Situated in the epicenter of the Grand Center arts district in St Louis, the Contemporary Art Museum, or CAM for short, is one of the best-known non-collecting arts institutions in the country. Visitors are invited to tour any of the 20 annual exhibitions that the museum schedules each year. CAM offers a platform for both local and international artists, allowing visitors to observe a myriad of perspectives on contemporary artistic traditions. In addition to their exhibitions, CAM provides a variety of educational programs aimed at both artists and the public alike.
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The Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis was founded in 1980. In 2003, the institution moved to its present location in the Grand Center arts district. Its new 27,000-square-foot building was designed by renowned architect Brad Cloepfil.
Kelley Walker: Direct Drive
In his first solo exhibition at the museum, Kelley Walker’s Direct Drive exhibit, which was shown in the fall of 2016, the artist invited audiences to explore the way in which images are contextualized and repurposed ad infinitum in today’s consumer-based society. Filling every gallery in the museum, the displayed images invited guests to explore issues pertaining to identity, sexuality, race, and class. This multimedia installation, which included 3D prints, silkscreen prints, photographs, collage, and sculptural pieces, was informed by artists such as Sigmar Polke, Andy Warhol, and Jackson Pollock.
Kelley Walker: Schema
The summer of 2016 saw the opening of a unique exhibition featuring celebrated artist Kelly Walker. The exhibition was a collaboration between Walker and a group of St. Louis area teens who had been part of the museum’s Teen Museum Studies program. Exploring the convergence of longstanding narratives about oppression and violence with the current digital age, the exhibition aptly demonstrates the way that artists can and should see themselves as agents of change. The show featured vinyl images of photographs originating from the Civil Rights Era, which were overlaid with colorful streaks of toothpaste, creating a juxtaposition that invited visitors to contemplate the way modern audiences relate to these iconic images of violence and dissention.
Mickalene Thomas: Mentors, Muses, and Celebrities
Mickalene Thomas, a New York-based artist, is currently being featured at CAM until the end of 2017. Though known for her expressive paintings and collages, the exhibition also includes video, film, and photographic pieces. The exhibition deals with matters of African American femininity and power by exploring the artist’s own mentors from both the big screen as well as from her own life. Icons such as Eartha Kitt, Whitney Houston, and Wanda Sykes feature prominently in the displayed pieces. Thomas also incorporates imagery and characters from the movie The Color Purple, which was pivotal in Thomas’ political awakening. The use of furniture and artifacts from the 1970s leads visitors through a chronological narrative that is both deeply personal and universal at the same time. In this way, Thomas invites museumgoers to retrace her steps as she grapples with the legacy of inequality and its enduring impact on the modern identities of women of color.
Hayv Kahraman: Acts of Reparation
Representing Kahraman’s body of work from 2011 to 2017, the Acts of Reparation exhibit explores themes of collective memory, migrant consciousness, and decolonization. The series of paintings comprising this collection offers visitors an inside look at the experiences of people who have been forced to flee their homeland and start a new life abroad. Kahraman uses depictions of women’s bodies as a symbol for the segmentation of the migrant communities whose stories she narrates. The artist’s use of weaving techniques, inspired by traditional Iraqi textile arts, connects her work to a homeland that is at once real and imagined. In this way, the exhibit invites visitors to pose questions concerning the relationship between lived experience and collective memory.
Events and Programs
On the first Friday of every month, visitors are invited to partake in special exhibitions and programming at the CAM. The First Fridays program offers a variety of entertainment and education-based events in the Grand Center area. Visitors enjoy free entry to a variety of participating institutions, including CAM, the International Photography Hall of Fame Museum, and the CEL Center for Architecture + Design, to name a few.
CAM also offers daily tours that highlight specific aspects of current exhibitions. On certain days of the week, museum staff also offer tours of the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, which is located next door to the museum.
3750 Washington Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63108, Phone: 314-535-4660