The Art Institute of Chicago started as the Chicago Academy of Design and was founded by a group of 35 artists in 1866. The academy was profitable, but struggled with financing. The current building, built in the Neoclassical style, was built as an art gallery for the Colombian Exhibition and completed in 1893. The museum and art school have continued to grow and expand ever since. In 2009, a new wing for modern art designed by Renzo Piano was completed, greatly expanding the available space.
The institute has it all. Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, Egyptian bronzes, and 19th century British photography are housed along with masterpieces from Monet, Rembrandt, and Degas. The museum is divided into six departments: Asian Art, Architecture, Arms and Armor, Decorative Arts, 20th Century Art, and Impressionist/Post-Impressionist Art. The Asian Art collection is one of the best in the world, as is the arms and armor collection.
One of the most unique displays is the Thorne Miniature Rooms, which features 68 painstakingly produced 1:12 scale model rooms, showing furnishing styles from the 16th through 20th centuries. Some of the more famous paintings include Seurat's A Sunday at La Grande Jatte, utilizing the stunning dot technique, and Grant Wood's portrait of a farmer and his wife. There are more than 30 Monets too.
As far as American art museums go, the Art Institute of Chicago is second only to the Met in New York. There's also the requisite gift shop, as well as a decent restaurant, a cafeteria, and a library. Free public lectures are held on Tuesday evenings. This is a must-see attraction.
Address: 111 South Michigan Avenue
Telephone: (312) 443 3600
Hours: Open daily, 10:30-17:00 Friday through Wednesday; 10:30-20:00 Thursday
$17.00 Children, Students, Seniors (65+)
Free for children under 14.