The invitation to join him for dinner came from Steven Schwartz, Chairman of the Board of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), here in Chicago. I asked Art the purpose of the event. He knew only that it was connected to the Chicago visit by Dr. Anthony Bannon, Director of the George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, a major repository of photography. And that the dinner was at the MCA. I asked, “Fundraiser? Banquet? Private dinner?
Men. He didn’t know why it was important. Ladies know it means do we come in sequins and lace, clingy bare clothes (hah!), dressy suit, or anything in between? Luckily, the secretary to our host phoned me for some information about Art, and I asked the important question – what do I wear? Dressy, but not too formal, certainly not casual. Good.
We parked in the garage near the museum, but independent of it. The walls and pillars had wonderful quotes about art that kept me meandering through the floor instead of heading to the exit. I remember only two: “Art doesn’t have to match the couch,” and “Art is art, everything else is everything else.” A nice introduction to the evening.
The museum is fronted with steps that ascend to just short of heaven – as it appeared to me. We found a street level entrance through the revolving doors and the elevator brought us up to the large foyer of the museum. As we mingled, I noticed people arriving through the doors at the top of the outside steps. They weren’t even breathing hard.
In the foyer of the museum we were introduced to many people and I surmised the purpose of the event. The Board of the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY, was holding this year’s annual meeting in Chicago. They were guests of the Board of the MCA. This evening’s dinner culminated a week of exploring Chicago’s city-wide culture.
The highlight tonight was a guided tour through the many display rooms feeding one into the other (with side exhibit rooms off the main circle.) The museum director described and clarified the intent of the work we were looking at. I couldn’t hear him even as I sidled closer through the 50 people following along. He spoke loudly and with enthusiasm, but hearing aids in echoing chambers don’t work. However, I had the art to contemplate.
I understood none of it. Looking at one sculpture of a fat man with body parts separated by chains and other metal, I said to the man next to me, “That makes me so uncomfortable.” He said, “Then the artist was successful. He aroused your emotions.”
Looking at his next piece, I said, “The emotion he arouses is, I don’t want to know him.”
Another hall had stop-motion videos on many large screens of an artist at work which was compelling. I was trying to figure it out as the crowd flowed on.
We finally ended back in the large foyer where five tables were set and waiting. Random seating put us among delightful people, several who were guests, also, of the many board members. Delicious salmon, lying surrounded artfully in an orange swirl which when scooped up offered just one forkful of yummy sweet potatoes. The wine glasses were constantly refilled.
Art had been invited because he is a Prominent Photographer and the George Eastman House would like to have him in their archives. I was invited because I’m with him.