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Date & Time

Thursday, July 15, 2021 to Sunday, December 19, 2021


Smart Museum of Art


Free, reservations recommended

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Smart Museum of Art


"Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40" explores the extent to which certain resources—air, land, water, and even culture—can be held in common. Raising questions about inclusion, exclusion, ownership, and rights of access, the exhibition considers art’s vital role in society as a call to vigilance, a way to bear witness, and a potential act of resistance. Presented on the 40th anniversary of the MacArthur Fellows Program, "Toward Common Cause" employs the Fellows Program as "intellectual commons" and features new and recontextualized work by 29 visual artists who have been named Fellows since the award program’s founding in 1981.

As the main gallery venue for "Toward Common Cause, the Smart Museum presents a group show that foregrounds issues of the natural and built environments: environmental racism, urban geographies, and the depiction of those spaces. The selected works—by Mark Bradford, Mel Chin, Nicole Eisenman, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Jeffrey Gibson, Toba Khedoori, Rick Lowe, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Julie Mehretu, Fazal Sheikh, and Xu Bing—consider how race and class shape our rural and urban spaces while also engaging art historical questions about the history of landscape photography and painting. Together, these works call into question the local and global power structures and social inequities that plague contemporary society, a reality thrown into stark relief by the global pandemic.


"Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40" is organized by the University of Chicago's Smart Museum of Art in collaboration with exhibition, programmatic, and research partners across Chicago. It is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Additional support for individual projects has been provided by Allstate; the Terra Foundation for American Art; the National Endowment for the Arts; The Joyce Foundation; David Zwirner; Hauser & Wirth; a Mellon Collaborative Fellowship in Arts Practice and Scholarship at the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry; the Visiting Fellows Program at the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society; and the Smart Museum’s SmartPartners. In-kind support is provided by S.O.U.R.C.E. Studio, F.J. Kerrigan Plumbing Co, and JCDecaux.