|Allen Turner, chair of the MCA board of trustees, 1991-96; chair of the architect selection committee.|
I met with Allen Turner at his Chicago office in August 2013. In these two conversations, he talks about the process that led to the selection of architect Josef Paul Kleihues, and the logistics of acquiring the Chicago Avenue Armory site.
Listen to the 5 minute conversation about acquiring the Chicago Avenue Armory site:
Listen to the 11 minute conversation about the selection of the architect for the new MCA:
In the first conversation, after explaining that in 1990 the governor gave the MCA a $99/99-year land lease, Turner tells that a year later, the state then donated the land to the museum. In the final land transaction, the Chicago Park District acquired the site, the MCA got a $2 million allocation, and it became one of Chicago's Museums in the Park: "Through a series of negotiations we were offered the land, and so we said to ourselves, "yes, we will get ownership of this land, and we will have it," and I thought perhaps some day we could donate it to the park district and perhaps get an allocation from the Museums in the Park fund."
In the second conversation, Turner goes into detail about the process of selecting the MCA architect and the considerations and compromises that were necessary to complete the finished building.
Photo, Jim Prinz, © MCA Chicago, courtesy of the MCA Library & Archives.
The photograph, above, was taken on September 12, 1992 at the opening reception of the exhibition, Art in the Armory: Occupied Territory. A label on the back of this photograph states: "On September 12, more than 3,600 guests attended an opening-night members preview of the Museum of Contemporary Art's exhibition Art in the Armory: Occupied Territory. Pictured are MCA Chairman Allen Turner; Denise Stovell, Manager, Media Relations, Sara Lee Corporation; and exhibition curator Beryl Wright. This first - and last - art exhibition to be held at the Chicago Avenue Armory, 234 E. Chicago Avenue, is made possible by the Sara Lee Corporation and continues through January 23."
Beryl J. Wright organized the armory exhibition, which the Chicago Tribune's art critic, Alan Artner, called "one of the largest and most complex projects ever attempted by the Museum of Contemporary Art," over a 17-month period that included the gap between the departure of one chief curator and the arrival of another.
Beryl Wright passed away in 2004.