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MCA Celebrates 10 Years of ArtEdge and New Gary Simmons Exhibit

MCA Celebrates 10 Years of ArtEdge and New Gary Simmons Exhibit

Photograph of MCA Trustee and ArtEdge 2023 co-chair Sara Albrecht, Artist Gary Simmons, MCA Trustee and ArtEdge 2023 co-chair Nathaniel Robinson
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Photograph of MCA Trustee and ArtEdge 2023 co-chair Sara Albrecht, Artist Gary Simmons, MCA Trustee and ArtEdge 2023 co-chair Nathaniel Robinson

When it comes to Chicago’s society/philanthropy world, there are 2 seasons, spring+summer and fall gala season. The competition to get big donations, top tier guests and be the must attend event of the social calendar is fierce. If this were a classroom, The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s ArtEdge is gunning for an A+ with extra credits to push the CGPA even higher. The annual ArtEdge gala is usually held in conjunction with the opening of a major summer exhibit at the MCA and c0-chaired by a well connected name in Chicago’s philanthropy or corporate world. This was the 10th anniversary of the event, celebrating the newest MCA exhibit Gary Simmons: Public Enemy. Past ArtEdge honorees have included Takashi Murakami, Virgil Abloh, and last year, artist Nick Cave along with his brother Jack were celebrated. Though most galas follow a relatively similar format where they begin with cocktail reception, dinner, acknowledgement speeches, performance maybe, afterparty; MCA had such but with a twist as it’s wont to do.

Photograph of MCA Trustee and ArtEdge 2023 co-chair Sara Albrecht, Artist Gary Simmons, MCA Trustee and ArtEdge 2023 co-chair Nathaniel Robinson
MCA Trustee and ArtEdge 2023 co-chair Sara Albrecht, Artist Gary Simmons, MCA Trustee and ArtEdge 2023 co-chair Nathaniel Robinson

The temperate June 10th night began with a cocktail reception inside a tent surrounded by the most magnificent artistic decor done by HMR designs & Frost Lighting, in the Anne & John Kern Terrace garden. A Who’s Who of Chicago was abuzz in the room. BIÂN co-founder and uber restauranteur (Boka Group) Kevin Boehm was spotted in spirited conversation in one corner with William Blair partner and managing director, Ellen Blair Chube (Silver sponsor) and her handsome, future HOF-er date, can you say hard launch! Another corner of the room, spotted (BASI Pilates Academy) Sondra and Tony Karman (EXPO Chicago President), visual artists Nick Cave and Bob Faust, perhaps cooking up ideas for EXPO Chicago next year? I walked by Mr. Eric Lefkofsky (founder and CEO of Tempus) who was in attendance with wife Liz Lefkofsky (Lefkofsky Family Foundation) and one of the evening’s Platinum sponsors. The night’s honoree Mr. Gary Simmons worked the room in his low key manner spotted in conversation with Marquis Miller (Obama Foundation) and Antoine Jennings. As the cocktail reception portion wrapped up, guests were ushered with music from LowDown Brass Band, to the MCA’s atrium, which truly felt like you were walking inside a watercolor dream, in the coolest way possible. Rather than the usual sit down dinner, there were curated food stations categorized into themes and reserved seating.

When I asked several guests their thoughts on the dinner format, it was a surprising thumbs up. It allowed them not only to try few different things but also to walk around and mingle with other gala guests, easily. The 2023 ArtEdge gala, celebrating 10 years of ArtEdge, was co-chaired by President of Swan Capital Sarah Albrecht and Nathaniel Robinson, Cushman & Wakefield Chief Investment Officer & EVP of Strategic Planning. Throughout the night,  guests got a first look at the Gary Simmons: Public Enemy exhibit at the Griffin Galleries of Contemporary Art, which opened to the public June 13 and runs through October 1. Other guests were spotted dancing along with the performance from pop duo, The Illustrious Blacks.


Though Gary Simmons was the night’s big honoree, Chicago native and multiple Grammy award wining ‘Everywoman’ Chaka Khan was the special guest and let me tell you, her performance did not disappoint and she looks good; Ms. Chaka was serving Body-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody. She went through a catalogue of her greatest hits including “Ain’t Nobody,” “Tell Me Something Good,” and so much more accompanied by her band and singers, which the crowd loved. You just had to be there, but a time was had.

The IRL tastemakers and society scene makers including Cathy Busch, Leslie Bluhm, Julie and Guy Lakonishok, Matthew Yates, Dr, Julius Few and Ali Parenti, Dia Weil, Lisa Duarte, Sally Kovler, Matthew Pritzker, Rebekah and Ilan Shalit (Silver), Dr. James Chandler, Eve Rogers, Desiree Ralls-Morrison, Marlene Breslow-Blitstein, Gary Metzner & Scott Johnson, Pamela and Marquis Miller, Ron Huberman, to name a few were spotted on the scene. Also spied in attendance on the 2023 ArtEdge gala scene were artists and gallerists including Theaster Gates, Amanda Williams, Dawoud Bey, Nick Cave, Monique Meloche and Carrie Secrist who is gearing up to open a new gallery space in West Town. Donors and sponsors Anne Kaplan (Platinum), Cari Sacks, the MCA Board Chair and husband Michael Sacks, CEO of Grosvenor Capital (Platinum), King Harris of the Harris Family Foundation (Gold), Marlyn and Larry Fields (Silver), Marlene Breslow-Blitstein and Berle Blitstein, Dr. Anita Blanchard and Martin Nesbitt were in attendance for the evening. This year’s ArtEdge gala raised over $1.7 million dollars that will go towards the MCA’s collaborative efforts to provide a platform for living artists, in pursuit of a creative and diverse future. The evening ended on a sweet note for this gal with the Wolf Point Distillery infused cotton candy. Here’s to celebrating many more decades of ArtEdge and the cultural institution that is the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Besides Ron Huberman’s Thom Browne cashmere cardigan, Tarrah Cooper-Wright’s Chanel bag and Liz Lefkofsky’s Gold Schiaparelli Anatomy bag, I wish I asked about what guest were wearing because some were serving high fashion huny; next time. Keep scrolling for more pictures and Who’s Who from the event and check out the gallery above for all the fun.


Liz Lefkofsky and Guests


Jeffrey Wright, Larry Fields, Tarrah Cooper-Wright,

Guests, Ron Huberman

Gary Simmons: Public Enemy, on view from June 13, 2023, through October 1, 2023, is organized by James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator René Morales and Assistant Curator Jadine Collingwood with Curatorial Associate Jack Schneider. This exhibition is the most comprehensive survey of multidisciplinary artist Gary Simmons’s work to date, covering three decades of Simmons’s career and featuring approximately 70 works. Public Enemy is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Pérez Art Museum Miami. Simmons’s artworks expose and analyze the histories of racism that permeate visual culture in the United States, revealing their traces across sports, cinema, television, music, architecture, and art. Combining pop-cultural imagery with conceptual artistic strategies, Simmons mixes a cool, analytical approach with an unflinching and intense interrogation of the historical legacies of race and class.

See Also

Nina Mariano, Nathaniel Robinson, Alexa Rice, Linda Johnson Rice
MCA Board Chair Cari B. Sacks, Pritzker Director Madeleine Grynsztejn
Dr. James Chandler


*All Photos: MCA/Jeremy Lawson Photography



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