Vernissage, the popular kick-off gala for Expo Chicago returns to Navy Pier under the auspices of The Museum of Contemporary Art this fall (photo courtesy of Expo Chicago).

MCA's Vernissage Returns to Navy Pier to Kick Off Expo Chicago

On Thursday, September 18, the Women’s Board of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago will once again welcome the return of Vernissage, the opening-night benefit and preview of Expo Chicago, the International Exposition of Modern and Contemporary Art. Guests will be treated to an exclusive first look of art from 140 of the world’s leading international galleries participating in the third annual exposition (September 18 – 21) in Navy Pier’s Festival Hall.   A French term for art openings, the name “Vernissage,” (or ‘varnishing day) is meant to evoke the energy and excitement that surrounds the opening of the annual event that attracts more than 3,000 visitors.  

"We are once again thrilled to partner with Expo Chicago in order to kick off the fall arts season in Chicago and welcome the rest of the world to our incredible city," noted MCA Pritzker Director Madeleine Grynsztejn. "This benefit allows art enthusiasts to appreciate the exceptional art that exhibitors of Expo Chicago bring together on an international level, while also raising awareness for the MCA’s distinctive programming, including our upcoming exhibition, David Bowie Is, presented during Expo Art Week.”  

The unique celebration begins at 4 p.m. with a patron reception featuring food by some of Chicago’s top restaurants including Ada Street, Carnivale, Embeya, Gemini Bistro/Rustic House and Hannah’s Bretzel. Spirits will be provided by Chicago’s City Winery and Lagunitas Brewing Company.  

Guests are invited to take in the beautiful sights of the lakefront before walking out onto the vast show floor for an exclusive sneak peak at the 140 exhibiting galleries from 17 countries and 43 cities.

Tony Karman, president and director of Expo Chicago pointed to the MCA as a significant partner in raising the bar for serious Chicago art collection and appreciation through the collaboration in presenting the annual opening.  “The MCA shares our vision of making Chicago a premier art destination,” said Karman. “…and we are grateful for their long-standing support for not only the opening night of the exposition but throughout the entire year, making Expo Chicago a must-see event on the art calendar.”  

Vernissage sponsors to date include Louis Vuitton, Curate, Christie’s, Grund & Leavitt, and The Corporation for Interest Rate Management.  Event partners are Navy Pier, Inc. and Chicago Signature Services.   Proceeds from Vernissage support the MCA Education Department, whose programs offer compelling opportunities to explore, challenge, discuss and reflect on the MCA’s holdings and the larger world of contemporary art and culture.   For more information or for tickets to Vernissage, visit: