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 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, including masterworks by Cézanne, Monet (a good number of Water Lilies), Van Gogh, Grant Wood (American Gothic, among the most famous in their American collection), Edward Hopper (Nighthawks), and, of course, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat, the inspiration for Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George.
Beyond this impressive collection, the museum houses medieval–Renaissance arms and armor; American decorative arts; architectural and furniture styles from America, Europe, and Asia; and ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman galleries displaying the mummy and mummy case of Pannkhenamun. The new glass, steel, and limestone Modern Wing, designed by Renzo Piano, opened in spring 2009, houses the Contemporary and Modern permanent collections, and provides additional education space for the museum, along with more than 20,000 square feet of green space.
All family programs are free with admission and include activities such as Drawing in the Galleries, the Artist Studio, and Gallery Walks. A free day-long event, Senior Celebrations, is held periodically for visitors 55 and older.
Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) Information
- Public Transportation: Excellent (Convenient to Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, and Purple El trains; lines all stop aboveground at Adams/Wabash, in front of the museum. The Red and Blue lines stop underground at Monroe, just a few blocks away. Also accessible by Metra.)
- Handicapped Accessibility: Good
- Hours: Monday–Sunday 10:30 a.m.–5 p.m. (open until 8 p.m. on Thursdays)
- Admission: Free general admission Thursday 5–8 p.m., all other times $18; children, students, and seniors (65+) $12; children under 14 free
- Tours: Free gallery talks are offered daily at noon, 1, and 2 p.m. and run 45–60 minutes; 30-minute Express Talks are offered Wednesday at noon and Friday at 2 p.m.
- Audio Tours: $7 ($5 for members) and free to visitors with visual and hearing impairments
- Membership: Individual membership is $80 annually and provides members with unlimited access to the museum and all special exhibitions, advance notice of exhibitions and events, members-only previews for special exhibitions, member appreciation days with activities and additional discounts at the museum, the School of the Arts Institute, and the Gene Siskel Film Center. Student membership is $50 annually. Those who live more than 100 miles outside of Chicago get a 10% discount on memberships. Premium membership of $175 annually gets you reciprocal membership to 15 other museums and institutions.