Chicago is a city full of history, art, culture — and you’ll find a lot of all those things in our acclaimed cultural institutions. As the city’s museums continue to reopen responsibly, they’ll be unveiling a slate of jaw-dropping exhibits all year long. Here’s our list of just a few of the Chicago museum exhibits worth a visit in 2021. And explore even more with our guide to open museums in Chicago.
Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit at Germania Club
Open now through Nov. 28, 2021
With 500,000 cubic feet of projections, submerge yourself within Van Gogh’s most iconic paintings. Wander within the famous landscapes and scenery as they’re projected along the walls, set to an original score, throughout the Lighthouse Artspace Chicago, a new venue within Chicago’s recently renovated landmark Germania Club Building.
The Obama Portraits at Art Institute of Chicago
Open June 18 through Aug. 15, 2021
The Art Institute of Chicago is the first stop on a tour of the Obama portraits; a fitting choice for this iconic couple with a strong connection to the city. Check out Kehinde Wiley’s painting of former president Barack Obama and Amy Sherald’s depiction of Michelle Obama, which are on loan from the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes at Museum of Science & Industry
Opens now through Oct. 24, 2021
Celebrate 80 years of Marvel by visiting this interactive exhibit of more than 300 costumes, props, sculptures, artifacts, and displays from the original comic books to the mega-hit films. Learn about the story behind some of your favorite superheroes, such as Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Spider-Man and more, and how they’ve taken their place in the cultural landscape.
Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Jane Goodall at the Field Museum
Opens May 21, 2021
Immerse yourself in the fascinating life and career of Dr. Jane Goodall, known for her groundbreaking work with primates. The exhibit showcases 60 years of Dr. Goodall’s life and legacy through unique artifacts and interactive experiences. Step into a recreation of her field tent, look out across a national park, and meet Jane herself through augmented reality.
Frida Kahlo: Timeless at the McAninch Arts Center
Open June 5 through Sept. 6, 2021
Venture outside the city to the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn to catch this immersive exhibit on the life and work of Frida Kahlo. The comprehensive show includes original works and historic artifacts, including Kahlo’s clothing, photographic images from her life, and a Kahlo-inspired garden.
Yannis Tsarouchis: Dancing in Real Life at Wrightwood 659
Open May 7 through July 31, 2021
Wrightwood 659, a stunning museum space tucked away in Lincoln Park, will host the first U.S. exhibition devoted to the work of Yannis Tsarouchis. The prolific artist is widely regarded as one of the greatest Greek painters of the 20th century. This exhibit will showcase 200 works that span the artists entire career.
Chicago Comics: 1960s to Now at the Museum of Contemporary Art
Open June 19 through Oct. 3, 2021
Explore under-recognized artists of color in this historic exhibit, tracing the evolution of comics in Chicago over the last 60 years. From newspapers to graphic novels to political activism, this exhibits features never-before-seen pieces that offer a more in-depth history of comics.
Cecil McDonald Jr.: Cut and Beats at Hyde Park Art Center
Open through June 12, 2021
This special exhibition showcases the work of local artist Cecil McDonald Jr. His unique body of work subverts racist representations of Black artists by transforming historical images with photo collage, video, and performance combined with original photography.
Mandela: Struggle for Freedom at Illinois Holocaust Museum
Open Feb. 20 until Sept. 12, 2021
This special exhibit traces both the life of human rights advocate Nelson Mandela and the history of apartheid in South Africa. The gallery includes dramatic replicas and original artifacts, including a multimedia theatre, a ballot box from the country’s first democratic elections, and an exact recreation of the jail cell where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison.