The Art Institute of Chicago: A Perfect Staycation

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Luke Ekdahl

The Art Institute of Chicago, founded in 1879, is ranked one of the world’s best museums by Trip Advisor and features more than 300,000 pieces of art.

Luke Ekdahl, Staff Writer

From Monet and Manet to El Greco and O’Keeffe, it is hard to determine whether you are in Renaissance Florence or “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” when attending the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute is one of the world’s finest museums, with more than 300,000 pieces of art, but it can often be overlooked by Chicagoans, no matter their passion for art. As a matter of fact, according to Trip Advisor, a popular travel website, the Art Institute was ranked the No. 1 museum in the world in 2014 and has remained in the top five for the past several years, climbing its way up to  the second-best museum in the world in 2016.

This places the Art Institute above the British Museum, the Louvre and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, all of which are placed in the top 20 but are often thought of as being better than any museum in Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) began as both a school and museum for the arts in 1879. It started during a period of great innovation in both the arts and architecture in Chicago, due to the necessity of rebuilding and redesigning the city after it burned down in 1871. Then in 1893, the museum was moved to its current location on 111 S. Michigan Ave. during the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. However, the museum has since expanded, all according to the Institute’s website.

For many people, the AIC is the ideal location to spend an afternoon with some family or friends, whether you are an art lover or not. However, it may take more than just an afternoon to fully admire the entirety of the museum. Ferris Bueller makes it look so easy to see the whole institute that he and his friends also manage to go to a Cubs game and a parade in one short afternoon, in the famous 1986 movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. Despite the brevity of their visit in the movie, it is unlikely that they would be able to see all 300,000 works of art, as the museum is one of the largest.

If you are unsure of what type of art you would like to see, you’re in luck, for the museum has no shortage in variety of art. Large collections vary from European Art and Sculptures before and after 1500, American Art, Impressionism, African, Byzantine, Photography and even the newly built modern wing.

The AIC is home to some of the most famous works of art in the world. Typically, “American Gothic” by Grant Wood and “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper both reside at the AIC and even if you are not an art aficionado, you will recognize these paintings due to the number of times that they have been parodied.  Other famous paintings include “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat, “The Old Guitarist” by Pablo Picasso, “Time Transfixed” by Rene’ Magritte, and a number of paintings by Monet.  Plus, you can see incredibly famous traveling works of art, such as Whistler’s Mother by James McNeill Whistler, which is currently visiting the AIC.

Several LHS Classes have taken field trips to the Art Institute in the past, including AP Spanish this past fall. There, they took a look at both older and modern Spanish works.

I loved the paintings, the artwork was fantastic, and some of the sculptures were really interesting. There was some really ancient stuff, and then some more modern, but the ancient stuff was a lot cooler to me,” commented Evan Pinsel, an LHS senior and AP Spanish student who attended the field trip to the Art Institute.

Despite focusing mostly on Spanish works, Pinsel said that he really enjoyed the museum, and in comparison to other museums he has attended, he said, “I could really feel some of the history behind the Spanish art. Regular museums just show artifacts, but this was art and the facts behind it.” Pinsel added that he would like to return to the Institute and would recommend it to others.

The AIC is open from 10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. every day, and closing time is extended to 8 on Thursdays. The price of admission is $16 for Illinois students and $22 for general Illinois residents. For such a highly ranked museum so close to home, it may be worthwhile to take a visit to the Art Institute.