Art Museums With Unique Exhibits to Visit in Chicago, IL
There’s no shortage of art and culture in Chicago, Illinois, so the next time you’re in the city, make sure to check out the interesting exhibits this city has to offer. Whether you’re into contemporary art, sculptures and mixed-media pieces, or classic oil paintings, you’ll be sure to find a museum you enjoy. Here’s an overview of the best art museums with unique exhibits to visit in Chicago.
Museum of Contemporary Photography
One of the city’s hidden gems, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Photography is a stunning art museum tucked away in Columbia College that features the work of local photographers. Here, you can browse collections from up-and-coming and established photographers, all of which examine unique social experiences and ways of life. The museum’s mission is to foster a deeper understanding of the cultural, political, and artistic contributions of contemporary photography. Since the museum began collecting pieces in the early 1980s, it has featured over 15,000 objects by more than 1,500 local artists. Another perk of visiting this museum? Admission is free.
- Location: 600 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605.
- Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower
This museum is located in the Historic Water Tower, a building that gained significance after it survived the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. Now, the City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower features unique exhibits from local artists and photographers. Before it housed the museum, this building contained a 135-foot iron standpipe used to stabilize water pressure. You’ll find this building along the city’s iconic Magnificent Mile, so make sure to stop in and take advantage of its free admission for an intimate art-viewing experience and check out interesting pieces from talented Chicago artists.
- Location: 806 Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611.
- Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
If you take a stroll through Chicago’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood, you’ll find Gallery Guichard, which features a unique variety of contemporary and modern art. This gallery highlights pieces related to the African Diaspora and showcases works from multicultural artists from around the globe.
Here, you’ll find experiential events and fine art exhibits, and you can sign up for an art tour to see all the pieces on display from new and mid-career artists. Gallery Guichard also offers several fine arts services, including artist talks, framing, exhibitions, shipping, and crating. It’s located within the largest African American art district in the country, so you’ll have plenty of surrounding galleries to visit.
- Location: 436 East 47th Street, Chicago, IL 60653.
- Hours: Currently available by appointment.
Design Museum of Chicago
The Design Museum of Chicago is a tiny space that highlights the importance and impact of design in visitors’ everyday lives. Here you can check out the captivating and constantly changing exhibits from local artists showcasing various aspects of design and its influence on society, including themes like urban planning, architecture, and street art. It hosts one exhibit at a time, allowing you to enjoy an artist’s collection fully and focus on the meaning behind their work. With free admission, there’s no reason not to visit this unique piece of Chicago’s art scene.
- Location: 72 East Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60601.
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture
For a striking collection of work from Puerto Rican artists, make sure to check out the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture. This is the only museum in the country dedicated to showcasing pieces from Puerto Rico year round and is a must-visit the next time you’re in Chicago. Its exhibits highlight works related to experiences and individuals across Puerto Rico and the Diaspora. Located in the renovated stable building in the historic Humboldt Park, the surrounding area is also a local hub for Borinquen culture and home to the annual Barrio Arts Festival.
- Location: 3015 West Division Street, Chicago, IL 60622.
- Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday.
Smart Museum of Art
Located in Hyde Park on the University of Chicago campus, you’ll find the Smart Museum of Art, home to over 16,000 works of art. Here you can browse its array of exhibits, including modern and contemporary art, Asian mixed-media pieces, and European paintings. This museum also features the H. C. Westermann Study Collection, which contains over 3,000 objects and is one of the artist’s largest public collections and sources of archival materials. Since admission is always free, you can stop by and check out this impressive collection of international pieces whenever you’re in the Windy City.
- Location: 5550 South Greenwood Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637.
- Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and closed on Monday.
The Art Institute of Chicago
Founded in 1879, The Art Institute of Chicago is committed to showcasing collections from artists around the world and highlighting unique exhibits to facilitate the exchange of ideas and continue to foster and celebrate human creativity. It highlights historical and contemporary works, featuring a variety of collections and continuously changes its exhibits, making it a great place to visit whenever you’re in the city. You can also check out the Art Institute’s permanent collection, featuring renowned icons and historical artifacts from around the world.
- Location: 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603.
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday.
Well, there you have it, the best art museums in Chicago and the unique exhibits they feature. The next time you’re in the Windy City, make sure to check out these captivating pieces. Feel free to contact us if you stumble upon an interesting exhibit that’s missing from our list while you’re out museum-hopping. We’ll be happy to update our recommendations so more Chi-town locals and tourists can explore all the unique artwork this city has to offer.
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