While our third day in Chicago was going to be a busy one, it started late! We all were exhausted from our first day exploring the Windy City and visiting Willis Tower, Buckingham Fountain, Crown Fountain, Cloud Gate, the Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Lincoln Park Conservatory. And, our feet hurt a bit from exploring the world-famous Field Museum for more than five hours before dancing for several hours straight at the first of two Dead & Company concerts at Wrigley Field.
Today we slept in until 10:00 am, showered, grabbed lunch, and and headed over to the Art Institute of Chicago.
We bought the Chicago CityPASS when visiting Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower, which gave us free tickets for either the Adler Planetarium or the Art Institute of Chicago, but thankfully we didn’t have to choose! Because we’re Bank of America customers and it was the first weekend of the month, admission to the Art Institute was free, which allowed us to use the CityPASS later in our trip for the Adler Planetarium.
About The Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago, founded in 1879 and located in Chicago’s Grant Park, is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States.
Its collection comprises approximately 300,000 works of arts — ranging from ancient art through to work being created by today’s foremost artists. Located in the heart of Chicago, just a block from Lake Michigan and adjacent to Millennium Park, the Art Institute is composed of eight buildings, covering nearly one million square feet.
As a research institution, the Art Institute also has a conservation and conservation science department, five conservation laboratories, and one of the largest art history and architecture libraries in the country—the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries.
Two bronze lions flank the Art Institute’s Michigan Avenue entrance. Made for the opening at its current location in 1893, the lions were a gift from Mrs. Henry Field. They have unofficial names given to them by their sculptor, Edward Kemeys, that reflect their poses:
- The south lion stands In an Attitude of Defiance
- The north lion is On the Prowl.
Visiting The Art Institute of Chicago
We spent several hours at the Art Institute of Chicago and while we saw most of the galleries and exhibits on display, we didn’t have time to see every exhibit and gallery! With almost one million square feet of exhibition space, the museum is HUGE, and when visiting with kids of any age, you’ve got to pick and choose the exhibits you want to see most.
My favorite collections on display are the Ancient and Byzantine, the European Painting and Sculpture, and Design Episodes: Form, Style, Language, and the paintings that move me the most are from the Impressionist period. I loved strolling through the galleries, taking in the various art works, and admiring the talent of the artists.
Our family, enjoyed the ancient Roman and Greek artifacts, the samples of ancient money, and the sculptures and statues. Brian prefers sculptures and artifacts over paintings and illustrations.
And of course, during our visit, we had to recreate a few of the scenes from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off… and we weren’t alone! Throughout the day, we saw many other guests consulting their phones, comparing pictures from the movie and paintings on the wall, and posing for the same photos.
Arts Collections And Exhibits
The collection of the Art Institute of Chicago encompasses more than 5,000 years of human expression from cultures around the world and contains more than 300,000 works of art in 11 curatorial departments. The museum holds works of art ranging from early Japanese prints to the art of the Byzantine Empire to contemporary American art. It is principally known for one of the United States’ finest collection of paintings produced in Western culture.
Some of the permanent collections and exhibitions include:
- American Art: The Art Institute’s American Art collection contains some of the best-known works in the American canon, including Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, Grant Wood’s American Gothic, and Mary Cassatt’s The Child’s Bath. The collection ranges from colonial silver to modern and contemporary paintings.
- Ancient and Byzantine: The Art Institute’s ancient collection, with around 5,000 works, spans nearly 4,000 years of art and history, showcasing Greek, Etruscan, Roman, and Egyptian sculpture, mosaics, pottery, jewelry, glass, and bronze as well as a robust and well-maintained collection of ancient coins.
- Asian Art: The Art Institute’s Asian collection spans nearly 5,000 years, including significant works and objects from China, Korea, Japan, India, southeast Asia, and the Near and Middle East. There are 35,000 objects in the collection, showcasing bronzes, ceramics, and jades as well as textiles, screens, woodcuts, and sculptures.
- European Decorative Arts: The Art Institute’s collection of European decorative arts includes some 25,000 objects of furniture, ceramics, metalwork, glass, enamel, and ivory from 1100 A.D. to the present day.
- European Painting and Sculpture: The museum is most famous for its collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist paintings, widely regarded as one of the finest collections outside of France. Highlights include more than 30 paintings by Claude Monet, important works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Gustave Caillebotte, and Post-Impressionist works by Paul Cézanne and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The pointillist masterpiece, famously featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Georges Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte, is prominently displayed, as is work by Henri Matisse and Vincent van Gogh.
- Modern And Contemporary Art: The museum’s collection of modern and contemporary art was significantly augmented when collectors Stefan Edlie and Gael Neeson gifted 40 master works to the department in 2015. Artists featured on the third floor of the Modern Wing include Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Constantin Brâncuși, and René Magritte. The contemporary installation, located on the second floor, contains works by Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Cy Twombly, Jackson Pollock, Jasper Johns, and other significant modern and contemporary artists.
There are also several special exhibitions on display, including:
- Shakers and Movers: Selections from the Collection of Dr. Thomas and Jan Pavlovic: This selection of more than 20 Shaker objects made in the late 18th and 19th centuries exemplifies the craftsmanship synonymous with the influential utopian religious community.
- Design Episodes: Form, Style, Language: This exhibition features three provocative episodes or vignettes: the modern chair, the emergence of postmodern design, and contemporary identity systems in graphic design.
- Of Gods and Glamour: Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Art: Through over 550 works, these stunning new galleries present the origins and early development of Western art from the third millennium B.C. to the time of the great Byzantine Empire.
- The New Contemporary: Iconic contemporary masterpieces by artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jasper Johns are among the 44 new works that transform the presentation of our contemporary collection.
Know Before You Go
- The Art Institute of Chicago is located at 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60603 across the street from the Chicago Cultural Center.
- Hours are Monday through Wednesday, and Friday through Sunday from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm. Thursday hours are 10:30 am to 8:00 pm. It is closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day.
- Download the Visitor Guide And Floor Plan.
- Free guided tours are available daily at noon.
- Admission is always free for children under 14.
- The museum offers free admission to Illinois residents every Thursday evening from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Proof of residence is required.
- Download the museum’s mobile app, featuring self-guided, engaging audio tours with behind-the-scenes stories and music to immerse yourself in stories of culture and creativity.
- Audio guides can be rented. They are free to visitors with visual or hearing impairments and CityPASS holders.
- If you’re driving to the Art Institute, valet parking is available at the Modern Wing Entrance (159 East Monroe Street) from 10:30 am to one-half hour after closing.
- Wheelchairs available at no charge. Elevators accommodate wheelchairs and scooters.