the art institute

This Saturday, an RV has parked outside our living room, complete with a tent, beer pong table, and about ten Hawkeye fans shivering around their beer cans in the 30 degree temperatures. (As B is saying, though, “At least we shook down the neighbors for some cash.” So we are not exactly complaining.)

Last Saturday, though, we were at the Art Institute in Chicago. We got there before it opened and joined a small line of museum-goers under increasingly threatening skies that, around 10:20, finally broke into sheets of rain. Luckily one of us hadn’t forgotten her umbrella. Someone, who had clearly drawn the short straw for “most undesirable job” was going up and down the line hawking museum memberships. In the rain. I don’t envy it.

But would you believe it, I bought one. Hook, line, and sinker, no? First off, it’s actually a bargain: admission for students is $12 each; a student membership is $40, and you get a plus one. If B and I go back once more, well, here’s the money, walking back to my wallet. We also got to switch to the shorter lines, both outside and in.

I also bought a membership because my grandma loved the Art Institute of Chicago. There’s the story of when she was young and living in Chicago, and a certain art book caught her fancy. She couldn’t afford to purchase it in one go, so she returned every Friday, paycheck in hand, and plunked down a dollar. And so on for months, buying it in fractional increments, until she finally took it home. There’s some details I’m forgetting — I know the art book, or used to, I know the store and the number of months — but that’s the gist of it. And so I bought a membership for that, too.

The Institute just re-installed Marc Chagall’s “America Windows” (1977), pictured here, after a five-year absence for cleaning, conservation, and archival research. The plates were created to honor America’s bicentennial, and they celebrate the country’s religious tolerance and cultural freedom with depictions of music, painting, literature, theater, and dance. They were dedicated to Mayor Richard Daley, a great supporter of the public arts, and apparently made famous a decade later with an cameo in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Which basically means I need to see the movie again. The windows are immensely beautiful, and situated in a room with small-scale replicas or preliminary models of other public art projects around the city, giving the whole space a unmistakeably Chicago vibe.

We swung through many more galleries afterward. Hadn’t seen “Nighthawks” or “American Gothic” on any previous visits (!!), and last Saturday we finally Xed those off the proverbial checklist. You know, the paint on both, but especially the Hopper, reproduces a lot darker than it actually is. “Nighthawks” is bright. It is neon. It’s strident and terribly uncomfortable which, of course, is the entire point, but amazing how much the color contributes. We also saw the inescapable Seurat, pictured below.

That was a rather quicker breeze-through. I don’t like crowds.

Finally, the arms and armory room: just a preview for a much larger arms and armory installation. Coming sometime soon. The high ceilings also permitted the hanging of some really spectacular Medieval tapestries. There were also some horsies.

But by this point, both B and I were feeling a little peckish, and made a bee-line for Gage across the street.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Martha on November 21, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Beautiful shots!


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