The MacArthur Fellows program—colloquially known as the “genius grant”—is often considered the pinnacle of rewards for artists due to its $625,000 unrestricted purse. Since it was launched in 1981, visual artists honored by the fellowship have included Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Mark Bradford, and Rick Lowe; now, as the program’s 40th anniversary approaches, they are among the more than two dozen genius grant winners slated to be included in a sprawling exhibition that will take place in Chicago in 2021. The show is being organized by the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art and supported by a $1-million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The museum has appointed Abigail Winograd as the exhibition’s curator.
In a statement, Winograd said:
To honor Chicago’s tradition of socially-engaged artistic practice and its long history of the activation of art on the part of marginalized communities, the exhibition will branch out from its main venues to establish a presence and create a dialogue with neighborhoods and institutions across the city.
In addition to being staged throughout multiple Chicago art institutions, the exhibition will invest public spaces throughout the city with artists’ projects that have participatory and social justice elements. Among them will be a new installment of Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle’s “Well” series, an installation that will serve as a catalyst for conversations about water conservation and climate change.
Titled “Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40,” the exhibition will open in the summer of 2021; the full list of artists and participating venues will be revealed at a later date.