Installation view, David Bowie Is, MCA Chicago. September 23, 2014 - January 4, 2015. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
More than 193,000 people visited the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) during the 15-week run of the David Bowie Is exhibition (September 23, 2014--January 4, 2015), setting a new attendance record for the museum. As the most successful exhibition in the MCA's 47-year history, David Bowie Is also set new attendance records for all of the Bowie-related programs and performances, some selling out in less than an hour. The MCA was the only US venue for the groundbreaking exhibition, organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Says MCA Pritzker Director Madeleine Grynsztejn, "We brought this exhibition to the MCA because it was an ideal bridge to connect with new audiences who are interested in the multidisciplinary arts that have always been a hallmark of the museum. We are thrilled that so many people from around the country visited us for the first time, and we are especially proud of the enthusiasm and support we had in Chicago, where members of the community had a chance to rediscover the MCA. We will continue to build on the success of Bowie by engaging these new audiences with another exciting year of programs in 2015."
There was an overwhelming response to the exhibition from the Chicago community: during its run, restaurants, hotels, and venues had Bowie-inspired events; people regularly came to the MCA dressed as one of David Bowie's stage personas; and a record-breaking 52 million Twitter accounts saw the exhibition hashtag #DavidBowieIs. Visitors to the MCA website numbered more than one million. The MCA hosted an opening day Bowie Tribute Concert drawing thousands of Chicagoans to Daley Plaza on September 23, which Mayor Rahm Emanuel officially declared "David Bowie Day" in Chicago.
Demonstrating Bowie's lasting influence on multiple areas of contemporary culture, nearly all of the Bowie-related programs at the MCA were sold out. This included programs with internationally renowned cultural figures from disciplines such as music, film, and literature with talks by Kevin Barnes, Bryan Ferry, Neil Gaiman, Todd Haynes, Sandy Powell, and St. Vincent; performances by Boy George, Michael Clark Company, Bobby Conn, Disappears, Tim Kinsella, Jon Langford and Sally Timms, ONO, and White Mystery; and a David Bowie Film Festival.
Celebrity visitors to the exhibition included Billy Corgan, George Lucas, William H. Macy, Usher, Neil Young and many others.
The artEdge 2014: David Bowie Is gala, presented by Louis Vuitton, drew the biggest names in Chicago's social scene with a special performance by music legend Bryan Ferry. Over 750 people attended the gala, which raised more than $2.85 million, benefiting MCA exhibitions and programs.
David Bowie Is presents the first international exhibition of the extraordinary career of David Bowie-one of the most pioneering and influential performers of our time. The exhibition focuses on his creative processes and collaborative work with artists and designers, and demonstrates just how his work has both influenced and been influenced by wider movements in art, design, music, and theater.
The exhibition continues its international tour with upcoming stops at the Philharmonie de Paris, Cité de la Musique in Paris (March-May 2015), the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne (July-Nov 2015), and the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands (December 2015-March 2016).
Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts