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Happy Birthday, Modern Wing!

Where does the time go? Today is the Modern Wing's fifth birthday. Happy birthday, Modern Wing! (It's a date that holds an extra-special place in my heart, because it's also MY birthday.) I thought this might be a good opportunity to pause, reflect, take a breath, light some votives, consider where we were, where we are, and where we're going—live, laugh, love, learn. Here are some highlights from the Modern Wing's first five years.

Note II

Cy Twombly: The Natural World
Opening day: May 16, 2009
Weather in Chicago: 54ºF, overcast
#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Boom Boom Pow by the Black Eyed Peas

We kicked things off with a boom boom pow indeed. Occupying the Abbott Galleries on the first floor of the Modern Wing, The Natural World memorably featured series' of Twombly's expansive, lush canvases. Along with other recent work in sculpture and photography, the exhibition explored the artist's late-career fascination with travel and the natural beauty of the world.


Opening day: December 10, 2010
Weather in Chicago: 30ºF, light rain
#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Raise Your Glass by P!nk

Raise a glass to contemporary architecture and design. Hyperlinks featured recent projects (in some cases, so recent they were still in concept stages) from over 30 cutting-edge architects and designers. The exhibition contained nearly all media (from conceptual architectural models, urban interventionism, takeaway print design, interactive virtual spaces, and much more) to emphasize the extreme connectedness and fading boundaries between different realms of design and interaction. The show both questioned and answered how we perceive, and create, the world around us.

Restless Raindow 2

Pae White: Restless Rainbow
Opening day: May 21, 2011
Weather in Chicago: 63ºF, mostly cloudy
#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Rolling in the Deep by Adele

Out on the Bluhm Terrace in the summer of 2011, Pae White had us rolling deep—in color. Using the Modern Wing less as a container for her art than a surface for it, White covered the outdoor space in colorful, immersive, disorganized rainbow patterns. While the Modern Wing is a beautiful building, its surroundings—the Chicago Skyline, Lake Michigan, Millennium Park—definitely competes for attention. Restless Rainbow brought our attention back in from those vistas and asked us to consider a newly restless and engaging space.


Allen Ruppersberg: No Time Left to Start Again/The B and D of R 'n' R
Opening Day: September 21, 2012
Weather in Chicago: 54ºF, moderate to heavy rain
#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together by Taylor Swift

I'd get back together with this exhibition. Allen Ruppersberg, the conceptual artist known for hopping boundaries both artistic and political, constructed No Time Left to Start Again/The B and D of R 'n' R as a survey of American vernacular music. Filling the Modern Wing's first floor with records, posters, and other laminated musical paraphernalia, Ruppersberg created the sort of spectacle so rife with detail and minutiae that one needs to consider it at a distance before approaching it. By including his own snapshots and a soundtrack of songs dating back to the early 20th century, we considering not just the music itself, but how it enhances and structures our experience of it.

Here's what we've learned: Chicago never gets above 70ºF, Americans love pop music, and the Modern Wing accomplished more than I did in its first five years. Now for some candles to blow out, courtesy of Gerhard Richter!

Zwei Kerzen

Image Credits:

Cy Twombly. Note II, 2005-2007. The Steven and Alexandra Cohen Collection © Cy Twombly. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.
Installation view of Hyperlinks: Architecture and Design
Installation view of Pae White: Restless Rainbow
Installation view of Allen Ruppersberg: No Time Left to Start Again/The B and D of R 'n' R
Gerhard Richter. Two Candles, 1982. Twentieth-Century Discretionary Fund. © Gerhard Richter.