MCA PrimeTime review-A refreshing night at a great museum

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 220 E. Chicago Avenue, hosted their most recent MCA Prime Time event, the first this year and a sold-out unqualified success. This is an after-hours series for art, music, food, drink, fashion and scene-lovers over 21 that takes place three times a year and “taps into the creative pulse of Chicago…an electrifying social experience that provides a platform for artists and key cultural groups in the city”. The 7PM to 11 PM program on February 5th, offered a diverse mix of live music, tasty eatables, varied drinkables, lively performers and enthralling art activation in the midst of the sensational art on display throughout this wonderful museum located just off Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

Rene Magritte, "The Wonders of Nature"; photo by Nathan Keay

For this multi- level event, crammed with black-garbed and many colored-coiffed art and music aficionados, most under 40, MCA partnered with indie music tastemakers Pitchfork, who offered premiere screening works.  The “Refresh” theme featured headliner Holly Herndon, who presented a live multimedia performance “exploring the outer reaches of dance music”.  There was a wealth of engaging music on offer that night: from DJ’s How To Dress Well and Joan of Arc’s Tim Kinsella , to curated playlists by Soft Pink Truth and Jenny Hval, and including live performances  by Bitchin” Bajas and Jimmy Whispers.

Holly Herndon; photo by Andras Eichardt

The evening provided a number of interesting and often exhilarating experiences, visual, olfactory and multi-sensory.  Some of the these included:  an art installation where one looks down the barrel of a gun; the chance to have your enneagram typed and then make and wear a button reflecting that type; the opportunity for a conversationally-engaged manicure; and a participatory gaming program which highlighted works by Bit Bash, Chicago’s alternative video game festival.

Rafael Ferrer, "Amaranta"; photo by Nathan Keay

While engaging their senses in the fantasy art and art of the fantastic, both on the walls, out the windows in the case of the sculpture garden, and all about them on the stages and installations, guests were also given the opportunity to purchase a variety of comestibles and libations. There were several stations on the different floors where one could obtain a choice of soft drinks, wine and mixed cocktails at a range of price points. There were also a number of food tables offering a range of moderately priced tasty treats such as falafel, sesame lo mein, and pork shoulder sandwich and this reviewer’s delicious choice-Andouille sausage etoufee with white cheddar grits.

How To Dress Well; photo by Zachary Michael

It was especially fun to wander amidst the attractive throng, catch sight of digitally-projected visuals, move to the beat of the music, and then duck into an open gallery to admire and laugh along with the great entertaining artwork. There seemed to be a plethora of doll parts and a surfeit of monsters on view!

Alan Jones, "Chair"; photo by Andreas Satterlin

Current Exhibitions at the MCA include “Surrealism: The Conjured Life”, through June 5, 2016; “MCA DNA: Rafael Ferrer”, through March 6, 2016; “The Street, the Store, and the Silver Screen: Pop Art from the MCA Collection”, through March 27, 2016, and many others.

For information on these, on upcoming exhibitions and performances, or to learn about spring’s Prime Time event, to be co-hosted with SmartBar and Metro, on May 6th, 2016, go to


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