Michael Darling (curator)

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Michael Darling
Occupation James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

Michael Darling (born 1967) is the James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (MCA). Darling joined the MCA staff in July 2010.[1]

Life and education[edit]

Darling received his BA in art history from Stanford University, and he received his MA and PhD in art and architectural history from the University of California, Santa Barbara.[2] Darling has worked as an independent writer and curator, contributing essays on art, architecture, and design to publications including Frieze, Art Issues, Flash Art, and LA Weekly. Darling frequently serves as a panelist, lecturer, and guest curator on contemporary art and architecture.[3]


Prior to joining the MCA, Darling was the Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), where he was awarded SAM's Patterson Sims Fellowship for 2009-10. In 2008, Darling began the program SAM Next, a series of contemporary art exhibitions presenting emerging or underappreciated artists from around the globe.[4] Artist Enrico David, who exhibited as part of SAM Next, has since been nominated for the Turner Prize.[5]

Darling curated the SAM exhibitions Target Practice: Painting Under Attack 1949-78 (June 25 – September 7, 2009), and Kurt (May 13 – September 16, 2010). Target Practice showcased the attacks painting underwent in the years following World War II. Kurt explored Kurt Cobain’s influence on contemporary artists.[6]

Darling was associate curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, before joining SAM. He co-curated The Architecture of R.M. Schindler (2001), which won the International Association of Art Critics “Best Architecture or Design Exhibition” award.[7] The exhibition also won merit awards for interior architecture from the Southern California American Institute of Architects and the California Council of the American Institute of Architects.

MCA Vision[edit]

As reported by the Chicago Tribune in June 2011, Darling is focused on a “philosophical gut rehab [of the MCA] whose ultimate goal is clarity.”[8] Included in the MCA renovations are the reassignment of gallery spaces and the hiring of new curatorial staff.[9]

In 2011, Darling organized the exhibition Pandora’s Box: Joseph Cornell Unlocks the MCA Collection which ran June 18 – October 16, 2011, at the MCA Chicago. The exhibition placed pieces from the museum’s collection in direct dialogue with Joseph Cornell’s work.[10]

Darling’s most recently organized exhibition Above, Before & After runs May 7, 2016–Jun 18, 2017 at the MCA Chicago. The artists featured in Above, Before & After manipulate form and space to explore the relationship between art and the viewer.


  1. ^ “Michael Darling is Named New Chief Curator of MCA Chicago,” Press Release, April 20, 2010, Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago, accessed June 16, 2011, http://www.mcachicago.org/media_uploads/releases/c288cDarling.pdf.
  2. ^ Jessica Reaves, “New Curator is Chosen for MCA,” New York Times, April 30, 2010, accessed June 24, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/30/arts/design/30cncmca.html.
  3. ^ “Michael Darling is Named New Chief Curator of MCA Chicago.”
  4. ^ “SAM’s Michael Darling Accepts Position as Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago,” Press Release, Seattle Art Museum (SAM), April 29, 2010, accessed June 16, 2011, http://www.seattleartmuseum.org/pressRoom/prRelease.asp?prID=194.
  5. ^ “Turner Prize 09,” Tate Britain, accessed June 24, 2011, http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/turnerprize/turnerprize2009/artists/default.shtm.
  6. ^ “Exhibitions,” Seattle Art Museum (SAM), http://seattleartmuseum.org/exhibit.
  7. ^ Critics Honor MOCA’s Schindler Show,” Los Angeles Times, December 2001, accessed June 24, 2011, http://articles.latimes.com/2001/dec/10/entertainment/et-2know10.
  8. ^ Lauren Viera, “MCA 2.0,” Chicago Tribune, June 10, 2011, accessed June 16, 2011, http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/art/ct-ae-0612-mca-main-20110610,0,6577602.story?page=1.
  9. ^ Ibid.
  10. ^ “Pandora’s Box: Joseph Cornell Unlocks the MCA Collection,” Press Release, May 2011, Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago, accessed June 24, 2011, http://www.mcachicago.org/media_uploads/releases/2ee83Pandora%20Release.pdf.

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