Chicago is a city that people really fall in love with. And indeed, many would argue that the windy city is America’s most exciting. From the very tip of its towering, glossy skyscrapers, down into its ornate boulevards, along its garden-lined waterfront and out into its creative suburbs – there’s always something happening in Chicago.
What many visitors to the city don’t realise is just quite how phenomenal Chicago’s art scene is; and it easily rivals the best on the planet. So whether you’re in for an all-out art adventure or just want to dip your toes – here’s a quick rundown of where to go.
An internationally renowned symbol of the city, Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate should be the first stop on any art tour of this city. Located at the centre of AT&T Plaza in Millennium Park, the curving form is nicknamed ‘The Bean’ by locals and is made up of 168 stainless steel plates. Marvel at how the piece reflects and bends the city skyline as you journey beneath it, catching your own reflection as you go.
The Art Institute of Chicago
Chicago’s Art Institute is undoubtedly one of the greatest of its kind on the planet. Founded in 1879, it’s one of the oldest art museums in the whole of the United States, and is beaten only by New York’s Met Museum for size. Once inside, you’re free to roam, discovering almost 300,000 works on your way – with some very famous names among them. Whether you’ve come for Picasso, Monet, Mattise, Magritte, Van Gogh, Warhol or Pollock; there’s plenty to see here.
Richard H. Driehaus Museum
The Driehaus Museum in Chicago’s Near North Side is one of the city’s lesser known artistic gems. Housed within a stunning 19th century mansion, the exhibition inside dives into Gilded Age America and the Art Nouveau movement which thrived at the time. Expect extravagant ornate stylings, breathtaking stained glass windows and beautiful furniture everywhere you look – it’s a truly immersive experience.
Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)
If modern art’s more your thing, you’ll be glad to know Chicago plays host to a world-renowned contemporary art museum. Even if you don’t quite get modern art, its varied and unusual exhibitions should keep you entertained for an afternoon. Highlights include iconic pieces from the pop art, surrealist, minimalist and conceptual movements – and the calendar is jam packed.
National Museum of Mexican Art
Located in the Pilsen neighbourhood of Chicago, this is the only accredited museum of Latino art in the United States. As such, its exhibitions are vast, fascinating and of an impressive standard. It explores the history, art and culture of Mexico in five stages; from Pre-Cuauhtémoc Mexico to Colonial Mexico; Independence to Revolution; followed by Post-Mexican Revolution to Present-day Mexico, and finishing with The Mexican Experience in the US. Head here for a journey through time and art unlike any other.
Cloud Gate isn’t Chicago’s only iconic piece of street art. Oh no. In fact, the city is littered with incredible public installations everywhere you look; but a standout has to be ‘The Picasso’. Standing in Daley Plaza, you won’t need to guess which iconic artist was responsible for its design. The debate rages on as to what its bizarre form represents, with a beautiful French woman and an afghan hound among the leading suggestions – either way it’s marvellous to photograph.
It’s all well and good looking at famous art, but what if you’d like to invest in some? The city’s Pilsen neighbourhood is home to dozens upon dozens of tiny creative studios and galleries, with young and up-and-coming artists displaying and selling their works here. In the area’s designated Arts District, specialist gallery walks take place on the second Friday of each month. Even if you can’t quite afford to buy, it’s a memorable experience.