Two majestic bronze lions greet you at the door of the Art Institute of Chicago in the heart of Chicago's Loop. Once inside, you will find a beautifully impressive marble lobby that makes the museum itself a work of art.
As you navigate your way through approximately 300,000 works spanning the globe and ranging from ancient to modern, your soul will be moved.
In addition to the third largest collection of art in the country and new groundbreaking exhibits each year, you'll find yourself steeped in art history and education with an event calendar filled with hundreds of insightful gallery talks, films, lectures and performances.
With so much to see and do for families and arts enthusiasts of all ages, use the online and downloadable maps, guides and apps to help navigate, plan your visit and even narrate your own tour.
During the 2013 holiday season, celebrated traditions from the Wreathing of the Lions to an annual Treasure Hunt and Tea Party fill the halls with festivities. And the Holiday Thorne Rooms take center stage with fanciful, Victorian-inspired decor.
The museum welcomes visitors of all ages to "Open Something Greater" with special programming that will fill you with passion, inspiration, creativity and wonder. Visit artic.edu for the full schedule of special events and season-long offerings. Featured festivities include:
- 22nd Annual Wreathing of the Lions
(November 29 at 10:00am, Michigan Avenue Entrance)
Start the holidays with a roar as the beloved lions don their traditional evergreen wreaths. Warm up with complimentary hot chocolate and musical performances, then head inside the Ryan Education Center for wreath decorating.
- 32nd Annual Holiday Treasure Hunt & Tea Party
(December 8 at 10:45am, 12:00pm, or 1:30pm, Modern Wing Entrance)
Go on an expedition to learn about the museum's artworks and collect stickers and stamps, followed by a tea party featuring live entertainment and refreshments. Tickets for this popular family event ($15-30) are available at museumtix.com or (877) 307-4242.
- Holiday Choral Series
(December 9-13 at 12:00pm, Grand Staircase)
Song fills the museum with holiday cheer as area high school choirs sing medleys of carols each afternoon.
- Bank of America Family Festival: Holly Days
(December 27-30 between 10:30am-3:00pm, Ryan Education Center)
Celebrate the holidays with art making, gallery activities, and more! Create a flexible figure inspired by the new Neapolitan crèche. Stop by the Little Studio (ages 3-5); take a guided family gallery walk (ages 6-12); and on December 27, meet the Art Institute's mascot, Artie the Lion.
Plan your visit around one of the special featured exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago:
- Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine
(November 12, 2013 – January 27, 2014)
This exhibition brings together over 100 paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts from the 18th through the 20th century, along with a selection of period cookbooks, menus, trade cards, and posters, to explore the art and culture of food and examine the many meanings and interpretations of eating in America.
- Holiday Thorne Rooms
(November 22, 2013 – January 5, 2014)
The beloved decorating tradition is back-and more festive than ever-with 11 rooms dressed in holiday finery! This year, the 1930s French Library joins the celebration with a tiny taste of Art Deco holiday glamour. Plus, a new long-term loan, a miniature replica of the breakfast room of Frank Lloyd Wright's William Martin House in Oak Park, will be unveiled for the first time.
- Neapolitan Crèche: A Holiday Gift to the City
(November 29, 2013 – January 5, 2014)
A thrilling new acquisition will be unveiled this holiday season: a mid-18th-century Neapolitan crèche. One of the very few and finest examples of such a work outside of Naples, the crèche is an intricate Nativity scene that reflects the vitality and artisanship that the city is still known for. The Art Institute's crèche features over 200 figures — including no less than 50 animals and 41 items of food and drink — all staged in a spectacular Baroque cabinet with a painted backdrop.
Contemplate treasures such as sculpture, architecture, photography, textiles and paintings, and get an intimate view of some of the world's most famous art. Some of the best known works at the Art Institute of Chicago include: Gustave Caillebotte's Paris Street; Rainy Day; Georges Seurat's A Sunday on the Isle of La Grande Jatte-1884; Grant Wood's American Gothic; Edward Hopper's Nighthawks; and Pablo Picasso's The Old Guitarist.
Embrace the grandeur of the 11 curatorial departments, from African to Medieval, housed in a total of eight buildings totaling nearly one million square feet. You'll find many areas with particularly strong holdings:
- The expansive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, the largest outside of the Louvre in Paris, is so impressive you could be engulfed for hours. It is among the most significant holdings of European Painting and Sculpture, which includes more than 3,500 works from the 12th through the mid-20th century.
The Department of American Art boasts over 1,000 paintings and sculptures from the 18th century to 1950 and nearly 2,500 decorative art objects from the 17th century to the present. Browse the Alfred Stieglitz Collection and major groups of work by John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler, Mary Cassatt and Winslow Homer, as well as iconic Modernist holdings from Georgia O'Keeffe to the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.
Admire the distinguished Asian collection, which comprises works spanning nearly five millennia from China, Korea, Japan, India, southwest Asia, and the Near and Middle East. You'll find 35,000 objects of great archaeological and artistic significance, including Chinese bronzes, ceramics, and archaic jades; Japanese woodblock prints; and Indian and Persian miniature paintings.
And make time to enter the world of modern art during your visit. This world is so vast and rich that the Art Institute recently built and dedicated an entire structure to it. The stunning Modern Wing displays the collections of modern art, contemporary art, photography, and architecture and design more comprehensively than ever before.
- Delve into the Department of Contemporary Art, showcasing international art from 1945 to the present. It comprises over 1,000 works - encompassing painting, sculpture, installation, and new media - and you can count works by Willem de Kooning, Eva Hesse, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Joan Mitchell, Bruce Nauman, Jackson Pollock, Gerhard Richter, and Cy Twombly as some of the notable holdings.
Considered one of the finest and most comprehensive in the world, the Art Institute's extraordinary collection of Modern Art boasts some of the greatest icons of the period, including Matisse's Bathers by a River; Brâncusi's Golden Bird; Magritte's Time Transfixed; O'Keeffe's Black Cross, New Mexico; Orozco's Zapata; Ivan Albright's Picture of Dorian Gray; and Lachaise's Woman (Elevation).
The museum architecture alone is enough to blow you away, with a bold new building designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano. Breeze between sunlit Griffin Court
and the open-air Bluhm Family Terrace
sculptures, spend time in the state-of-the-art Ryan Education Center
or along the floating Nichols Bridgeway
, and take advantage of the expanded dining options, green spaces and visitor amenities.