From the Pritzker Director

At the MCA, we believe in both the immediacy and lasting influence of contemporary art. It involves us in the human experiences and ideas of our time. It connects and disconnects with history. It can be dazzling in its audacity or stirring in its quiet elegance. It questions and provokes. It shakes things up.

Contemporary art communicates an indomitable independence, yet it has much to teach us about our collective potential. Over the past year the MCA had the privilege of presenting exhibitions and performances that attested not only to the individual significance of various artists but also to the combined dedication of people who share our belief in the vitality—and vital role—of contemporary art.

Universal Experience: Art, Life, and the Tourist's Eye was one of the largest and most eclectic exhibitions in our history, and it required much of everyone associated with its creation and presentation. More than seventy artists, the entire MCA staff, and a significant number of individual donors came together in this extraordinary achievement. Large-scale installations, sculptures, and more intimate photographs and videos filled the entire museum building, as well as our outdoor spaces. Together the works revealed a range of responses to a critical aspect of contemporary life: global travel and the crossing of cultural boundaries. After its stint at the MCA, the exhibition made its own forays to exciting destinations, traveling to the Hayward Gallery in London and to Italy's Museo d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto.

Ever cognizant of our connection to our city, Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China gave us the welcome experience of cohosting an exhibition with a distinguished neighbor, the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago.

We also proudly presented Dan Peterman's first major museum survey in the United States. Since the late 1980s, internationally known Chicago-based Peterman has explored ideas about recycling, seeking to reveal how humans interact with both the natural world and their technological surroundings. The exhibition also yielded the opportunity for us to join forces with the Chicago Park District to launch a new public art project on our plaza: Standard Kiosk (Chicago).

A newly commissioned video installation from Fiona Tan was the first in a series of exciting projects jointly developed by and presented at the MCA; the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; with the purpose of stimulating the creation of new work by artists not yet known in the United States.

Refusing to take a staid approach to our own collection, our curators applied fascinating thematic lenses for collection-based exhibitions, and we made outstanding new acquisitions, including major works by Lee Bontecou, Dan Peterman, Fred Sandback, Thomas Schütte, and Fiona Tan.

Presenting the art of live performance is as vital to MCA programs as anything that stands or hangs in our galleries. In our theater, which continues to pulse with energy and innovation, the long-awaited Chicago return of the Paul Taylor Dance Company thrilled all who experienced it, and we extended our associations with many of the city's most original and notable performing arts organizations—Court Theatre, The Dance Center at Columbia College, Chicago Human Rhythm Project, and Redmoon Theater, to name but a few.

The Education Department's series of four Artists and Their Kids exhibitions and artist talks were very popular and emphasized the great fortune we have of working with our quintessential partners—living artists in the vigorous present. Our membership in Chicago's coalition of Museums in the Park (MIP), which is a true honor for the MCA, is bringing remarkable collaborations and additional resources.

Thanks to a capital grant from the State of Illinois, we have completed our capital exterior improvements with beautiful new landscaping, lighting, and signage. Other welcome outdoor additions include the installation of Thomas Schütte's sculpture Ganz Grosse Geister (Big Spirits XL) and a lively, seasonal farmers' market on our front plaza every Tuesday during Chicago's warmer months.

The MCA continues to flourish in the vanguard, where exhilarating opportunities abound as we host exhibitions, performances, and programs that dare to challenge and change audiences. As I set out on my eighth year as director, I must say that the challenges, both operational and intellectual, are always the most enticing part of the job, matched only by the gratification of working with so many brilliant people who boldly share our mission.

All of our dynamic partners—artists, museum staff, trustees, teachers, volunteers, donors, members, and representatives from business and government—enliven and enhance our museum. The vanguard promises to be as vibrant and compelling as ever in 2006. I look forward to seeing you here.

Robert Fitzpatrick,
Pritzker Director of the MCA