Madeleine Grynsztejn, Pritzker Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
, today announced the extraordinary gift of $10 million from Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson to name the MCA Theater. The theater will be named the Edlis Neeson Theater in their honor.
"We are extremely thankful to Stefan and Gael for this generous and important gift, and for their support and enthusiasm for the MCA Chicago," said Madeleine Grynsztejn. "We are very honored to have their name on one of the great spaces of the museum. Stefan and Gael share our vision of the MCA as an artist-activated, audience-engaged museum for producing art, ideas, community, and conversation around the creative process, which often takes place in the theater setting. Their gift is an incredible catalyst for implementing our vision for the MCA as a top 21st-century museum."
Mary Ittelson, Chair of the MCA Board of Trustees, said, "Stefan and Gael have been among the most generous supporters in the MCA's history. This gift is emblematic of their philanthropy and leadership. With keen eyes and astute judgment, Stefan and Gael have played a central role in the international art world over the past decades. Their gift is an affirmation of the quality of multidisciplinary programming at the MCA and ensures that it will continue to flourish in the theater and throughout the museum."
Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson have been active, long-time supporters of the arts and the MCA. Currently an officer of the MCA Board, Edlis has been a MCA Trustee since 1981, and led the museum's Collection Committee from 2004 to 2008, while Neeson serves on the Exhibition Committee. Edlis is a strong advocate for the museum's Josef Paul Kleihues building and helped support its construction in the 1990s. In 2000, Edlis and Neeson gave a major gift to establish the Edlis/Neeson Art Acquisition Fund that has enabled the MCA to acquire significant works for the collection, including Maurizio Cattelan's Felix (2001), Thomas Schutte's Ganz Grosse Geister (Big SpiritsXL) (2004), Jenny Holzer's For Chicago (2007), and Olafur Eliasson's Your eye activity field (2009). World-renowned collectors of modern and contemporary art, Edlis and Neeson have also donated masterpieces to the MCA's Collection by artists such as Eric Fischl, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and H.C. Westermann, in addition to Jeff Koons' Rabbit which is currently featured in the exhibition This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s. They have also consistently supported the museum's exhibitions, most recently Mark Handforth's outdoor exhibition in summer 2011, as well as survey shows of John Currin, Jeff Koons, Rudolf Stingel, and Luc Tuymans.
"Supporting the MCA by naming the theater was important to us because it is a beautiful space for innovation and experimentation that was designed with the audience's experience in mind," said Stefan Edlis. "We sincerely hope that our gift encourages others to come forward and continue to support the MCA."
Gael Neeson added, "We are especially pleased to support the MCA by naming a space that offers world-class performing arts, educational programs, and events that are enjoyed by thousands of people each year."
The MCA Theater seats 300 people, and is designed to create an intimate space where audience members can feel close to the speakers and performers on stage. Special acoustic panels lining the upper walls and elegant wood paneling create a sense of warmth, while the concrete floors continue the design theme of the building's exterior.
The MCA Theater is a space for programs centered on living artists, with artist talks -- by Chuck Close, William Kentridge, Jeff Koons, Susan Philipsz, and Lorna Simpson, among many others -- educational programs, and one of the country's leading performing arts series. The MCA Stage has presented an impressive roster of art luminaries including Laurie Anderson, Eiko & Koma, Philip Glass, Martha Graham Dance Company, and Bill T. Jones. The MCA Theater is also a gathering place that acts as a resource for the community, where the MCA hosts events in collaboration with community partners and organizations such as the American Association of Museums, the Chicago Humanities Festival, Chicago Ideas Week, and TEDxMidwest.