Karl Wirsum, Fire Lady or Monk’s Key Broad, 1969. Acrylic on canvas, 48 x 35¾ inches. The Bill McClain Collection of Chicago Imagism, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.
The permanent collection is key to the museum's mission to preserve and interpret visual art for the education and enjoyment of the public. As a result of generous gifts and museum purchases, the collection now numbers some 5,000 objects.
The collection includes works by some of the most significant American artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. A portion of works in the collection reflect significant exhibitions presented by the museum; Wisconsin-based artists are also well represented.
The museum's collection traces its origins to a major gift from Rudolph and Louise Langer in 1968. Through ongoing support from donors, it has become a valuable community resource, assuming a vital role in fulfilling the museum's mission to preserve and interpret visual art for the enrichment and enjoyment of the general public.
The collection has been the inspiration for numerous exhibitions in recent years, including La vida en marcha: Mexican Prints from the Permanent Collection (2003); In Depth: A Closer Look at MMoCA's Permanent Collection (2007); and Something Wicked This Way Comes (2009). Works from the collection figured prominently in solo exhibitions such as Selections from the Collection: Ed Paschke (2001) and John Buck (1999). Work in Progress: The Madison Art Center Collects (2000) documented the foundation, growth, and future of the collection as the museum approached its 100th anniversary.