In celebration of ICA’s 50th birthday, Chief Curator Ingrid Schaffner’s annual frolic through the pastures of contemporary art this year focused on ICA’s own backyard, approaching the museum’s history as a microcosm of the broader contemporary art world. Schaffner opened with an image of the announcement card for ICA’s first show—of the work of Clyfford Still—which opened fifty years earlier to the day, then moved on to connect ICA’s past to current happenings, like Zoe Strauss’s presence at the Carnegie International and James Turrell’s presence everywhere. Offering a brief history of kunstalles (with a focus on ICAs on this side of the Atlantic), Schaffner made a case for honoring the institute in Institute of Contemporary Art, stressing the importance of research and investigation at ICA. Touching down on her annual themes of Terrain, Reference, History, Identity, Form (“a palate cleanser”), Alchemy, Flesh, Storage, etc., Schaffner offered up ICA shows both iconic (Andy Warhol, 1965; Agnes Martin, 1973; Robert Mapplethorpe, 1989) and lesser known (Allan McCollum, 1991; Pepon Osorio, 2004; Amish Quilts, 1976), illuminating the dynamic range of ICA’s history and how deeply the institution has participated in shaping the landscape of art across the last half century. The varied audience crowding the auditorium included former ICA curators and friends, current students, and local art lovers, making the room buzz audibly with reminiscence and laughter. Schaffner ended her tour de force with a Clyfford Still image from that 1963 ICA show—reproduced in cake!—faithfully frosted by three ICA staff members. Afterward, the Still cake was cut by Schaffner, ICA director Amy Sadao, former ICA curator Judith Tannenbaum, ICA guard Linda Harris, and others, and enjoyed with Prosecco under ICA@50 balloons.
What is Contemporary? Ingrid Schaffner (2013)ICA Birthday Party balloons (2013)