New York Magazine "Get Contemporary in Chicago"
With massive museum renovations, a growing gallery district, and an active residency program, the Second City is striving for first prize in culture.
By Rachel Wolff
Walk the new pedestrian bridge, the Nichols Bridgeway, that opened this spring linking Millennium Park to the Art Institute ($18 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, children under 14 are free), where killer views of Lake Michigan and Frank Gehry’s free-form Jay Pritzker Pavilion await at the building’s landing spot. Inside, wander through the Renzo Piano–designed Modern Wing, where you'll find a veritable hit parade of 20th- and 21st-century pieces spattered with gems rarely shown in the main building. Afterward, visit the nearby Museum of Contemporary Art ($12 suggested admission). The current exhibit, “Constellations,” makes good on new director Madeleine Grynsztejn’s pledge to promote area artists by including eighteen of them. Finish at the Spertus Museum, the award-winning Jewish art and culture museum at the Spertus Institute, which reopened in late 2007 in a brand-new building (next door to where the old museum was) and now features an interactive children’s center ($7 for adults, $5 for children; children under 5 are free).
Gallery-hop through the West Loop, a Chelsea-like art scene where cutting-edge commercial and nonprofit art spaces are popping up in post-industrial buildings. Swing by North Peoria Street to the Rhona Hoffman Gallery for big names like Kehinde Wiley and Sol LeWitt, then visit the Peter Miller Gallery on the same floor for lesser-known contemporary painters. Walk across the street to the experimental nonprofit threewalls to find quirky, themed group shows; affordable artist-designed tchotchkes; and independent art zine Paper & Carriage, nominated for a 2009 Utne Independent Press Award. Finish at neighborhood newcomer EC Gallery for a fascinating roster of emerging and mid-career artists from Poland working in oil on canvas, mixed media, and prints.
On the first Friday of the month, attend a public opening at the Flat Iron Arts Building. For a more polished presentation, walk a few blocks south to the recently relocated Monique Meloche gallery, a former West Loop resident that boasts an impressive roster of buzzy natives like local photographer and video artist Carrie Schneider.