While the organizational history of the Museum of Contemporary Art is compelling for its behind-the-scenes look at the development of the institution, the exhibitions provide the museum's public face for posterity. In retrospect, certain shows are historically significant, but like everyday living, with others, "the shock of the new" is what drew that day's headlines. Early stories of lasers, holograms and Campbell's soup cans seem quaint today. But, in reading period art reviews, I was sometimes surprised. Today's well-earned boast that the MCA was the first museum in the U.S. to show Frida Kahlo's paintings was tempered by Chicago Tribune art critic Alan Artner's quick take discounting of her work as self-absorbed. Reading the reviews and listings was much like watching contemporary art history unfold.

This exhibition history may not be complete; the details were compiled by combing through Chicago Tribune listings and articles. MCA curator Lynne Warren also helped fill in blanks. Additionally, I have not provided detailed dates or, most unfortunately, names of curators, since the list of names was incomplete. I may correct this in the future.
An often-told story relays that disgruntled visitors walked out of the first-ever solo showing of Dan Flavin's fluorescent light works - 1967's "alternating pink and 'gold'." They wanted their 50 cents entry fee back.

In 1969, admission prices doubled to one dollar for adults and 50 cents for children and students.
Courtesy of the MCA Library & Archives.