Headed down to Chicago for MEA weekend, Oct. 20-23? As always, there’s more to do in Chi-town than anyone could ever pack into a few days, so a little planning goes a long way. As usual, Chicago’s Museum Week is in full swing that weekend, which provides tons of discounts and special special exhibits. In the category, “Stuff We Don’t Have in Minnesota,” here are a few MEA/Museum Week highlights:
The Art Institute of Chicago
So huge, so great, the permanent collections alone could take a month do digest. But there’s always more. Among the special exhibits worth exploring are:
Composition A19, 1927, oil on canvas
Laszio Moholy-Nagy: Future Present | In the early twentieth century, Hungarian-American designer Moholy-Nagy founded the New Bauhaus school in Chicago (now called the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology). This exhibit is the first comprehensive retrospective of Moholy-Nagy’s work in the U.S. in fifty years, and features more than 300 works in an amazing array of mediums—film, sculpture, advertising, product design, theater sets, etc. A companion exhibit, Abstract/Object, explores Moholy-Nagy’s influence in film, photography, and painting from 1960 to the present.
Harry Truman: The Hysterical War Drummer
Humanism + Dynamite = The Soviet Montages of Aleksandr Zhitomirsky | Fans of the Museum of Russian Art will want take in this weirdly wonderful exhibit featuring the alternately hilarious and horrifying introduction photo montages of Soviet political satirist Aleksandr Zhitomirdky. In the Soviet Union, Zhitomirsky spent more than fifty years skewering and lampooning the West from the Great Depression through the oil crises of the 1970s and 1980s. Great stuff, and distinctly different from your average museum fare.
Doctrine and Devotion: Art of the Religious Orders of the Spanish Andesary | It’s only twelve works in a small gallery, but these colorful and often whimsical takes on several South American religious sects contrast rather dramatically with the oh-so-serious religious imagery in the adjacent galleries. Well worth a look.
The New Contemporary: The Edlis/Neeson Collection | Local collectors Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson generously donated the largest gift of contemporary art in the museum’s history, 44 works by names that ring a lot of bells: Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, and many more. Just another amazing exhibit among many, in one of the most storied museums in the country.
The Field Museum
An obligatory stop for anyone with kids, the Field Museum is offering both kid-friendly entertainment (ahem, education), and plenty of adult-sized fare. Highlights include:
Underground Adventure: Bug’s Eye View | A bigger, better, more amazing version of the beloved ant hill at our own Children’s Museum, this exhibit “shrinks” you to the size of an ant and takes you beneath the soil, where you get to meet worms, crickets, spiders, and other animatronic bugs, all living happily and invisibly beneath our feet.
China’s First Emperor and his Terra Cotta Warriors | If you missed it at Mia a few years ago, here’s a second chance to see the army of terra-cotta warriors China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang, made to guard his spirit in the afterlife—and amaze museum-goers in the here and now.
Museum of Science and Industry
Brick by Brick: Find Your Inner Builder | The science museum’s feature exhibit is Legoland on super-steroids. It includes a 60-foot-high replica of the Golden Gate bridge and a Lego version of the Roman Coliseum, as well as more than a dozen other structures, some of which are allegedly educational, all of which are awesome to behold.
The Adler’s latest show, Planet Nine, is a deep-space chronicle of the scientific effort to find a replacement planet for Pluto, which has been sadly demoted from planet status. The show takes you out beyond Neptune and explains what—and how—we know about hundreds of planet-like objects orbiting around other suns in the universe. The show includes some cutting-edge science and spectacular graphic simulations.
Chicago has dozens of great museums, many of which get overlooked in the crush to get to the headline institutions. Here are a few that are definitely worth checking out:
National Museum of Mexican Art | An astonishing collection of art and artifacts that will make you wish you lived in Mexico, just for the colors alone. The museum’s latest exhibit, #30 Dia de los Muertos—Journey of the Soul, marks the 30th anniversary of the museum’s storied Day of the Dead celebrations, and features work by more than fifty Mexican artists.
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum | This is your last chance to catch two worthwhile exhibits that are both closing Oct. 23. Weather to Climate: Our Changing World is an interactive exhibit that uses a storm simulator to show how humans are affecting the Earth’s climate. Kids can also be a TV weatherperson, and speed up evolution to develop an animal that adapts the changing environment of the future. Skyscapes: Chasing the Perfect Storm is an awe-inspiring collection of photographs by noted storm photographer David Mayhew.
The DuSable Museum of African American History | A beautiful building in its own right, the DuSable is one of the most important African-American museums in the country. Its current exhibit is Freedom, Resistance, and the Journey Toward Equality, a thoroughly heart-wrenching and eye-opening encounter with many harsh truths about African-American history from the Transatlantic Slave Trade to the election of Barack Obama.
The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago | An impressive collection of artifacts, some quite huge, from ancient Persia, Assyria, and Egypt, all housed in a nice-sized museum on the University of Chicago campus. Admission is free, and it’s conveniently close to the Science of Museum and Industry, so a two-fer is easy, and definitely worth it.
For a complete guide to Chicago’s Museum Week, visit chicagomuseumweek.com.