Best Museum - 2013
Museum of Contemporary Religious Art
The Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, which focuses on the myriad ways religious impulses shape art production, consistently has organized some of the most nuanced and revelatory exhibitions in St. Louis since opening in 1991. As the country's only museum to engage this otherwise untouchable subject by the adamantly atheistic contemporary-art world, MOCRA has maintained an expansive and progressive perspective on its mission, presenting a widely ecumenical sense of religiosity as well as an incisive aesthetic currency. This year's unsettlingly trenchant exhibition by Jordan Eagles, Blood/Spirit, used the eponymous organic material (sourced from slaughterhouses) to form layered, luminous works that, at their nearest, resembled Gothic stained glass. Previous exhibitions have featured Andy Warhol's Silver Clouds, Keith Haring's Altarpiece, an astonishing survey of the underserved artist Adrian Kellard and paintings by Michael Byron, among many others. Overseen by Father Terrence Dempsey, the curatorial vision for this space is unfailingly daring and experimental, involving programming that varies from reflections on ritual and the AIDS epidemic to post-minimalism and notions of the sacred. From video and sculpture to painting and printmaking, the work on view in this space always succeeds in challenging one's assumptions about spirituality and faith, and reasserts the relevance of such content.