Joseph Grigley: Beauty Is Difficult

October 25, 2014
/   Profiles

The artist lectures as part of SAIC's Low-Residency Masters Program, discussing conversational exchange as a creative process, how fishing is related to conceptual art, and more.

The Student Groups of SAIC

October 24, 2014
/   School

F Newsmgazine videographer Emeka Awa talks with SAIC Assistant Director of Campus Life, Roy Rodriguez, about the wealth of activities and opportunities available through SAIC’s student groups.

It’s Taylor Swift’s Party

October 21, 2014
/   Music

One of the difficulties of art is that the public eye makes little effort to separate artists from the brands they cultivate. Taylor Swift is the latest artist to...

Above Snakes and Angel Lust

October 20, 2014
/   Art Review

Performance artist Jaime McMurry’s work aims to raise questions about materiality, and when successful, it offers a response to the demands of daily life. Angel Lust, a recent performance...

From Doors and Authors to Porn and Smudges

October 16, 2014
/   Profiles

In a society where the ghosts of slavery and racism still haunt our politics and our interactions, conceptual artist Glenn Ligon tackles these issues by appropriating African American history...

Franco in the Rye

/   Book Review

Sometimes the least likely of combinations brings the best results; the pairing of James Franco with a blooming literary career, despite the celebrity's fearless mediocrity, does not.

The New Ism

October 14, 2014
/   Arts & Culture

Experience-based art gets redefined in light of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's Sullivan Galleries exhibit A Proximity of Consciousness: Art and Social Action.

EXPO Chicago 2014

October 13, 2014
/   Arts & Culture

This year's EXPO Chicago art fair could be seen as an art world bore or chore... or an opportunity for the next generation of artists and arts professionals to...

A Kubrick Odyssey

October 12, 2014
/   Art Review

The Stanley Kubrick exhibition at the National Museum in Krakow marries art and entertainment in a retrospective of the filmmaker's career, creative process, and private life.

Social Fiber at the Garland Gallery

/   Art Review

Monika Neuland, the current Artist-in-Residence at the Chicago Cultural Center's Garland Gallery, constructed an ambitious social space within which the public may directly engage with the artist and her...

Brief But Influential

/   Art Review

A look beyond Miami's Art Basel madness to two Miami photography galleries showing work by emerging artists and students.

The Anti-Design Exhibition

October 10, 2014
/   Arts & Culture

The current show at the Museu do Design e da Moda in Lisbon is simultaneously understated and wildly bold; its aim is not to showcase fine artistry nor craftsmanship,...

Twelve Movies Disguised As One

October 7, 2014
/   Film Review

“How do you plan a twelve-year production?” “You don’t,” said Richard Linklater, in an interview with The Guardian. “There’s always a life metaphor. How do we plan for our...

Startups Versus Astronauts

October 5, 2014
/   Technology

“I think that’s the positive part of the privatization of space exploration,” Walczak explains. “You get rich people to do it first because they have the ability and then...

Leave Frida Alone!

/   Art Review

It’s been 60 years since Frida Kahlo died, and her fame has grown tremendously among arts connoisseurs and the greater public alike. Unbound: Contemporary Art After Frida Kahlo at...

Chicago Sign Painters

October 4, 2014
/   Arts & Culture

A (nearly) lost art is finding new forms through the city's veteran practitioners and budding typographic artists alike.

Exploring “Europe’s Most Expensive Chapel”

August 24, 2014
/   Arts & Culture

Lisbon’s Igreja de São Roque (Church of Saint Roch) sports a deceptively plain white facade, but the interior of the 17th-century building is home to some of the most prized (and allegedly expensive) Catholic art and architecture in all of Europe.

Pzzzt – The Buzz from Albania

July 29, 2014
/   Art Review

The narrow mouth of a communist-era air-raid shelter beneath an apartment building is the home to Tirana’s independent artist-run gallery space.

Compasses Not Maps

September 11, 2014
/   Technology

Speculative Design shies away from design for mass consumption, which relies on generalizing about groups of people to create one profitable solution. Charlesworth explained her past jobs in design consulting and service design as something she found “ethically difficult.”

Alternative Art Spaces in Chicago

August 5, 2013
/   Feature Stories

Where They Began and Where They Are Now

With identities as diverse as the neighborhoods they occupy, alternative art spaces operate on the same basic premise: to share contemporary art not exhibited in Chicago’s established art institutions.


June 30, 2008
/   Miscellany

“My goal," asserts curator and SAIC alumna Joanne Hinkle, "was to show how diverse, varied, and rich the landscape of feminist art is today, and I think LADYLIKE accomplishes that.”

Atoms for Peace — AMOK

March 5, 2013
/   Music

Time will tell whether Atoms for Peace become a headline or footnote in Thom Yorke’s storied career.

Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago Hosts Blockbuster Exhibition

Self portrait in pose also adopted for the album cover of “Heroes,” 1978. David Bowie. © The David Bowie Archive 2012. Image © V&A Images.

Self portrait in pose also adopted for the album cover of “Heroes,” 1978. David Bowie. © The David Bowie Archive 2012. Image © V&A Images.

We can all exhale now — David Bowie Is finally opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and showcasing nearly 400 objects from the inimitable icon’s personal archive, the exhibition has been the fodder of Chicago art world gossip for the better part of a year. Many began lighting the torches and readying the pitchforks immediately after the MCA announced the show.

“He has no place in a visual art venue!” curators yelled. “A greedy moneymaking scheme if I’ve ever heard of one!” gallerists cried. “Nothing but a wanton fête of celebrity and the sure harbinger of the end of times!” stalwart critics shrieked.

Whether or not David Bowie is an adequate subject for a contemporary art exhibition has been the real bone of contention among the art community. The line between fine art and pop culture is a complicated one, no thanks to Andy Warhol. Moreover, the MCA never promoted David Bowie Is as an exhibition of an “artist” (at least not a visual artist) in the traditional sense of the word. Even the show’s title is vague as to who DavidBowie is as a cultural figure.

It is the attention to the performer’s shrewd sense of character cultivation and exacting collaboration with countless artists and designers that really posits the exhibition as art museum-worthy. The objects on view include everything from hand-drawn band posters from back when David Bowie was still Davy Jones, to perfectly poised Terry O’Neill promotional photographs for the Diamond Dogs tour.

The real strength of the show is the location-based headphone sound system. An ongoing stream of commentary, interview clips and, of course, music wafts through the individual headsets, immersing you in an intimate Bowie microcosm that corresponds with whatever you’re looking at as you meander through the exhibition. Occasionally the sound doesn’t sync quite right — you may hear something that you’ve already read in the wall text somewhere else in the room, or perhaps find yourself watching a video in dead silence for 30 seconds. While this can be disconcerting, it’s also wonderfully surprising and strangely poetic, as if you are in some kind of labyrinthine dreamscape.

Furthering this sense of fantasy is the atypical low light and dark walls of the gallery space. The murkiness is partly pragmatic — it allows the numerous video features of the show to shine. Yet it also makes you feel more dependent on the audio tour for guidance as you lose track of peripheral objects and fellow visitors in the shadows.

The exhibition culminates in an all-encompassing, sensory-saturating audio-visual space, replete with a floor-to-ceiling video montage spanning three walls, Alexander McQueen-designed stage costumes on towering pedestals and the transcendent reverberation of the singer’s amplified greatest hits. A veritable church of Bowie.

It’s true that the MCA is charging over double the standard admission price ($25 versus the $12 for adults). This is the pettiest of grievances — museums have been marking up specialty exhibition tickets for years now. Everyone always complains, and most will go anyway. Just as a pithy point of comparison, it’s 23 bucks to visit the Art Institute of Chicago any old day.

According to a pre-Recession study by the Getty Leadership Institute, ticket sales account for a mere 12 to 15% of an average museum’s annual revenue. Overhead on an exhibition as big and shiny as David Bowie Is certainly isn’t going to be cheap, and the increased admission rate will likely cover the added insurance costs and a few headphone kiosk workers’ wages. If you don’t have Bowie fever, you can see the rest of the museum for $7 during the run of the show.

The ticket price hike makes it easy to lambast the exhibition as nothing but a racket designed to lure in an unsuspecting public nostalgic for the days of Ziggy Stardust. What is probably more suspect as a swindle is the movie about the exhibition that the V&A produced, which was also released on September 23 to just 100 theaters for one-night-only screenings. Yet, according to Geoffrey Marsh, V&A co-curator of David Bowie Is, the show isn’t a fatuous retrospective of the performer’s celebrity arc.

Truthfully, it’s the inadvertent PR that has set the exhibition up as celebrity fetishism. When the MCA originally announced its intention to host the show, many assumed it wouldn’t be — nay, couldn’t be — anything but a zealous exaltation of Bowie’s unparalleled stardom. Understandably skeptical tongues wagged eagerly, as evidenced in James Yood’s Visual Arts Source article about the show that ran in March.

There continues to be as much positive word-of-mouth press as negative. Perhaps the most blatant (and confusing) third-party promotion of the exhibition came from Rahm Emanuel, when he issued an official mayoral proclamation that September 23, 2014, would be forevermore known as “David Bowie Day” in Chicago. While this is certainly a nice gesture on behalf of the city, it inflates the notion of spectacle for which the critics have already impugned the MCA.

What the mayor’s proclamation did get right, however, is that “Chicago’s own Museum of Contemporary Art stands primed to host and present the first international exhibition of David Bowie Is.” Regardless of whether or not you accept David Bowie as an “artist,” other contemporary artists continue to use new media and technology, confounding traditional modes of consumption, interpretation and display. As a well-executed, multimedia-intensive exhibition, David Bowie Is represents a critical exploration of artistic intertextuality and contemporary curation. Given the nature of the institution, this investigation is the purview — if not the responsibility — of the MCA.

While the subject of the exhibition may be about someone famous, it’s more about how he came to fame, and maybe even why. David Bowie Is is an exploration of identity, creativity and postmodern culture as whole, of which we are all a part. To criticize the show as mere pandering to a celebrity-obsessed public is to admit one’s own obsolescence in the field of cultural production.

Jessica Barrett Sattell

Design & Tech Writer. Web Editor of F Newsmagazine + Arts Journalism Grad Student at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Troy Pieper

A writer and editor based in Chicago, Illinois. I provide fresh, compelling arts and culture content to a variety of publications and write powerful, targeted copy for a range of institutions.

Alyssa Moxley

Alyssa Moxley graduated SAIC with an MFA in Sound. Using multiple voices, microphone techniques, field recording, music, sound design, and speaker placement, she plays with memory as both a personal and shared medium.

Alexia Casanova

Marseille - London - Mexico - Chicago. Arts Editor of F Newsmagazine. Arts Management Grad Student at SAIC.