From international art expos to groundbreaking architectural installations, Chicago showcases its creative spirit this fall.

Chicago has an impressive history of influential art and architecture that resonates around the world. So it’s no surprise that the city celebrates its creative legacy in a big way. Get the scoop on the exciting special events and exhibitions taking place this fall, from the largest contemporary art show in the Midwest to citywide behind-the-scenes architectural tours and more.


Painting at Art Design Chicago

Joseph Yoakum, The Mounds of Pleasure/on JA Brims Farm Near Walnut Grove, 1970. Collection of Richard and Ellen Sandor Family. See it at Chicago Calling: Art Against the Flow, at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and outsider Art through January 6, 2019

Chicago’s enduring influence over art and design is celebrated throughout 2018 with Art Design Chicago. More than 25 exhibitions and hundreds of public programs are being presented in museums, galleries, universities and other cultural organizations across the city. Helmed by the Terra Foundation for American Art, Art Design Chicago examines the innovative art and design movements that were nurtured in Chicago during the period between the 1871 Great Chicago Fire and the turn of the 21st century. The year-long event also celebrates Chicago’s notable and groundbreaking artists, designers and creative producers. Planned exhibitions this fall include African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce, and the Politics of Race at the Chicago Cultural Center (Oct 27, 2018-Mar 3, 2019; free admission), Modern by Design: Chicago Streamlines America at the Chicago History Museum (Oct 27, 2018-Dec 2, 2019; free admission), and the largest exhibition solely dedicated to the influential group of artists known as the Hairy Who? 1966-1969 at the Art Institute of Chicago (Sep 27, 2018-Jan 6, 2019).

Read more on the Chicago Like a Local blog.

August 31: Chicago Architecture Center (CAC)

Chicago Architecture Center Boat Tour

The Chicago Architecture Center (CAC), formerly known as Chicago Architecture Foundation, will open at its new location on August 31, 2018The new Center will join the bustling riverfront, steps away from Michigan Avenue and directly across the street from the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises. The Center will be home to everything architecture, bringing new walking tours, imaginative education programs and new interactive exhibits. Read more about it on our Chicago Like a Local blog.


Expo Chicago Gallery

The annual EXPO CHICAGO, The International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art, returns to Navy Pier from September 27-30, 2018. Ushering in the international fall art season, 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 forums with 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.

A Painting at Expo Art Week in Chicago

In conjunction with EXPO CHICAGO, EXPO ART WEEK, held September 24-30, 2018, features some of Chicago’s most prestigious institutions, which celebrate arts and culture through citywide museum exhibitions, gallery openings, outdoor installations and public art projects, as well as music, theater and dance performances. 

September 29, 2018: Art on theMart 

Art on theMart is a much-anticipated permanent large-scale lighting installation, scheduled to debut on the Chicago Riverwalk this fall. This video art piece will project across nearly three acres of the south, river-facing façade of theMART, the building formerly known as The Merchandise Mart. TheMART will provide ‘the largest canvas in the world’ for video art, with a curated, ongoing series of ever-changing images becoming a permanent nighttime riverfront feature. 


Elks Memorial interior of ornate windows, frescoed ceiling, chandeliers

Elks Memorial, © Eric Allix Rogers

Have you ever walked by an interesting Chicago building and wished you could take a peek inside? You'll get your chance during Chicago's FREE annual Open House Chicago, a free public festival hosted by the Chicago Architecture Center from October 13-14, 2018. More than 200 significant buildings throw open their doors for self-guided tours. Structures located in 20 different neighborhoods range from soaring skyscrapers to opulent mansions and exclusive private clubs, many of which are rarely open to the public. No tickets or registration are required, and you can build your own itinerary based on your must-sees.

Nov 1-4: SOFA EXPO

SOFA Expo at Navy Pier in Chicago

The Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design (SOFA) Fair, held at Navy Pier from November 1-4, 2018, is a world-renowned gallery-presented art fair dedicated to 3D art and design. Which is exactly what distinguishes the event from other top art expos. SOFA presents artworks that cross the boundaries of fine art, decorative art and design, showcased by an elite selection of international dealers.

Attendee at SOFA Expo at Navy Pier in Chicago

SOFA is held annually at Navy Pier, with an average of 80 dealers and 35,000 people attending. 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.

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