Love the decorative arts? Then these places definitely should be on your sightseeing hit list this spring.
Find out why a chair is more than a chair at the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, tour a world-class collection of American and European furniture and objet d'arts at the venerated Art Institute of Chicago, and head to Chicago's gallery districts to see what's new on the contemporary decorative arts scene.
The Art of Seating at the Driehaus Museum
No piece of furniture expresses as much personality and conveys so much about its historical milieu than the chair, whether it's a simple, wooden kitchen chair, a grand rocking chair on a farmhouse porch, or a throne fit for a king.
Though designed with function in mind, chairs are undervalued works of art, offering unique insight into the history, culture and social trends of their times. The Richard H. Driehaus Museum's new exhibit, The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design (through August 11), explores the story behind seating as told by 37 exceptional examples, all created between 1810 and 2010.
Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, in collaboration with the Thomas H. and Diane DeMell Jacobsen PH.D. Foundation, the exhibition includes one-of-a-kind pieces by John Henry Belter, George Hunzinger, the Herter Brothers, the Stickley Brothers, Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Isamu Noguchi, Frank Gehry and others.
The backdrop for the exhibition is the lavish late 19th-century Driehaus Museum—once the residence of the affluent Nickerson and Fisher families of Chicago. Located just steps from the Magnificent Mile, this Gilded Age mansion immerses visitors in the opulence and drama of the period.
Arrange your visit around one of the many public programs on offer, including musical performances and exhibition talks that explore exhibition themes. For more information, including museum hours, group tours, directions and parking info, visit DriehausMuseum.org or call (312).482-8933.
Decorative Arts at the Art Institute
Stop by the acclaimed Art Institute of Chicago to view the museum's impressive collection of American and European furniture and decorative arts, which includes pieces by Charles and Ray Eames, George Nakashima, Piero Fornasetti and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The museum's collection of European decorative arts alone comprises approximately 25,000 objects, including furniture, ceramics, metalwork, glass, enamels, and ivory from 1100 to the present.
While you're there, grab a bite at Chicago favorite Terzo Piano, headed by award-winning chef Tony Mantuano. And don't miss the Art Institute's headlining exhibition, Rodin: Sculptor and Storyteller, open through March 4.
All Things Decorative at Chicago's Art Galleries
Chicago's gallery scene is both vibrant and enticing. There are too many fabulous gallery collections to list, so I'll highlight just three that are worth a visit.
Located in downtown Chicago, the Coletti Gallery (49 E Oak St) has been in existence for more than 25 years, catering to the first-time buyer as much as to the experienced collector. Here, you'll find a collection of museum-quality poster art, furniture and objet d'arts. In the West Loop, head to Pagoda Red (400 N Morgan St), a beautiful oasis of ancient and modern prints, textiles, art, architectural objects, accessories and furniture. You also get to visit with Thor, the resident dog (trust me, if you love cute and furry, he's a big bonus!). And in River North, the Vale Craft Gallery (230 W Superior St # S) exhibits and sells contemporary American fine crafts. The collection is at once decorative, functional and sculptural, spanning textile, glass, handcrafted furniture, ceramics, sculpture and even jewelry.