Collectors Marilyn and Larry Fields Make a Major Gift of 79 Works to MCA Chicago

The philanthropic couple have previously supported the museum with loans and a $2 million curatorial endowment.

Marilyn and Larry Fields, two philanthropists known for their involvement in Chicago’s art scene, are gifting a portion of their impressive contemporary art collection to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago. The unprecedented donation will further expand the museum’s collection, which is already one of the most diverse among art institutions across the U.S.

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Black and white photographs of man in corduroy suit and glasses
Rashid Johnson, Self Portrait as the Professor of Astronomy, Miscegenation and Critical Theory
at the New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club Center for Graduate Studies, (2008). Photo: Luca Carrà/Courtesy of annarumma404 gallery

Around 80 percent of the seventy-nine paintings, photographs, new media pieces and sculptures donated by the Fields are by women-identifying and BIPOC artists like Huma Bhabha, Amanda Ross-Ho, Adrian Piper and Jennie C. Jones. “This generous gift will help the MCA move the permanent collection forward by adding emerging voices and new artists to the collection, expanding our ability to highlight under-represented narratives,” said Madeleine Grynsztejn, the museum’s director, in a statement.

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Over the past several years, the museum has made significant strides toward diversifying its holdings. Between 2008 and 2020, it collected artworks by women at twice the national average, artworks by Black Americans at four times the national average and artworks by Black American women at seven times the national average, according to the 2022 Burns Halperin Report.

Woman and man pose in front of pink painting
Marilyn and Larry Fields have been longtime supporters of the MCA. Ingrid Bonne

Museum curators helped select the donated works

The gifted collection, which was assembled collaboratively by the Fields and MCA curators, contains a mix of emerging and established artists. In addition to works by twenty-three artists that will be displayed in the MCA’s collection for the first time, the gift includes pieces by Rashid Johnson, Arthur Jafa, Cindy Sherman and other artists well-represented in the institution. Works by Chicago-based artists like Nick Cave, Nate Young and Theaster Gates are also part of the donation—the Fields have a track record of supporting local artists and reportedly own the single largest holding of works by Gates.

The new additions to the MCA’s permanent collection will be on view during exhibitions like the ongoing :Rebecca Morris: 2001-2022″ and the upcoming shows “Faith Ringgold: American People, Descending the Staircase” and “Nicole Eisenman: What Happened.”

“By placing these pieces in the public domain, they can be enjoyed by more people and spur conversations about some of the important issues we are facing today,” said Larry and Marilyn Fields in a statement. “These artists can open our eyes and make us view things differently through elevating our awareness.”

Installation of four colorful and textured costumes
Installation view, “Nick Cave: Forothermore”, MCA Chicago, 2022. Soundsuit, in foreground, is part of the Marilyn and Larry Fields Gift. Photo: Nathan Keay/© MCA Chicago

The Fields began seriously collecting contemporary artwork more than two decades ago, after visiting one of the first editions of Art Basel Miami Beach. Today, their collection reportedly has 500 unique works and includes pieces by more than 300 living artists.  Their Chicago home, which has an attached gallery, hosts a rotating display of artwork by artists like Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor and Christopher Wool, in addition to works of decor and furniture.

Larry Fields, a former commodities trader, currently sits on the MCA’s board. He was previously elected trustee of the museum in 2005 and has served on its executive and collection committees. Marilyn, meanwhile, joined the MCA women’s board from 1998 to 2016, during which time she helped establish the Women’s Board Family Education initiative.

This isn’t the first time the duo have supported the museum through gifts—in 2012, they gave $2 million to endow a curatorial position at the MCA (a role currently filled by Carla Acevedo-Yates and previously held by Naomi Beckwith, chief curator at the Guggenheim). Excluding their most recent gift, the Fields have supported more than twenty-five exhibitions at the institution, loaning more than forty-five works and gifting twenty-one more.

Collectors Marilyn and Larry Fields Make a Major Gift of 79 Works to MCA Chicago