MCA First Fridays Review: All This and Art Too

"Fear no art,” says a shirt for sale at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) gift store.

But if you’re afraid you might not “get” contemporary art, you’re curious about what it is, or you’d just like to mingle with 1,000 or so over-21-year-olds in a beautiful setting, try the MCA’s First Fridays.

First Fridays crowd. Photo © Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

From 6 to 10 p.m. on the first Friday of every month, the MCA provides an event built around a theme featuring music; live entertainment; small-bite hors d’oeurvres from Puck’s, the museum restaurant (which is not open during First Fridays); a cash bar; beverage tasting; and a “creation station” where you can make your own arty project.

Complimentary appetizers. Photo by Susan Tillman

The October 7, 2011 event had a masquerade theme and featured Isaiah Spencer and the New Orleans Jazz Band, the Pyrotechniq fire troupe performing on the plaza, DJ Sadie Woods, a rum tasting, and the opportunity to make a mask of your own. Equinox pampering station?  Vosges chocolate truffles? A fashion show? Film screenings? A scavenger hunt through the exhibits? All have been offered at First Fridays.

Bringing the music to the people. Photo by Susan Tillman

At the “creation station” we cut out and decorated masks with small feathers and colorful glitter glue, chatting with people around the table as we shared materials.

Our table mates were of various ages, but the crowd is largely younger. People come in ones, in couples, and in groups. Dress ranges from casual to very dressy: we saw jeans, a few suits, lots of fancy dresses and very high heels, and one split decision: a young man wearing a suit and tennis shoes.

And then there’s the art. First Friday crowds can stroll through the museum galleries, where the art provides plenty of conversation starters.

Some people become familiar with more than art: Media Relations Manager Erin Baldwin says there have been some First Friday love matches that have resulted in marriages. And the museum does do rental events, including weddings.

The museum exhibits have an appealing variety of styles and media, including the following:

The new UBS 12 x 12: New Artists/New Work exhibition featuring the work of Ann Toebbe. The painted paper overhead views of three kitchens with lots of detail to enjoy are based on conversations with Toebbe’s family members and her reflections on the roles of women.

The Language of Less (Then and Now) , which includes works from MCA’s Minimalist and post-Minimalist work from the 1960s and 1970s as well as works by five contemporary artists working in the same visual style.

Motor Cocktail presenting items using sound and movement by 1960s artists from MCA’s collection.

Sequestered Bower by Joseph Cornell, c. 1950. Private collection, Chicago © The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Pandora’s Box: Joseph Cornell Unlocks the Collection, juxtaposing some of Chicago’s extensive resources of Cornell’s work with pieces by other artists in the MCA’s collection and showing Cornell’s continuing and sometimes surprising influence.

Eiko & Koma: Time is Not Even, Space is Not Empty, with photos, videos, costumes, and set and prop pieces of performance works by the Japanese-born choreographers and dancers. On November 8, from 1 to 8 pm and November 9-13 from 1 to 5 pm, the artists will “inhabit” a massive nest  (now on view in the gallery) during a “durational performance” of the work Naked.

The MCA gift shop is open to those attending First Fridays. The large gift shop sports a collection of interesting and sometimes amusing, sometimes beautiful, and sometimes quirky things to decorate yourself, your children, and your home. Among the choices are telemarketer repellant (going like hotcakes, says the man restocking the shelf), lovely scarves and jewelry, items  for kids including inflatable dinosaur heads, red panic buttons for $1.95, books, cards (both greeting and playing), mixing bowls, and clothing, including the Fear No Art tee shirts.

Museum of Contemporary Art

220 E Chicago Ave

Chicago IL 60611


All First Friday tickets include museum admission, live entertainment, and complimentary Wolfgang Puck hors d’oeuvres. Doors are open from 6 to 10 pm with a cash bar until 9:30 pm. Guests must be 21 or older to enter.


First Friday events and themes:

Nov 4, 2011:   Minimalism

Dec 2, 2011:   Indulgence

Jan 6, 2012:    Renewal



General admission   $18

Advance tickets        $13

MCA members         $10  

Buy tickets online 
Buy tickets through MCA Box Office        312.397.4010



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