Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Plans $16m Renovation
While many art museums have pursued big-budget expansions in their bids for larger and more loyal audiences, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is rethinking and reconfiguring its public spaces without altering its basic footprint downtown. This week the museum revealed plans for a $16 million renovation by the Los Angeles architects Johnston Marklee, led by Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee.
“Bigger is not always better,” said Madeleine Grynsztejn, the museum’s director. She described the purpose of the redesign as “finding new ways to bring art, learning and food together, reflecting how people like to experience culture today.”
The highlight is a new restaurant, which will be accessible from the street, unlike the existing cafe. The museum has hired Jason Hammel, the founder of Chicago’s Lula Cafe, as its head chef. And it has selected the Turner Prize-winning artist Chris Ofili, who now lives in Trinidad, to create a major site-specific mural for the restaurant, which will be his first permanent museum commission in the United States.
“Really, the entire restaurant is his commission,” Ms. Grynsztejn added. “He will have a hand in all surfaces, from the patterning of the leather banquettes to the glass of the dining room doors. And the mural will be the basis for the palette of the rest of the restaurant.”
There will also be a hybrid lounge-workshop-performance space inside the museum called the Commons, which is being designed by the Mexico City design team Pedro y Juana, with custom furniture that can be flattened and hung on the walls when not in use. The space will also feature plant-shaped lamps, some with actual greenery, hanging from the ceiling.
This gathering space will be free to the public, whether or not they pay the $12 suggested admission fee to see exhibitions. “Audiences today want a space where they can come together and interact,” said Ms. Grynsztejn. “We are finding that people are really hungry for civil and civic dialogue now more than ever.”
The redesign is expected to be completed by June 2017, in time for a Takashi Murakami retrospective that marks the start of the museum’s 50th-anniversary celebration.