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Chicago, Illinois

Chicago: Art Museums

Chicago is known as “the city that works,” and this especially true of the local arts scene. The city has a large community of working artists and a demonstrated commitment to arts and culture.

The star of the city is the Art Institute of Chicago, the second largest art museum in the nation. The Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works are the highlights of the museum’s encyclopedic collection. Georges Seurat’s painting La Grande Jatte, famously featured in the John Hughes film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, holds a special place in the public’s consciousness. Other popular works include the oft-parodied American Gothic by Grant Wood. The Museum of Contemporary Art, though smaller in size, is frequently home to important shows by both emerging and established artists. The MCA stage hosts a wide array of dance, music, and performance, and the monthly “First Fridays” events remain wildly popular.

Several of the city’s universities have their own art museums – all are open to the public and many are free. The University of Chicago alone has three museums: the Oriental Institute, the Smart Museum of Art, and The Renaissance Society. Columbia University is home to the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the only museum dedicated solely to photography in the Midwest.

Chicago is also famous for its public art collection, which includes over 700 works of art. Iconic pieces include the Picasso in Daley Plaza or Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate in Millennium Park, affectionately nicknamed “The Bean.” Those looking to explore the art scene would be smart to visit the Chicago Cultural Center, which offers guides to cultural programming and is host to a variety of events and art exhibitions. (Nicole Nelson)

Chicago Art Museums: Art Museums Around Chicago

Below are our Chicago Art Museum recommendations, with information on location, admission, transportation/parking, museum history and other points of interest in Chicago Art.

Art Institute of Chicago AIC

Art Institute of Chicago (AIC)

The famous bronze-lion statues by Edward L. Kemeys that guard the Michigan Avenue entrance leading into the Art Institute of Chicago have become an unofficial mascot for the city; depending on the time of year of your visit, you might find them dressed in evergreen wreaths for the holidays or sporting a Chicago sports team’s colors during the playoffs. Inside the massive Beaux-Arts-style museum, you’ll find an expansive collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and American paintings ...more...

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA)

The MCA is one of the nation’s largest contemporary art museums. It shows works dating from 1945 in media ranging from painting, sculpture and photography to video, film and performance art. It also has a 300-seat theater and a sculpture garden with views of Lake Michigan. The museum’s permanent collection holds 2,500 works. ...more...

Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago

Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago

This university-affiliated museum showcases the art and archaeology of the ancient Near East. Many objects in its permanent collection have been recovered through Institute excavations. The art represents the ancient civilizations in Egypt, Nubia, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Anatolia, and Megiddo. Highlights of the permanent collection include a colossal bull head sculpture from Iran, ...more...


Richard H. Driehaus Museum

Located in the historic home of Chicago banker Samuel Mayo Nickerson, the Richard H. Driehaus Museum has a mission to influence the modern day worlds of architecture and design by preserving the prevalent styles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was founded in 2003 by Richard Driehaus, a Chicago businessman and philanthropist whose Driehaus Foundation has initiated and funded numerous renovations of historic buildings nationwide. The Nickerson …more…