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Michael Darling, Chief Curator at MCA

Art & Design

We were lucky enough to check in with the Chief Curator of Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago’s Michael Darling: the man who brought the highly anticipated David Bowie Is exhibit to Chicago (the only US stop we might mention as well!). We spoke to him about his creative inspiration, Bowie superfans, and if the man himself (Bowie, of course) will be making an appearance.

How long have you been at MCA? 

I’ve been at the MCA since 2010

You’ve curated exhibits on topics ranging from the impact of WWII on the art world to Kurt Cobain. What’s the through line? A visual point of view? A topical or temporal point of view? A mix of both?

I think I like to see art in the context of real world events and figures, to show that most contemporary art is not made in a vacuum, but directly responds to the world around us. I guess I’ve found a variety of different ways to do that and a variety of types of art that exhibit those tendencies.

How did Chicago nab the only U.S. stop of the Bowie exhibit?

We just jumped on it as soon as we learned about it, and started negotiating seriously with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from the beginning with the idea of being the only US venue.

You suddenly find yourself dressed a’la Bowie. What are you wearing? 

I like his 1974 outfit from the Diamond Dogs tour. It is a pale blue suit with polka dot blue sweater, red suspenders, red shoes, and yellow socks. I could imagine myself stepping out in that in 2014 and not feeling too out of place…

How many pieces of Bowie-specific media did you consume leading up to this exhibit? Any favorites that have stayed with you, creatively?

I think the best is the Simon Critchley book “Bowie.” It is a philosopher’s personal take on the subject, and really makes a persuasive case for what a major figure he is in the latter half of the 20th century. But the nice thing is that it is a deeply personal argument, from a fan, which makes it very readable.

Go on. Tell us. Will David Bowie be making an appearance?

He’s certainly invited!

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