Museum of Contemporary Religious Art

December 17, 2008

Taking a breather

Filed under: Exhibitions, Pursuit of the Spirit — Tags: , , , — mocraslu @ 12:36 pm

Pursuit of the Spirit, the first of MOCRA’s two fifteenth-anniversary exhibitions, closed on Sunday. Now for a couple of weeks of decompression and holiday break before installing the second anniversary show, Good Friday, scheduled to open on February 8, 2009.

Pursuit of the Spirit had good attendance and positive feedback from those who visited. Among my personal metrics for gauging the success of an exhibition are the amount of time visitors spend in the museum, and the amount of time they spend with individual works. On both counts, this exhibition scored high marks.

I don’t have the opportunity to talk with individual visitors as much as I would like, to find out how they have responded to particular works or to the exhibition overall. When I do, invariably I receive a new insight into works that I thought I knew pretty well.

So it’s great to discover that at least one visitor has blogged about his experience at the exhibition. Read what Chris King has to say about Seyed Alavi’s Noli me tangere.

You can also read Chris’ ruminations on the Pursuit of the Spirit opening reception, replete with sketch of MOCRA’s Director, Terrence Dempsey, S.J.

–David Brinker, Assistant Director


December 9, 2008

“Pursuit of the Spirit” reviewed; questions raised

MOCRA’s fifteenth-anniversary exhibition Pursuit of the Spirit was featured in the Sunday, December 7, 2008 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reviewer David Bonetti praises MOCRA’s “vigorous program” and highlights a number of works in the exhibition. At the same time, he voices some common questions and objections about what MOCRA aims at in presenting contemporary art that engages the religious and spiritual dimensions. For instance, how does one identify the “spiritual” in art if a traditional iconography is lacking?

We invite you to read Mr. Bonetti’s review and then share your own thoughts about the questions he poses. Have you visited MOCRA to see Pursuit of the Spirit? How does your experience compare with his?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Read David Bonetti’s review of Pursuit of the Spirit.

December 2, 2008

Beginning with a look back

The February 1993 issue of Art News included a notice penned by art historian Peter Selz announcing the opening on February 14, 1993 of “what may well be the first interfaith museum of contemporary religious art…”

It’s been over 15 years now since Saint Louis University’s Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA) opened its doors to the public. The numbers are impressive enough for a small non-profit arts entity: 35 exhibitions, over 160 artists exhibited. But this is a museum rendered unique both by its space and its mission: a former chapel that is now the world’s first interfaith museum of contemporary art that engages religious and spiritual themes. MOCRA is dedicated to furthering the dialogue between contemporary artists and the world’s faith traditions, and to serving as a forum for interfaith understanding.

MOCRA is celebrating this anniversary year with two exhibitions–Pursuit of the Spirit in Fall 2008 and Good Friday in Spring 2009–that draw mainly on the museum’s collection and aim to showcase both the breadth and the depth of the work that has been shown since 1993. Since we hope that this new blog will introduce many readers to MOCRA, we thought that our readers might appreciate a survey of MOCRA’s previous exhibitions. So in addition to posts about current activities at the museum, each week we will feature a previous exhibition, giving a summary of what the exhibition was about, the artist or artists included, any special programs that accompanied the exhibition, and a sampling of images from the show.

This week we will start, as a very sensible nanny once counseled, “at the very beginning.”

  • Tomorrow, we’ll explore in brief how MOCRA came to be.
  • On Thursday, we’ll eavesdrop on a major conference that took place even before the museum opened.
  • Finally, on Friday we’ll look back at MOCRA’s inaugural exhibition, Sanctuaries: Recovering the Holy in Contemporary Art.

–David Brinker, Assistant Director

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