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In this text, James Yood offers a scathing critique of The Chicago Show, an exhibition mounted at the Chicago Cultural Center in 1990. He describes the process by means of which this exhibition—conceived of as a juried exhibition to showcase the talent and diversity of local artists—fell victim to politics, tokenism, and the difficulties of ensuring diversity in a blind selection process. Yood criticizes the mediocre exhibition produced as a result, a show of works by 90 artists selected from 1,417 applicants plus 20 minority artists invited to bolster the ranks of the mere six minority artists originally chosen. Yood writes, “The History of Art is not an equal opportunity employer,” stressing that even spaces supported by public money must not let the dominant culture dictate the definition of quality. He ultimately argues that a curated exhibition would be the best way to ensure both talent and diversity.


This text by art historian James Yood appeared in the summer 1990 issue of the Chicago-based magazine, New Art Examiner, a critical journal published in Chicago from 1973 to 2002. In this essay, Yood points out the process through which the Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and the Chicago Cultural Center organized The Chicago Show, displayed at the Chicago Cultural Center in 1990. He considers the politics involved in the Art Institute’s decision to cease exhibiting local artists in its galleries, efforts to add minorities to the artists selected for the exhibition, and the low quality of artworks included. This text considers the politics of multiculturalism and institutions during the late-1980s and early-1990s in Chicago, at a time when, undoubtedly, there was a greater inclusion of Latino artists. 

Victor Alejandro Sorell, Gabrielle Toth; Harper Montgomery, collaborator
Institute for Latino Studies, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, USA
Courtesy of James Yood, Chicago, IL