Art Institute of Chicago  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Art Institute of Chicago is one of America's premier fine art museums. Located adjacent to Chicago, Illinois's Loop and Grant Park, the Museum is especially known for its extensive collection of Impressionist and American art. It also boasts an extensive collection of old master works, which have gained the museum an international reputation. It is located on the western edge of Grant Park, at 111 South Michigan Avenue in the Chicago Landmark Historic Michigan Boulevard District; the museum and grounds were designed by the Boston firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge (1892). It is the third most popular cultural attraction in Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago Building was originally constructed for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition as the World's Congress Auxiliary Building, with the intent that the Art Institute occupy the space after the fair closed. The museum is also associated with School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Museum’s Collection

Today, the museum is most famous for its collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and American paintings. Included in the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collection are more than 30 paintings by Claude Monet, including six of his Haystacks and a number of Water Lilies. Important works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, such as Two Sisters (On the Terrace), as well as Paul Cézanne’s The Bathers, The Basket of Apples, and Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Chair, are in the collection. At the Moulin Rouge, by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is another highlight, as are Georges Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte and Gustave Caillebotte’s Paris Street; Rainy Day. Non-French paintings completing the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collection include Vincent Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles and Self-portrait, 1887. Among the most important works of the American collection are Grant Wood’s American Gothic and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

The museum has much more than paintings, however. In the basement are the Thorne Rooms, which contain exact miniatures demonstrating American, European, and Asian architectural and furniture styles. Also in the basement are galleries displaying its world-class photography collection. On the main floor is the George F. Harding collection of arms and armor reflecting armaments and armor throughout the Medieval period and Renaissance. A fine collection of Pre-Columbian Meso-American ceramic figures is another outstanding display. A special feature of the museum is the Touch Gallery. Five portrait sculptures, including Joan of Arc, are ready for exploration. The American Decorative Arts galleries contain furniture pieces designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles and Ray Eames. The Ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman galleries hold the mummy and mummy case of Paankhenamun, as well as several gold and silver coins.

The museum also houses the impressive Ryerson and Burnham Libraries of art and architecture. The libraries have one of the largest collections of books on art and architecture in the U.S., and its historic reading room is strictly reserved for professional art historians and scholars of the field.

Modern Art Wing

The Museum is in the midst of a major expansion to create a new Modern Art Wing to house its modern art collection. The structure, designed by Renzo Piano and scheduled to open to the public in 2009, will include a bridge connecting the top floor of the new wing with the popular Millennium Park to the north. The addition will also include a courtyard designed by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol.

The Art Institute hopes that the new addition will draw added attention to its 20th Century collections, which include such important paintings as Pablo Picasso’s The Old Guitarist, Henri Matisse’s Bathers by a River, and René Magritte’s Time Transfixed. The curators of the museum believe that its modern collections are on par with the best in the world, "comparable only to those of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Pompidou Centre in Paris." They also note that "No other encyclopedic museum in the United States or any other country has collections of modern and contemporary art to rival those of the Art Institute." The modern collection, they concede, has been overshadowed in the past by the Art Institutes extraordinary 19th century collection. Due to this major renovation, many of the Art Institutes signature pieces within their collection will be temporarily taken off view until the opening of the Modern Wing in 2009.

The Terra Collection

Since April 2005, approximately fifty paintings originally from the Terra Museum’s (now the Terra Foundation) collection have been on loan to the Department of American Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC). The collections of the Terra and the Art Institute are located in a new suite of galleries, and together provide one of the nation’s most comprehensive presentations of American art. The foundation’s collection of American works on paper are housed in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Art Institute.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Art Institute of Chicago" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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