The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art collects, preserves, and exhibits modern and contemporary art. Its mission is to educate and inspire the community through exhibits and programming. Museum admission, as well as most special event programming, is free to the public.
The permanent collection currently includes some 5,000 pieces and was made possible through gifts and donations. Works represent some of the most important 20th and 21st-century artists worldwide, as well as Wisconsin area contemporary artists. Additionally, the collection includes works representative of major museum exhibitions. Past exhibitions of works from the permanent collection include Mexican prints, and the works of the artists Ed Paschke (1939–2004), an American painter and student of the Art Institute of Chicago, and John Buck (b.1946), an American sculptor and print maker known for his bronze sculptures and woodblock prints. A large sample of the permanent collection is cataloged online. Works range from Manuel Álvarez Bravo, a Mexican photographer who defined modern photography in the 1930s and 1940s,
to Kathe Kollwitz, the German expressionist sculptor and printmaker known for her powerful lithographs that reflect the struggles of post-World War II Germany. Roy Lichtenstein, Claus Oldenburg, Ellsworth Kelly, Cindy Sherman, and Jin Soo Kim are also represented, among many others. The museum aims to offer a diverse collection that spans cultures, communities, and media. In addition to painting, drawing, and sculpture, the museum collects photography as well as video and audio media. Works in the permanent collection range from realist and expressionist to abstract and conceptual.
History: Originally established as the Madison Art Association in 1901, the museum has a 105-year history of exhibiting art in borrowed spaces. In 1964, the museum landed a more permanent home when it merged with the Madison Art Foundation to become the Madison Art Center and leased a building on Lake Mendota. The Art Center moved into the Madison Civic Center in 1980, where it was able to house more ambitious exhibitions. The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art finally found a permanent home in 2006, with a uniquely designed space at the Overture Center for the Arts. The building, made possible by a large donation from W. Jerome Frautschi, was designed by world-renowned architect Cesar Pelli. The current facility offers over 60,000 square feet of space for exhibitions, art storage and preservation, events, and study, and includes a rooftop sculpture garden.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Museum admission is free as is admission to the majority of the museum’s events. Ongoing programs include talks and tours. Talks are offered by curators, artists, professors of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and educated volunteer docents. Subjects reflect the ideas presented in the temporary exhibits as well as deeper explorations of the permanent collection. Guided tours of the permanent collection are available. MMoCA Cinema is an ongoing program that shows avant-garde and alternative films and videos outdoors on the rooftop garden each summer. The program is now in its 12th year. The museum offers several programs for children, including ArtZone, a 2-hour workshop combining education with hands-on activities, and Kids’ Art Adventures, a family-friendly program in which kids make art together with their parents while learning about the permanent collection. Art Cart is a free outdoor summer program that takes Art Adventures to the community at playgrounds and parks in the Madison area.
Past and Future Exhibits: Temporary exhibits celebrate a wide range of media, cultures, and communities. Kambui Olujimi: Zulu Time is a solo exhibit of new work by Brooklyn native Kambui Olujimi. The show spans a wide range of media from wheat pasting to digital prints to glass blowing. In Reconfigured Reality: Contemporary Photography from the Permanent Collection, visitors are presented with an overview of how photography has changed and evolved from the 1970s to the present day. Digital Aura exhibits several Madison-based contemporary artists in partnership with the Arts + Literature Laboratory (ALL). The exhibit opened with Bike the Art, a bike tour of contemporary art spaces across Madison, which takes place monthly during the spring and summer months. The annual Art Fair on the Square provides the museum with most of its funding, in addition to that from memberships and donations. 2017 marks the 59th annual art fair, a 2-day summer event that attracts over 200,000 visitors to Madison’s Capital Square to shop from over 500 artists’ exhibits and enjoy food and live music.
What’s Nearby: The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is directly adjacent to the Overture Center for the Arts, a performance space offering a schedule of exhibitions, performances, and concerts.
227 State Street, Madison, WI 53703, Phone: 608-257-0158
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