Chicago art galleries and museums are as varied as art itself. Below are my reviews and the addresses of the most prominent and popular galleries and museums of art located within Chicagoland.
Address: 111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603
The must see among Chicago art galleries is, of course, the Art Instutute. Being the second largest art museum in the US, the Art Institute of Chicago holds an impressive collection of over 260,000 art works, covering more than 5,000 years of art history of the world. Numerous galleries feature historically important art pieces from different periods and cultures, from the Egyptian mummies to the contemporary art at the museum's Modern Wing. The Thorne Miniature Rooms showcase 1:12 scale interiors from Middle Ages to the 20th century. Furniture masterpieces by Frank Lloyd Wright are presented in the American Decorative Arts galleries.
Other galleries and exhibits are also extremely interesting to see. The whole museum cannot be covered in one day, so huge and diverse it is. The museum's shop has lots of original handmade souvenirs worth seeing (and maybe buying). With thousands of world-known art works, the Art Institute of Chicago is the most popular of Chicago art galleries and museums for both tourists and local culture-oriented visitors.
Address: 220 E Chicago Ave Chicago, IL 60611
Admission: $12, free with Go Chicago Card
Contemporary art is not everyone's favourite. Probably that's the reason why some visitors find the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago disappointing. Odd-looking works are too abstract sometimes, but learning each art work's background helps in appreciation of it and contemporary art in general. Actually, other visitors find it entertaining and have fun browsing the museum's galleries. Join a free docent-guided tour with in-depth explanations of the art, or dial a number right from your cell phone to listen to the displayed artwork's description!
In addition to the varied temporary exhibitions and projects, the museum's own collection is based on surrealism, minimalism and conceptual art works. The museum features a number of theatrical, dance and music performances, accompanied by film screenings. Don't forget to visit the museum's gift shop claimed to be one of the best in Chicago with lots of rare artefacts!
Address: 78 E Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602
Spectacular Beaux Arts building is home to the Chicago Cultural Center, the nation's prime free cultural venue and one of the most interesting Chicago art galleries. No wonder that this showplace is among the top Chicago attractions: hundreds of free music and dance events, lectures, exhibitions and theatrical performances are held here every year. The building itself is a famous landmark, impressive both outside and inside with its sophisticated architecture, Mediterranean-inspired interior and two huge stained-glass domes.
Although the building's gorgeous design is the main reason to visit, multiple art galleries and exhibits also attract thousands of fine art admirers. The Chicago Cultural Center is a central tourist hub thanks to its location and attractiveness. Tourists can enjoy the art exhibits, rest, use wi-fi and get necessary travel guidance at the Vistor Information Center.
Address: 935 W Fullerton, Chicago, IL 60614
Real "treasury" of the DePaul University, this pocket-sized museum contains thousands of artworks that serve as educational materials and promote innovative contemporary art. The museum's diverse and expanding collections of paintings, prints, sculpture and installations are created by students and for students. Year-round exhibitions present both historical and contemporary art, accompanied by numerous lectures, discussions and educational events.
Events are usually hosted by professional art critics, collectors, educators and historians. Visitors can watch various shows in different genres, presented by both local and guest artists. Conveniently located next to the Fullerton CTA station and admission-free, DePaul Art Museum is one of the most popular Chicago art galleries among youth.
Address: 5550 S Greenwood Ave Chicago, IL 60637
The Smart Museum is a depository of a large art collection at the University of Chicago. More than 10,000 art works include masterpieces by Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Francisco Goya and others. Art education is the museum's main mission, including a university-curated exhibition program and innovative outreach activities in local public schools.
One of the most quiet and enjoyable Chicago art galleries, the Smart Museum presents great, constantly updated exhibitions of Asian and European modern art. It hosts various special events including weddings and concerts in the charming surrounding of fine art. The museum's central location at the Hyde Park, free parking and admission attract lots of drop-by visitors who can enjoy hot espresso at Smart Café or browse handmade jewelry aisle at the Museum Shop.
Address: 820 N Michigan Ave Chicago, IL 60611
If you are browsing along the Magnificent Mile in the heart of Chicago, stop by the Lewis Towers and visit free Chicago art galleries at LUMA. This museum is famous thanks to its Renaissance and Baroque medieval collection of art, known as the Martin D'Arcy Collection. This collection consists of over 300 art objects ranging from 12th to 19th century. Sacred, religious and personal artefacts, metalwork and woodwork masterpieces created by best medieval artists are among the collection's highlights.
Other rotating exhibits are focused on exploring the interconnectedness of art and spirit with an emphasis on five main world religions. Educating programs and events engage museum's visitors in various philosophical topics. Children will also enjoy this small-sized museum with friendly, peaceful ambience and well-curated exhibits.
Address: 40 Arts Cir Dr Evanston, IL 60208, near Chicago
Chicago art galleries include the dynamic and diverse Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, located at the Northwestern University next to the lake and offers unusual, thought-provoking exhibits of mostly contemporary art collections. The museum's mission is to nurture artists' minds by providing on-site educational resource with rich choice of creative artworks through different times and cultures. Although the museum has numerous changing and updating exhibitions, it also has own collection of art with over 5,000 pieces.
Collection includes lots of works by Chicago artists, an elegant sculpture garden, photography, drawings and more. Block Cinema offers classical and modern film screenings at the 150-seat auditorium, that's also used for lectures. The Block Museum of Art is an inspiring place with many changing exhibits on different topics, easily accessible and free.
Address: 600 S Michigan Ave Chicago, IL 60605
The leading photography museum in the Midwest was founded in 1984 and now its rich collection of modern American photography masters includes over 10,000 works on different topics. Works of photography artists from Midwestern United States are presented in a separate Midwest Photographers Project (MPP). Not only the photographs are displayed, but also digital pieces, alternative prints and other photographically related objects. The museum hosts weekly events with lectures and gallery talks that contribute a lot to the better appreciation of contemporary photography. The MoCP shop offers fine prints and publications by famous American photography masters.
The museum is small yet worth a visit. Located at the Columbia College, it is particularly popular among photography students and amateurs. Temporary exhibitions are filled with interesting, non-standard works that make visitors overthink the role of photography in the modern world. Development of the digital photography makes the exhibitions even more attractive and interactive.
Address: 1852 W 19th St Chicago, IL 60608
Displaying Mexican culture without borders is the mission of the National Museum of Mexican Art. Easily found in a red-brick building with traditional patterns near Harrison Park, in the heart of Chicago, this museum is great for families and tourists. The history of Mexican culture is represented through various objects and art pieces from the pre-colonial Mexico until nowadays. Colourful and impressive artifacts attract everyone's attention bringing Latin art and culture closer to visitors' hearts. Visitors love this small museum for its beautiful, eye-pleasing Chicago art galleries with great visual art pieces and organic educational displays on Mexican culture and history.
In October the museum features the nation's largest Dia de los Muertos ("Day of the Dead") exhibit with hundreds of original event-related art by both local and international artists. The exhibit's highlights are magnificent, impressive, brightly decorated skulls.
Address: 4041 N Milwaukee Ave Chicago, IL 60641
Note: Their former location at 1801 S. INDIANA AVENUE is now closed. This is not a history museum, although it probably gives even a deeper understanding of Vietnam War than many textbooks - through art works in which veterans expressed their feelings about the Vietnam war. Nowadays the museum has a wider mission of representing the emotional and psychological impact of various military conflicts through the eyes of U.S. veterans, including Iraq War. From the very entrance the museum creates an emotionally intense atmosphere by displaying almost 60,000 dog tags that represent the fallen US soldiers.
The museum's collection has more than 2,500 paintings, photographs, sculpture and poetry. Controversial and powerful art pieces arouse emotional reactions among visitors, calling them to understand the scars that any war leaves in people's hearts.
Address: 201 E Ontario St Chicago, IL 60611
The Arts Club is an intimate and exclusive venue for mainly pro-Modernist artists. One of the oldest Chicago art galleries, this place has almost a century long history as a premium exhibitor of contemporary art and a meeting place for both young and famous artists. The two-storey building is filled with selected art pieces including famous steel staircase by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and the "head of Woman" by Pablo Picasso.
As an active forum for art lovers, the Arts Club hosts multiple guest exhibitions and public events, including lectures and book signing. Lectures, meetings, cocktail parties and even weddings often take place in this elegant and sophisticated venue with its literally state-of-art interior and unique, inspiring atmosphere.
Address: 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL, Navy Pier
Located at the Navy Pier, the Smith Museum is a hidden jewel with stunning stained glass art works, representing the magnificent combination of color and light. The museum's 150 stained glass windows are on a display in four categorized galleries: Victorian, Prairie, Modern and Contemporary. Most of the works come from Chicago area, saved from demolished or renovated buildings during last two centuries. Other windows represent one-of-the-kind masterpieces by famous artists like John LaFarge and Louis Comfort Tiffany.
The Richard H.Driehaus Gallery inside the museum is specifically dedicated to the Louis Tiffany's best stained glass windows from his New York City studio. Among the unique art works, inspiring religious scenes and breathtaking landscapes some more unusual windows can be found, such as basketball icon Michael Jordan stained glass portrait.
Address: 2320 W Chicago Ave Chicago, IL 60622, Ukrainian Village
Intercultural and ethnically-based experiences, expressed through contemporary art, are the main focus of this diverse and vivid venue. Serving as a cultural center for Eastern European immigrants, the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art connects the Ukrainian roots to the new American reality through a variety of exhibitions, concerts, lectures, book presentations and other events.
The main gallery hosts several limited-term exhibits, and two side galleries feature the institute's permanent collection of modern art. The highlights of the collection include works of abstract and minimalist artists of Ukrainian descent from the 20th century, expressed in paintings, sculpture, photography, prints and ceramics. The gallery is curated by welcoming staff and provides an enjoyable overview of interesting contemporary art works with a different perspective.
Address: 2407 W 111th St Chicago, IL 60655
This multidisciplinary cultural center is an ultimate destination with a range of cultural events for everyone. Located in Chicago's notable Beverly historic district, this center offers multiple events including numerous classes in dance, music, theater and arts; book author evenings and tribute concerts; auctions and fundraisers. Beverly Arts Center is home to annual Irish Film Festival, also screening documentary, classic and foreign films at the art-house BACinema throughout the year.
The center's free art gallery features rotating exhibitions of contemporary art curated by local artists. Every year the center holds various art competitions and contests to help emerging artists on their way. The Beverly Arts Center is a popular venue for most local residents with many activities and entertainment options for both adults and children.
Address: 806 N. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60611
Historic Chicago Water Tower is a gorgeous eye-catching building located on the Magnificent Mile. . That's one of the old Chicago architecture jewels among few that survived the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 and the second oldest water tower in the US. The castle-like Chicago Water Tower is home to one of the most popular Chicago art galleries - City Gallery, featuring amazing photographs of Chicago by local artists.
In addition to this collection the City Gallery presents interesting, constantly rotating exhibits. Perfect for a quick and enjoyable visit, this historical landmark won't take much time away from your shopping tour on the Magnificent Mile, and is a must-see for a real appreciation of the city's beauty.
Address: 1350 Milwaukee Ave Vernon Hills, IL 60061
Admission: from $10
The Cuneo Mansion and Gardens are the legacy of Cuneo family, now donated to the Loyola University Chicago. The state-of-art mansion is home to the Cuneo Museum and art gallery. The entire house itself is an art piece, filled with amazing tapestries, furnishings and the family collection of fine art. The surrounding gardens and picturesque landscaping were designed by world-famous Jens Jensen.
Now the Cuneo Museum is a lively venue offering mansion tours, event hosting, and multiple academic courses at the recently renovated pavilion. Visit the Cuneo Mansion on Christmas to enjoy one of the most spectacular light shows - the Winter Wonderland Display. Children will love this cozy driving tour through the lit-up displays with cartoon and fairy-tale characters around the gorgeous snow-covered gardens!