Rapper Vic Mensa curating new iteration of exhibit on Magnificent Mile

Joseph S. Pete, The Times, December 21, 2022


The rapper Vic Mensa is curating the third iteration of an art exhibit on the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago.


The Grammy- and NAACP Image Award-nominated rapper is partnering with EXPO Chicago, the Magnificent Mile Association and the Kavi Gupta Gallery on the latest iteration of the group exhibit SKIN + MASKS. Mensa and Kavi Gupta Gallery Director Chanelle Lacy are curating the show that features both established and emerging contemporary artists from Chicago.


The exhibition will be on display at 535 N. Michigan Ave. on the Magnificent Mile through April 2023, when EXPO Chicago returns.


"SKIN + MASKS is a cultural conversation spanning bandwidth of race, identity and art, created in collaboration with Kavi Gupta Gallery,” Mensa said. “Since its launch in July, it has seen multiple different iterations, and we are ecstatic to expand it into its next existence as a limited engagement installation on Michigan Avenue. With this new moment in the life of SKIN + MASKS, we look to develop the show's conceptual framework while spotlighting even more brilliant work from some of the same, and some different, Chicago creators."


It's part of an ongoing effort to bring more visual art to the Magnificent Mile where installations from Nick Cave and Bob Faust were recently added.


“We are proud to be collaborating with the Magnificent Mile Association, Kavi Gupta Gallery and the curators, Vic Mensa and Chanelle Lacy, to present this groundbreaking contemporary art exhibition,” said Tony Karman, president and director of EXPO Chicago.

“This limited engagement installation on Michigan Avenue is a wonderful addition to Chicago’s great Magnificent Mile, showcasing to the world the work of emerging Chicago-based artists and the rich artistic talent that is active in our great city today.”


Best known for his rap, Mensa is also an author, visual artist, activist and the founder of the Chicago-based nonprofit SaveMoneySaveLife.


It's Mensa's curatorial debut. It's grounded in Antilles-born author Frantz Fanon's 1952 book "Black Skin, White Masks," a "psychoanalytical tour-de-force that exposes how colonization weaponized skin as an agent of alienation, imposing an existential divide on people."


"SKIN + MASKS has served as a community centered incubator of expansive conversation and radical performance since its debut this summer. The gallery prides itself on amplifying diverse voices and partnering with Vic Mensa on this show has not only brought more seats to the table, but broadened the table itself," Lacy said. "I could not be more thrilled to join as co-curator of this next iteration of SKIN + MASKS in ongoing support of our mission to provide elevated platforms, such as the Magnificent Mile, for diverse communities of artists both emerging and established that are often overlooked or marginalized."


The exhibition features artists like Gerald Williams, Nikko Washington, Mia Lee, Thelonious Stokes and Lola Ayisha Ogbara.


“Art, architecture, and engaging experiences contribute to the magic that is created daily on The Magnificent Mile,” said Kimberly Bares, President and CEO of The Magnificent Mile Association. “We are thrilled that this group art exhibition will be on display for Chicago residents and visitors to enjoy, and that the works are available for people to add to their own collections.”

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