary: Selections from the MCA Collection, Jana Sterbak, and Mariko Mori. Joe Scanlan, Jacob Hashimoto, and Abigail Lane are each given their first US museum exhibitions. Adam Brooks creates DeNaturalized, the first of four electronic tour projects commissioned by the MCA. There were several major acquisitions to the MCA Collection including Chuck Close’s Cindy, Anselm Kiefer’s Banner, Dan Peterman’s Accessories to an Event (plaza), Jorge Pardo’s Vince Robbins, and Rauschenberg’s Retroactive II. Robert Fitzpatrick is named director and chief executive officer.
The MCA presents Unfinished History, featuring the work of 23 artists from 16 countries and five continents and continues to exhibit installations from its collection including Apposite Opposites, Decades in Dialogue: Perspectives on the MCA Collection and Envisioning the Contemporary: Selections from the MCA Collection. Major exhibitions Roy Lichtenstein: Interiors and Robert Heinecken: Photographist are organized by the MCA. The MCA also presents major traveling exhibitions on the work of Charles Ray and Examining Pictures: Exhibiting Paintings. The MCA is the first US venue to present At the End of the Century: One Hundred Years of Architecture, jointly organized with the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA). The exhibition is the largest in the MCA history, occupying three floors of gallery space with companion exhibition, Material Evidence: Chicago Architecture at 2000. Sally Meyers Kovler is elected chair of the board of trustees.