Chicago has a long legacy of influential architecture and artworks, from the birth of the skyscraper to iconic public art to Frank Lloyd Wright’s greatest creations and beyond. And the city celebrates its creative legacy in a big way every year. The calendar is full of exciting art and architecture events, including the largest contemporary art show in the Midwest, free behind-the-scenes architecture experiences, and more.
Get the scoop on the exciting art and architecture events and exhibitions in Chicago.
Open House Chicago
Each October, more than 170 Chicago buildings throw open their doors for self-guided tours. Explore soaring skyscrapers, opulent mansions, exclusive private clubs, and more across 20 different neighborhoods. No tickets or registration are required for most sites, and you can build your own itinerary based on location or your own must-sees.
Historic Pullman House Tour
For one weekend only, get a rare glimpse inside the homes one of the nation’s most historic neighborhoods. For the past 50 years, the Historic Pullman House Tour in October has let visitors step inside private residences throughout the landmark neighborhood. Designed as a factory town, the area contains everything from executive mansions to 14-foot wide worker’s cottages to multi-unit apartments, all more than a century old. While you’re there, don’t miss the Pullman National Monument.
Chicago Architecture Biennial
The Chicago Architecture Biennial showcases innovative strides in architecture and design from across the globe. The ground-breaking event, which is the largest such exhibition on the continent, puts a spotlight on modern issues in architecture and the most cutting-edge solutions. Centered around the Chicago Cultural Center, the Biennial offers free events throughout the city, including pop-up exhibits, public lectures, workshops, performances, open houses, and more. The event typically runs from September through Feburary every other year.
The Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design (SOFA) Fair, held at Navy Pier each fall, is a world-renowned gallery-presented art fair dedicated to 3D art and design. SOFA presents artworks that cross the boundaries of fine art, decorative art, and design, showcased by an elite selection of international dealers.
Each year draws in around 80 art dealers and 35,000 attendees, resulting in $15 million to $20 million in sales each show. With a strong educational emphasis, SOFA CHICAGO includes an acclaimed lecture series and special exhibits exploring the works on view and surveying new trends in the art world.
EXPO CHICAGO/EXPO ART WEEK
The annual EXPO CHICAGO, The International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art, is held at Navy Pier. EXPO CHICAGO hosts approximately 150 leading art galleries and institutions from more than 20 countries, each showcasing the works of global artists.
Besides exhibits and art installations created by emerging and established artists, EXPO CHICAGO offers panel discussions conducted by art critics and museum curators. The event also features pop-ups from top Chicago restaurants and international beverage houses, mixed in with on-site programs and events.
In conjunction with EXPO CHICAGO, EXPO ART WEEK features some of Chicago’s most prestigious institutions celebrating arts and culture through citywide museum exhibitions, gallery openings, outdoor installations, and public art projects, as well as music, theatre, and dance performances.