- Type: Art Museums/Galleries
NileGuide Expert Says:
Even if art is not your thing, you must visit the Art Institute for its brand new Modern Wing that overlooks Millennium Park.
NileGuide Expert tip:
Admission is FREE 5pm-8pm on Thursdays. It is also conveniently located off the red line in the loop.
You can't -- and shouldn't -- miss the Art Institute. (You really have no excuse, since it's conveniently located right on Michigan Ave. in the heart of downtown.) No matter what medium or century interests you, the Art Institute has something in its collection to fit the bill. Japanese ukiyo-e prints, ancient Egyptian bronzes, Greek vases, 19th-century British photography, masterpieces by most of the greatest names in 20th-century sculpture, and modern American textiles are just some of the works on display, but for a general overview of the museum's collection, take the free "Highlights of the Art Institute" tour, offered at 2pm on Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday.
If time is limited, head straight to the museum's renowned anthology of Impressionist art, which includes one of the world's largest collections of Monet paintings; this is one of the most popular areas of the museum, so arriving early pays off. Among the treasures, you'll find Seurat's pointillist masterpiece Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. The galleries of European and American contemporary art include paintings, sculptures, and mixed-media works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Salvador Dalí, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol. Visitors are sometimes surprised when they discover many of the icons that hang here (Grant Wood's American Gothic; Edward Hopper's Nighthawks).
Often overlooked but worth seeing are the Arthur Rubloff collection of delicate mid-19th-century glass paperweights, and the great hall of European arms and armor dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Composed of more than 1,500 objects, including armor, horse equipment, swords and daggers, polearms, and maces, the collection is one of the most important assemblages of its kind in the country. (If you do head down here, you'll see Marc Chagall's stunning stained-glass windows at the end of the gallery.)
Children younger than 12 get in for free, and the Art Institute goes the extra mile to entertain them. The Kraft Education Center on the lower level features interactive exhibits and has a list of "gallery games" to make visiting the museum more fun. When I was a kid, I was entranced by the Thorne Miniature Rooms, filled with tiny reproductions of furnished interiors from European and American history (heaven for a dollhouse fanatic).
The museum has a cafeteria and an elegant full-service restaurant, a picturesque courtyard cafe (open June-Sept), and a large shop. It offers a busy schedule of lectures, films, and other special presentations, as well as guided tours. The museum also has a research library. Allow 3 hours.
Touring the Art Institute -- If you want to enjoy your favorite masterpieces in something resembling peace and quiet, put some thought into the timing of your visit to the Art Institute, a museum so popular that it draws as much traffic as our jammed expressways.
Some tips for avoiding the rush hour: Many people don't realize the museum is open on Monday; keep this secret to yourself, and visit when the galleries are relatively subdued. Also, many visitors aren't aware that the museum stays open late on Thursdays, so consider stopping by after an early dinner (another bonus: free admission).
- © Frommer's 2013
- Very Highly Recommended 2009
- Very Highly Recommended 2010