With its stately lions gracing its Michigan Avenue Entrance, the Art Institute of Chicago welcomes art fans from all over the world to see its extensive collections.
Exhibitions span all art genres and multiple centuries to bring a comprehensive experience to anyone who visits.
The Art Institute began in 1879 as both a school and a museum. Originally called the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, its name changed in 1882. Like many of Chicago’s oldest cultural institutions, the Art Institute found its permanent home after the World’s Colombian Exposition of 1893. That’s when its grand entrance with those signature lions was built at the intersection of Michigan and Adams.
Although the collection began modestly with a few plaster casts, it expanded as wealthy donors bequeathed their collections to the burgeoning museum. Over the years the building expanded as well, including the bold move of building over the top of neighboring railway tracks. Wings continued to be added to the building until the latest addition in 2009 of the Modern Wing.
The Art Institute’s permanent collections are some of the most impressive of any art museum in the world. More than 5,000 years are represented in over a quarter of a million works of art.
The museum is probably best known for its collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings with such famous works as Claude Monet’s “Haystacks” and Renoir’s “Two Sisters”.
Two paintings that should be on anyone’s itinerary are “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” and “Paris Street; Rainy Day”.
While that is impressive, the museum is much more than Impressionism. There are galleries devoted to American art, to African American art, to photography, prints and drawings, and Indian Art of the Americas. There are Japanese prints and exhibits devoted to ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt.
One of the favorite exhibits for kids is the Thorne Miniature Rooms, which features tiny replicas of the interiors of homes from the early 13th century to the 1930s, when the exhibit was installed.
In addition to the permanent collections, the Art Institute often hosts temporary exhibitions. In the past these have included works from Steve McQueen, Lewis Carroll, Roy Lichtenstein, and Bertrand Goldberg, architect of Chicago’s famed Marina City Towers.
Terzo Piano is the restaurant within the Modern Wing of the Art Institute. It’s named after the architect of the wing, Renzo Piano.
Because the restaurant is within the museum it is only open for lunch except for dinner on Thursday evenings, when the museum is open until 8pm. However, you don’t have to pay admission to the museum to dine. There is a free entrance on Monroe Street.
TLTip: At the east end of the museum you can see the original entrance to the Chicago Stock Exchange, which was designed by Louis Sullivan.
Art Institute of Chicago Admission
General admission to the museum is $25 for adults and $19 for students, teens, and seniors. Children under 14 years old are free.
Chicago residents receive a discounted price of $20, and Illinois residents pay $22. Thursday evenings are free for Illinois residents from 5pm to 8pm.
Art Institute of Chicago Free Days
The Art Institute offers free admission to Illinois residents most Thursdays from 5pm to 8pm.
In 2020, the museum will be free to Illinois residents on Wednesday evenings from 5pm to 8pm.
Art Institute of Chicago Hours
The museum is open daily from 10:30 am to 5 pm and until 8pm on Thursdays. It is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
Getting to the Art Institute
Located at Adams and Michigan the Art Institute is accessible from nearly every train line as well as several buses. Nearby parking is available in the Millennium Garages. Find discounted parking with SpotHero:
The Art Institute of Chicago not only houses treasures, it is one of Chicago’s finest treasures. Its continued excellence and growth secures its place as one of the premiere art museums in the world.