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Michael Darling. Photo: Nathan Keay/Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

MCA Chicago Chief Curator Michael Darling to Depart for Start-Up

Michael Darling, chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, is leaving the institution to serve as a cofounder and the chief growth officer of Museum Exchange, a for-profit platform launching today that will match art collectors with institutions seeking their donations, the Chicago Tribune reports. Darling, who has helmed MCA Chicago since 2010, during his tenure brought the institution some of its most popular shows, including solo exhibitions by Takashi Murakami and Virgil Abloh, which he curated, and the traveling exhibition “David Bowie Is,” whose presentation at the museum he organized.

The announcement of his departure coincides with that of senior curator Naomi Beckwith, who was tapped to become deputy director and chief curator of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Beckwith is to assume her duties there in June. The Tribune notes that the loss of the two luminaries leaves museum director Madeleine Grynsztejn with a major gap in the institution’s leadership but also offers her the chance to restructure the curatorial team to reflect the present moment, shaped by a surging demand for racial equality and by the economic hardships inflicted by the continuing Covid-19 crisis.

Darling acknowledged that his decision to leave MCA Chicago was at least partly influenced by his desire to make room for other voices. “It’s not just that I didn’t want to overstay my welcome in terms of just my creativity or whatever,” he said, “but really giving someone else a chance to take over as chief curator of a museum like the MCA. A changing of the guard.”

Grynsztejn acknowledged the magnitude of the loss of Darling and Beckwith, while expressing happiness for them and an eagerness to restructure the curatorial team to suit the present ethos. “We are enormously proud of the leadership that has been developed at the MCA over the last ten years,” she said in a statement. “We are focused on a renewed commitment to our vision with equity and sustainability at the center of our thinking. I am looking forward to building on the strong foundation Michael and Naomi established to bring in new and diverse voices to help us realize that vision.”

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