Although I was only a ten-minute Red Line ride away from the Art Institute, I put off going until our last week in Chicago. Home to a permanent collection of 300,000 works of art and more than thirty special exhibitions, the Art Institute of Chicago is my Swann’s Way, my Finnegan’s Wake, my Infinite Jest—I know it is worth the time and effort, but size and culture fatigue sent me to Jo Nesbo and the Museum of Contemporary Art instead.
The Art Institute of Chicago is huge—topping off at a daunting million square feet, the eight buildings house eleven curated departments, five conservation laboratories, two architectural libraries, sculpture gardens, four restaurants, the Renzo Piano-designed Modern Wing, 20,000 photographic works, textiles that span cultures from 300 B.C. to the present, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawk, Pablo Picasso’s Old Guitarist, and Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, to name just a few.
Edward Hopper, Nighthawk
Pablo Picasso, The Old Guitarist
A day trip to the Art Institute of Chicago is like trying to see Europe in two weeks—you’re better off choosing a neighborhood in Paris. My neighborhood of choice was the Modern Wing, so I zipped past the European Decorative Arts, Etruscan artifacts, Japanese screens, and African masks straight to Renzo Piano, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and a few new favorites.
Willem de Kooning, Interchanged
Jim Nutt, Untitled
Man Ray, Departure of Summer
Pablo Picasso, The Red Armchair
Otto Dix, Pregnant Woman
Anyways, my Art Institute of Chicago visit was overwhelming yet exhilarating and given twenty or so more visits, I might just have a sense of the place.