Chicagoist's Top Stories Of 2014: 'David Bowie Is' At The MCA

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 31, 2014 7:00PM

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Exterior of the MCA, August 2014, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy.

By now I'm sure your various social feeds are filled with photos of friends posing next to a large orange illustration of Aladdin Sane-era David Bowie on a huge wall, probably accompanied by a caption reading something like, "Finally seeing David Bowie Is!"

David Bowie Is only had one U.S. stop as it travels from museum to museum, and The Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art was lucky enough to snag it before anyone else did. Literally. When it debuted at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the MCA's Michael Darling was the first to contact the exhibitors about bringing it here, arguably grabbing the hottest art / music / culture ticket of the year. It could be argued that for the past few months the city has gone a little Bowie crazy. David Bowie day, numerous talks with high profile artists ranging from Brian Eno to an upcoming discussion with St. Vincent at show's close, along with more Bowie-themed concerts than we could keep track of during the exhibit's run.

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Limited edition MCA Bowie t-shirt, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy.
But what about the actual exhibit?

I found the collection to be a revelatory look into Bowie's artistic process, and summarized my initial impressions, saying:

David Bowie Is exceeded my expectations, delivering a much richer experience than expected, but I understand that also might make it daunting at first for others. I urge you to enter sans preconceptions and give yourself over to the journey in the hopes that you too emerge inspired by the depth of of what's on display instead of simply sated by the most easily digestible "greatest hits."

David Bowie Is also showed that Chicago is up to the challenge of hosting modern art shows that draw international acclaim, and audiences from all over the world. While final attendance numbers aren't being released by the MCA until the exhibit closes next week, anecdotal evidence points in the direction of them being record breaking, or close to it. Of course the down side of this is that if you were a latecomer to the exhibit you probably dealt with massive crowds, since the response appears to have exceeded the MCA's attempts to make the viewing experience as pleasant as possible by staggering ticketed entry times.

We're not certain why Chicago residents would wait until the last minute to see an exhibit that has been here for months, but if you are in that contingent I would urge you to brave the crush of the crowd to catch the show before it closes on Jan 4 and takes off for a run at Philharmonie de Paris in France. If you miss it you're not only missing one of Chicago's premiere cultural events of 2014, you're missing a fascinating look inside the development of one of the most important artists of the past 50 years. And why would you pass that up while it's still in your backyard?

UPDATE: This just in from the MCA, "All remaining advance tickets to "David Bowie Is" have sold out, though very limited number of tickets for day-of-visit are available for purchase each day on a first come, first served basis. We advise arriving early and dressing for the cold weather."