Chicago is many things but dull it isn’t. This city is rich in culture, architecture, outdoors fun (in the summer, at least!), food and many other things. I love coming to this city but have rarely been here on my own to explore. I have greatly enjoyed coming to Chicago with friends, whether to party in the early 1990s, or to get to know the best of the city in the last few years via local friends who know it well. I wrote a couple of years ago about the architecture of the city.
When a business trip to Minnesota arose, I thought it may give me another opportunity to head to the Windy City on my way home and see more of it. One of the things that I have NEVER done in Chicago is go to a museum so I decided my weekend would be anchored around at least on a museum visit.
And so it was. After reading a little bit, and being quite torn on which one to attack, I decided for The Art Institute of Chicago. It is one of people’s favorites (or so I read!) and it was close to my hotel. Also, while I had studied about the Chicago History Museum and was curious to see it in person, I was not feeling historical this weekend. I was more in the mood for art. And, finally, The Art Institute featured in one of my favorite movies: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off!
The museum has an old wing and a newer one with a cleverly built hallway/gallery that was built to bridge over the railroad lines separating the old building (right on Michigan Avenue) from the new building, behind the old building towards the lake. The new building has an entrance on Monroe whereas the old building has its entrance on Michigan Avenue.
I like the newer building because it just feels “light” both in the sense of illumination but also on the sense of weight or heaviness of the architecture and the interiors. Well done, whoever was/were the architect(s)!
The museum has art from ancient Greece and China to the most modern sculptures (Charles Ray was a special exhibit). I started at the Charles Ray exhibit mainly because it was right there after I entered. The space was huge and the sculptures were distributed over the entire space creating what felt like vast spaces between the pieces. I don’t know much about art (it’s been a while since I stayed at a Holiday Inn…) but I definitely felt the openness and emptiness of the galleries only added to the sculptures by truly making them stand out. I also feel that it also made the people walking around almost part of the exhibit itself. I took some photos that, now when I look at them, I am almost as interested in the people walking the space as in the sculptures themselves. I wonder if that was the intent of the curators…
My favorites were the impressionist artists, as usual: Pisarro, Cézanne, Monet, etc.. But I also was pleased to see several El Greco and more modern favorites like Miró, Picasso, Matisse, Pollock, and Roy Lichtenstein (am I a name-thrower or what?!).
I also enjoyed seeing American Gothic in person. It truly is a brilliant piece, not because I know about art itself but because I certainly feel the emotion (or lack thereof) in the two characters!
Oh, and here is the charmer that Ferris and his bud and girlfriend admired while on their escapade!
You don’t have to be an art connoisseur or lover even – just have an open mind and go explore this incredible institution on the shores of Lake Michigan!