The Museum of Contemporary Art is now showing “We Are Here,” a three-part exhibition that draws from the museum’s own collection of masterworks. This 50th anniversary event focuses on the ways in which contemporary artists respond to the world around them.

The exhibit contains three parts, independently and thoughtfully curated, yet related. Spanning many types of media and including works from major names, it’s a wonderfully diverse collection that succinctly shows the evolution of contemporary art and its relation to life. It also shows the influence of the curator, and how curation affects the way visitors see artwork.

“I Am You” is the first part, focusing on works that question how we relate to and shape our environments. It has been open since August, with works from artists like Francis Bacon, Jasper Johns, Rene Magritte, and Shirin Neshat. Also here is the performance experience “Kiss,” in which two dancers reference historical pieces also called “Kiss.” This section was curated by Jose Esparza.

The second part, curated by Naomi Beckwith, is “You Are Here,” examining the role of the viewer with works from the Minimalists, artists who feature bodies in their work, and socially engaged pieces. Here you’ll interact with art in a myriad of ways. Kenneth Josephson, Ana Mendieta, Adrian Piper, Donald Judd, and Marlene Dumas are represented here.

The third part, “We Are Everywhere,” is from Omar Kholeif. It features artists who borrow from popular culture in order to critique it. This is where you’ll find Andy Warhol’s soup cans, Bruce Nauman’s neon pieces, Jenny Holzer’s electronic messaging, and Chicago Imagists Karl Wirsum and Roger Brown. Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Robert Rauschenberg, Gillian Wearing, Barbara Kruger, and Takashi Murakami can also be found in this section.

It’s a wonderfully exciting exploration of modern art, with something for everyone – especially those who have watched the MCA’s growth over the years. And the smaller supplementary exhibitions don’t disappoint either. “Felix” in the atrium is an effective and amusing play on the Field Museum’s T-Rex, Sue. “Heaven and Earth: Alexander Calder and Jeff Koons,” connects two different artists, each with significance to the MCA’s history, in an unexpected and fascinating way. Others include “Chicago Works: Amanda Williams,” “Woman with a Camera,” and an entrance sculpture commissioned for the museum from Ernesto Neto.

mca commons by rebecca atchleyThe museum is also opening a new, multi-purpose learning environment called the Commons, designed to create a space for civic dialogue within the fabric of the city and encourage curiosity, empathy, and citizenship. The room was designed by Mexico City-based Pedro y Juana, part of the recent redesign that includes the restaurant Marisol.

The museum also hosts a number of events surrounding the 50th anniversary, as it does regularly. “We Are Here” runs through 1/28/2018. Regular admission to the museum, which includes all exhibits listed here, costs $15 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. Admission is free for kids 12 and under. On Tuesdays, admission is free for Illinois residents all year round. For more information, visit

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