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First fifty objects to enter the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago collection featured in exhibition
Gladys Nilsson, Reclyning Blackveenus Rabbit, 1971. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Albert J. Bildner. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
CHICAGO, IL.- On the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago, the exhibition First 50 presents the first fifty objects to enter the MCA Collection, illuminating the people and events that shaped the museum's decision to become a collecting institution. These artworks, of which only nineteen remain in the collection, create a narrative of the process that built the museum’s identity. First 50 opened on May 12, and runs through August 19, 2012, and is curated by MCA Marjorie Susman Curatorial Fellow Joanna Szupinska.

First 50 is presented chronologically, beginning in 1968 when the MCA accepted the unsolicited donation of the sculpture Six Women (1965-66) from Venezuelan artist Marisol. The next forty-nine acquisitions that followed between 1968 and 1974 include works by widely recognized artists such as Enrico Baj, Alexander Calder, and Chuck Close, along with unexpected works, such as the petrified whale bone sculpture Spirit (c1960) by the Inuit artist Nicodemus Nowyook.

As the MCA Chicago’s institutional identity and priorities were refined, so too was the body of objects housed, cared for, and displayed by the museum. In the initial years of the MCA, the museum continued to accept gifts from artists and other donors. In 1974, the Board of Trustees officially established an acquisition policy and a host of important contemporary artworks entered the collection, including a major body of work by the Chicago Imagists with paintings by Ed Paschke, Roger Brown, and Gladys Nilsson. This particular group of paintings had previously been on display at the 12th Sao Paulo Bienal in the exhibition Made in Chicago, which was co-organized by then-MCA Director Stephen Prokopoff.

As the parameters of the collection were defined by the curators and Board, certain objects had to be sold, or deaccessioned. Works that have been deaccessioned by Jacques Chemay, Henri Matisse, Bridget Riley, and others are represented in the exhibition by related archival materials.

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