José Esparza Chong Cuy has been appointed the new curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago. Most recently, Esparza was working in Mexico City as the associate curator at Museo Jumex. There, he co-curated exhibitions that focused on the work of Latin American artists. Previously, Esparza was a curatorial collaborator at New York's Storefront for Art and Architecture and a research fellow at the New Museum. In addition to curating, he has covered "Latin American art practices" for Domus. Esparza has a Master in Critical, Curatorial, and Conceptual Practices in Architecture from Columbia University in 2012. In a statement, MCA chief curator Michael Darling praised Esparza and his qualifications: "'When I met José over a year ago on a tour at the Museo Jumex, I was immediately impressed by his poise and intellect. With our longstanding interest in art from Latin America, we now have in José an articulate advocate for presenting the best work being made in that region. Mexico City is one of the most exciting cities in the world for contemporary art, and José's deep knowledge of that scene will immediately enrich our dialogues here at the MCA. José is also active in architecture and design circles and that knowledge, alongside his expertise in contemporary art, will find a natural fit here at the MCA where we regularly venture out into parallel fields of activity. I think he will immediately become a great asset to our community.'" Esparza will assume his post on April 18.
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Change is underway at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art. At a press conference Friday MCA officials revealed that the institution is working on a new image, new programming and even a new master plan for the museum's space led by Los Angeles–based design firm Johnston Marklee. The announcement was timed to coincide with the last push of a major fundraising campaign. The museum has quietly raised $60 million in recent years, nearing a “vision campaign” goal of $64 million. Today they revealed their latest donation: $10 million from Kenneth Griffin, an MCA trustee who is also the richest man in Illinois. MCA's fourth floor galleries will now bear his name. “We've been thinking about what a 21st Century museum looks like,” said Madeleine Grynsztejn, MCA's director. Citing figures from the National Endowment for the Arts, Grynsztejn said the museum needs to become more “responsive” to the community—“a civic institution of local necessity and international distinction.” Part of that mission includes converting the cafe space into an “engagement zone” for public events, performances and education. Museum goers looking for a snack will have to find it on the first floor, where a new restaurant will front onto Pearson Street. Those and other changes to the 1996, Josef Paul Kleihues–designed building's programming are part of a new masterplan currently in development at the offices of architects Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee. Dutch designers Armand Mevis and Linda Van Deursen of the firm Mevis & Van Deursen also designed a new logo for the museum—part of a larger campaign to rebrand the museum and reengage with a public tempted to seek out art online or otherwise outside the Streeterville museum's walls. MCA has had some success reinvigorating popular conversation about contemporary art with its David Bowie Is exhibition, which recently wrapped up its run at the museum after drawing nearly 200,000 visitors—an MCA record, according to Grynsztejn. “The Bowie show challenged the MCA to raise our game,” she said. That could include expanding hours or more drastically reconsidering the museum's model, Grynsztejn wondered aloud Friday. But it will definitely include more shows for young artists on the cusp of a breakout, said curator Michael Darling, as well as more interactive exhibitions. Darling pointed to an upcoming residency by the Grammy-winning chamber group Eighth Blackbird, which he said would include unannounced and improvised performances throughout the museum, with the intent to connect the public with contemporary music and the process of creating it.