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Conserving Photographs

Out of the Retina, Into the Brain: The Art Library of Aaron and Barbara Levine

Holiday Thorne Rooms

Neapolitan Crèche

Painting the Floating World: Ukiyo-e Masterpieces from the Weston Collection

Tomma Abts

Ellen Gallagher: Are We Obsidian?

Hans Haacke: Gift Horse

Two Floating Worlds: Japanese Prints and Paintings

My Building, Your Design: Seven Portraits by David Hartt

Hairy Who? 1966–1969

James Webb: Prayer

I'll Show You! Posters and Promos from Chicago's Famous Artists

Vivian Suter: el bosque interior

Rosalind Nashashibi: Vivian's Garden

Ornamental Traditions: Jewelry from Bukhara

Conserving Photographs
Nov 21, 2018–Apr 28, 2019

Related Event
Lecture: Secrets of the Collection—Conserving Photographs
Feb 7, 2019 12:00–1:00

In the daily care of the Art Institute’s photography collection, photograph conservators take the utmost precautions.
Conserving Photos

Photographs are surprisingly delicate objects—vulnerable to damage sustained through improper handling, poor storage conditions, and even flaws inherent to their own chemistry. Art Institute conservators meticulously document a work’s condition; enact preventative measures to keep it safe while it’s stored, shipped, and displayed; and undertake scientific research to learn more about its material composition. When damage is evident, they carry out state-of-the-art treatments, effectively turning back the hands of time.

Since 1982, the Art Institute has maintained a world-class facility devoted to the examination, analysis, preservation, and conservation of photographs, including a cold-storage vault dedicated to color photographs—the first of its kind in a fine art museum. This exhibition invites visitors to travel behind the scenes of our cutting-edge conservation lab, revealing the numerous steps taken to care for and preserve the collection, which comprises approximately 24,000 objects, from early daguerreotypes to present-day digital prints and time-based media. Visitors are able to discover how structural and aesthetic integrity is restored to damaged works through microphotographs that uncover characteristic features of papers, artificially aged samples that illustrate the effects of light on dyes, and side-by-side copies of the same image that show the inherent shortcomings of certain processes and the benefits of proper storage conditions.

Through a wide selection of works from the museum’s collection that showcase the technical history of photographic processes from the 19th century to the present, as well as the related conservation, preservation, and connoisseurship issues that attend them, this unique presentation affords the rare opportunity to look at the collection through a conservator’s eyes and see photographs anew.

Holiday Thorne Rooms
Nov 16, 2018–Jan 7, 2019

The beloved decorating tradition is back, with several of the Thorne Rooms once again getting their seasonal trimmings. Among the most elaborate is the English Drawing Room of the Victorian Period, the only room with a Christmas tree. Now a ubiquitous feature of the season, the Christmas tree, or tannenbaum, was only brought to England from Germany in 1840 with the marriage of Prince Albert to Queen Victoria. The Thorne Room tree and accoutrements are based on a famous engraving of the royal couple and their children surrounding a trimmed and toy-bedecked tree, an image that would forever popularize this holiday fixture. Other ornamented rooms include:

  • The English Great Hall of the Tudor period with a wassailing bowl, yule log, and an essential part of the costuming for that period’s singing and dancing revelers—a mummer’s mask
  • The Virginia Entrance Hall with mistletoe, wreath, and garland
  • The French Provincial Bedroom with shoes, orsabots, lined up before the fireplace, a crèche, and puzzle
  • The modern-era California Hallway with an Otto Natzler mid-century menorah and box with a dreidel
  • The New Orleans, New Mexico, and the Pennsylvania Dutch (German) rooms filled with regional treats of the season
  • The 1930s French Library with a tiny taste of Art Deco holiday glamour
  • The traditional Chinese interior filled with shadow puppets and instruments that would have been used to celebrate the Chinese New Year as well as other festive occasions
Neapolitan Crèche
Nov 17, 2018–Jan 7, 2019

After its widely popular debut in 2013, our spectacular 18th-century Neapolitan crèche returns once again this holiday season. One of the very few and finest examples of such a work outside of Naples, the crèche is an intricate Nativity scene that reflects the vitality and artisanship that the city is still known for. The Art Institute’s crèche features over 200 figures—including no less than 50 animals and 41 items of food and drink—all staged in a spectacular Baroque cabinet with a painted backdrop. Elaborate, complex, and wondrous, the Neapolitan crèche is a rare example of the genre and a once-in-a-lifetime acquisition for the Art Institute.

Sacred imagery reenacting the Nativity has its roots in fourth-century Rome but by the 13th and 14th centuries, in part due to its association with St. Francis of Assisi, such scenes had become a permanent feature of Neapolitan churches. During the 18th century, the period from which most of the figures of the Art Institute’s crèche date, these relatively simple tableaux underwent a transformation into highly dramatic and theatrical renderings. Traditional sacred elements of Nativity scenes—the Holy Family, wise men, angels, and shepherds—were combined with profane aspects not of Bethlehem but of contemporary Neapolitan life—rowdy tavern scenes and bustling street activities—in dazzling displays of artistic techniques. Churches, wealthy citizens, members of the nobility, and the royal family all competed to commission the most complex presentations of this popular art form from leading artists and artisans, the same people who were creating monumental sculptures and altars for churches and palaces. These artists rendered figures in oil-painted terracotta to achieve the most realistic expressions in crèches and constructed painstakingly detailed costumes of luxurious fabrics that mimicked the fashions of the time. The Art Institute’s crèche represents the pinnacle of this artistic practice, born of the centuries-old tradition of Nativity scenes yet bursting with the energy of 18th-century Neapolitan life.

Due to the fragility of the original silk costumes and exquisite embroidery, the Neapolitan crèche can only be on view for a few weeks every year. Don’t miss your chance to revel in Baroque artistry this season!

Painting the Floating World: Ukiyo-e Masterpieces from the Weston Collection
Nov 4, 2018–Jan 27, 2019
Regenstein Hall

A Japanese woman in robes decorated with images of hell looks over her shoulder at skeletons dancing behind her.
Inside an Exhibition
An Auspicious Kind of Hell

Shown for the first time in the United States, this comprehensive collection of ukiyo-e paintings brings the “floating world” and its metropolitan amusements to life.

In the 17th century, Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo (now Tokyo) were Japan’s thriving cities, complete with bustling entertainment districts where ukiyo, or the “floating world,” was born. People of all ranks shared in the enjoyment of the floating world’s attractions—brothels, kabuki theater, and seasonal festivities. Artists of the period captured this popular phenomena in ukiyo-e, or “pictures of the floating world.” Over the last 25 years, Roger Weston has assembled an outstanding collection of ukiyo-e paintings—masterpieces by the most famed artists of the day. This exhibition, the first public showing of his comprehensive ukiyo-e painting collection in the United States, showcases the sheer beauty of floating world painting and offers an exclusive view of the urban amusements of early modern Japan.

In contrast to ukiyo-e woodblock prints, which were created in multiples and consequently well circulated, ukiyo-e paintings were one-of-a-kind works commissioned from the same artists celebrated for their prints, including Katsushika Hokusai and Kitagawa Utamaro. Lavish and unique objects, the paintings were conceived in various forms—folding screens, hanging scrolls, handscrolls, and albums—and emphasize the makers’ talent and technical skill. Until recently, these compelling works were not often collected in large numbers outside of Japan, making the quality and range of the Weston Collection all the more extraordinary.

The Weston Collection focuses on images of bijin, or beauties. Whether courtesans, geisha, actors, or women in scenes of everyday life, bijinga (pictures of beauties) embody the floating world’s ideals of style and sophistication. The paintings’ subjects served as important cultural figures: fashion icons, celebrities, and even stand-ins for historical and legendary characters.
A Japanese woman in robes decorated with images of hell looks over her shoulder at skeletons dancing behind her.

Through these bijinga, the exhibition explores changing ideals of beauty and highlights some of the more famous personalities of ukiyo-e, such as the Hell Courtesan, a fabled 15th-century beauty and devout Buddhist who wore robes decorated with images of the underworld. Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831–1889) produced several works depicting the Hell Courtesan, but the Weston Collection painting (above) is among the most prized versions of the subject.

“Ukiyo-e painting has an allure that is so intriguing and special I simply fell in love with the genre,” remarked Roger Weston. “It has been a true pleasure to assemble a collection that encompasses the full chronology of ukiyo-e and all the major schools. I hope to give visitors the same joy viewing it as I have had building it.”

Accompanied by a 350-page catalogue that includes major new essays by leading scholars, Painting the Floating World features over 150 works from the 17th through the 19th century. Each painting offers an exquisite glimpse of the past; as a whole the exceptional collection reveals ukiyo-e’s rich connection to trends in fashion, beauty, and cultural life over centuries.

Tomma Abts
October 19, 2018–February 17, 2019
Galleries 182–84

London-based artist Tomma Abts (German, born 1967) has a remarkably singular and rigorous approach to contemporary painting. Since 1998, she has remained committed to producing acrylic and oil-on-canvas works, mainly in the same 19.8 x 15 inch (48 x 38 centimeter) portrait format. Abts’s works are powerfully magnetic—simultaneously muted and charged, offbeat and rich. This exhibition, co-organized by the Art Institute and the Serpentine Galleries, London, brings together the artist’s work from 2002 through 2017, offering a rare opportunity to experience Abts’s distinctive vision.

In addition to her chosen dimensions, Abts’s painting is shaped by other self-imposed parameters: she works with basic formal elements—arcs, circles, planes, polygons, and stripes—that she carefully layers, juxtaposes, and interweaves in ways both subtle and eccentric. She adds highlights and shadows, transforming two-dimensional canvases into complex illusory spaces. Rarely does she work with a preconceived notion of the final composition. Instead, Abts begins with loose washes of color and shapes that enable the work to unfold gradually. The artist’s additive technique, building up forms and colors on the same canvas—sometimes over a number of years—constitutes an evolutionary process that is embodied in the composition of the finished painting. In their final iterations, the forms and figures display a tension between their status as fixed images and their apparent potential for movement.

Abts’s canvases present themselves as events, in which color and form are only the most visible occurrences in a series of decisions, revisions, corrections, and adjustments that are suggested by the ridges and seams of underlying layers. “I try to define the forms precisely. They become, through shadows, texture, etcetera, quite physical and therefore ‘real’ and not an image of something else. The forms don’t symbolize or describe anything outside of the painting. They represent themselves.” Indeed, the paintings are self-reflexive, and this effect is furthered by the artist’s titling rubric: once a painting is complete, she names it after an entry in a dictionary of first names from a particular region in Germany. The names selected for the titles are neutral and abstract and thereby resist direct references to gender.

This focused selection of 30 recent works from across the United States and Europe—the first solo museum exhibition of Abts’s paintings in the US in 10 years—highlights formal connections that speak to the complexities of the artist’s process. A catalogue, designed by Mevis & van Deursen, in close collaboration with the artist, accompanies the exhibition.

Major support is generously provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and Shawn M. Donnelley and Christopher M. Kelly.

Additional funding is contributed by the Alfred L. McDougal and Nancy Lauter McDougal Fund for Contemporary Art, the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, Desiree and Olivier Berggruen, and an anonymous donor.

Annual support for Art Institute exhibitions is provided by the Exhibitions Trust: an anonymous donor; Neil Bluhm and the Bluhm Family Charitable Foundation; Jay Franke and David Herro; Kenneth Griffin; Caryn and King Harris, The Harris Family Foundation; Robert M. and Diane v.S. Levy; Ann and Samuel M. Mencoff; Sylvia Neil and Dan Fischel; Anne and Chris Reyes; Cari and Michael J. Sacks; and the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation.

The exhibition was organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and the Serpentine Galleries, London.

Ellen Gallagher: Are We Obsidian?
Through January 10, 2019
Gallery 293B

In this focused exhibition, Ellen Gallagher’s Untitled (1999) and Watery Ecstatic (2005)—both from the Art Institute’s collection—are placed in dialogue with her Negroes Battling in a Cave (2016) and a selection of two-sided collages from Morphia (2008–12). The presentation underscores themes of transparency and aspiration throughout her multilayered works.

Since 1997 Gallagher has produced monochromatic paintings that investigate blackness both as color and as fugitive subjectivity. She first adheres a loose grid of penmanship paper to the canvas and layers it with torn and painted pages from magazines such as Ebony. She incises the surface with a blade and then molds black rubber over the surface. Finally, she coats the surface with high-gloss enamel. A recent example of this process of accumulation and redaction is Negroes Battling in a Cave, which takes its title from a racist phrase recently discovered under the composition of Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square (1915; State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow). Like the black paint covering the inscription, the black rubber and enamel conceal yet contain the painting’s origins.

Gallagher has developed a vocabulary of signs and characters taken from popular culture, marine biology, and historical depictions of race. Her organic forms resemble cells and marine creatures and simultaneously evoke various African iconographies, generating hybrid symbols that evolve and mutate in relation to the viewer’s perception. Gallagher asserts that “a character like a jellyfish can be made up of several different bodies, can exist in different times, can be a character that is symbolic.” This fluidity between meanings and media and between states of being, like crystallizing lava, provokes the question, Are We Obsidian?

This exhibition is mounted on the occasion of the 31st Annual A. James Speyer Memorial Lecture featuring Ellen Gallagher

Hans Haacke: Gift Horse
October 5, 2018–July 14, 2019
Bluhm Family Terrace

Since 1965 Hans Haacke (German, born 1936) has been living in New York making work that explores the uncomfortable and often hidden connections between art, power, money, politics, and business. His imposing bronze sculpture Gift Horse (2014) was created as a commission for London’s Fourth Plinth project, which invites artists to fill the vacant space in Trafalgar Square originally designed for an equestrian monument to King William IV (1765–1837). The base intended for the monument was left empty due to a lack of funding; since 1999, it has featured temporary installations by contemporary artists.

For his contribution, Haacke took inspiration from an engraving by the British equine artist George Stubbs (1724–1806) to create a monumental bronze horse skeleton that stands more than 15 feet tall. In its original display, Gift Horse stood across the square from a statue of King George IV (1762–1830) riding bareback, complementing the scale of George IV’s equestrian sculpture while challenging its intentions.

In Gift Horse, a large bow, reminiscent of a ribbon tied to a present, prominently adorns the horse’s right leg. LED lights embedded in the bow continuously display the market prices of the country’s leading stock exchange, inevitably linking art and finance. “I’ve always been interested in systems and how they work. Political and social systems, of course, are part of that. They can’t be escaped,” Haacke said.

The installation of Gift Horse on the Art Institute’s Bluhm Family Terrace marks the first time that the work will be seen in North America.

This exhibition is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago with major funding from the Bluhm Family Endowment Fund, which supports exhibitions of modern and contemporary sculpture.

Two Floating Worlds: Japanese Prints and Paintings
October 6, 2018–February 10, 2019
Gallery 107

From the 17th through the 19th century, ukiyo-e, or “pictures of the floating world,” were created both as prints and paintings, often by the same artists and featuring similar subjects: the courtesans and kabuki actors who were the stars of the period.

While overlapping in artist and theme, paintings and prints nonetheless differ in important ways. Paintings are unique works that show the true hand of the artist, capturing his skill and talent. These were often created by commission for wealthy clients, and many were made on silk with costly pigments such as gold paint. Printed images, on the other hand, are the interpretation of a drawing the artist supplied to a publisher that was then carved and printed by other craftsmen. These were usually created in multiples and sold at a price that was within reach of most of the population looking for an appealing image of a well-known beauty or actor.

The two ends of ukiyo-e often cross-pollinated again in the marketplace. For example, once an artist or subject became popular in print, those with the means could commission a painting by that artist of a similar or modified composition. Conversely, images by an artist already celebrated among an exclusive group of painting patrons could be made commercial by being replicated in print.

A complement to the major exhibition Painting the Floating World: Ukiyo-e Masterpieces from the Weston Collection, on view in Regenstein Hall, this exhibition presents ukiyo-e prints and paintings from the museum’s collection, highlighting the similarities and differences between the two media.

My Building, Your Design: Seven Portraits by David Hartt
September 29, 2018–February 3, 2019
Gallery 283

David Hartt (Canadian, born 1967) is an artist interested in investigating the specificity of place and examining the cultural and social implications of the built environment. He is among a generation of artists who emphasize the elements that make architecture: the architectural details, or what defines one project or architect from another; our daily experience of a building, which is rarely a view of a building in its entirety; and how buildings are inhabited.

This exhibition is organized around Hartt’s recently acquired Seven Portraits (Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize, Pin-Up Fall Winter 2014/15 Supplement), a portfolio of photographs of seven iconic buildings designed by contemporary architects, including Seattle Library by OMA, the Fundação Iberê Camargo by Alvaro Siza, and 111 Lincoln Road by Herzog and de Meuron. The installation juxtaposes Hartt’s photographs with drawings, renderings, and models produced during the design process of each building, revealing a dichotomy between the lived experience of a building’s inhabitants and the ideal intentions and objectives originally developed by the architect for the building.

Hairy Who? 1966–1969
September 26, 2018–January 6, 2019
Galleries 124–27 and 268–73

Neither a movement nor a style, Hairy Who was simply the name six Chicago artists chose when they decided that the best way to find success as individuals was to join forces and exhibit together. As the Hairy Who, Jim Falconer, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Suellen Rocca, and Karl Wirsum—all recent graduates of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago—began mounting unconventional displays of bright, bold graphic work at the Hyde Park Art Center on the city’s South Side. Over a period of four years, they transformed the art landscape of Chicago, injecting their new and unique voices into the city’s rising national and international profile. The Art Institute is proud to organize this first-ever major survey exhibition dedicated solely to the groundbreaking exhibition group.

Like all Americans of their generation, the young Chicagoans of the Hairy Who came of age during a period of national upheaval that witnessed the escalation of the war in Vietnam, assassinations of political figures, student protests, a rising counterculture, tumultuous racial and gender relations, and the expansion of a capitalist consumer economy. Their work—vividly unbridled yet also formally refined—embodied irreverence and youthful fearlessness. Between 1966 and 1969, they staged six uninhibited and informal exhibitions—three in Chicago and one each in San Francisco, New York, and Washington, DC.

Although the Hairy Who chose to exhibit together, they were six individuals with their own personal, chiefly figurative vocabularies. They each radically manipulated source material collected from everyday life—including advertisements, comics, posters, and sales catalogs—with technical virtuosity. Their sense of humor embraced idiosyncrasy and spontaneity with wordplay, puns, and inside jokes that often belied the transgressiveness of their subject matter. Ambiguous, provocative, but also strategic, their work transmitted progressive ideas that challenged prevailing notions of gender and sexuality, social mores and standards of beauty, and nostalgia and obsolescence.

This comprehensive exhibition and accompanying publication—presented on the 50th anniversary of the group’s final Chicago show—features approximately 225 works assembled from public and private collections, together with key works drawn from the Art Institute’s collection, and includes large-scale paintings, sculpture, and works on paper as well as archival ephemera that contextualize the artists’ creative processes and working methods.

Hairy Who? 1966–1969 is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago.

Hairy Who? 1966–1969 is part of Art Design Chicago, an initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art exploring Chicago’s art and design legacy, with presenting partner The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

This exhibition is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Major support for this exhibition is also provided by an anonymous donor, Robert J. Buford, the Kemper Educational and Charitable Fund, and Kathy and Chuck Harper.

Additional support is contributed by Mark and Judy Bednar, the Morton International Exhibition Fund, and Deborah Lovely

James Webb: Prayer
September 7, 2018–December 31, 2018
Gallery 188

Prayer is an ongoing project, remade around the world since its first presentation in Webb’s home city of Cape Town in 2000. The Chicago version is the 10th and largest to date, as well as the first in North America. The work consists of recordings of prayer from individuals who belong to dozens of faiths and spiritual affinities in the host city. Listeners are invited to remove their shoes and walk the length of the carpet, composing their own arrangement of voices as they go, or to kneel or otherwise lower themselves next to a speaker to listen more closely to particular prayers. The spare though colorful installation has the austerity of a work of Minimal Art and the enveloping richness of a choral concert.

An experimental musician and visual artist with a degree in comparative religion, Webb initiated Prayer in Cape Town five years after his country ended its practice of apartheid. The word apartheid means segregation; Webb has created a work that emphatically brings people together. Prayers articulate a basic wish for communion and often serve to solidify a community of faith in a place of worship. By deliberately gathering prayers from a variety of neighborhoods and spiritual practices and naming each of the participants and congregations, Webb aims to join together inhabitants of his host city.

The process for creating Prayer is collaborative and rooted in the place where it is installed. All participation by faith members is voluntary, and each community has received a copy of the recording for their own use.

This exhibition is made possible by the Artworkers Retirement Society. In-kind support is provided by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

I'll Show You! Posters and Promos from Chicago's Famous Artists
September 4, 2018–January 7, 2019
Ryerson and Burnham Libraries (weekdays only)

I’ll Show You! Posters and Promos from Chicago’s Famous Artists highlights a recent gift of gallery posters from the collection of Gladys Nilsson and Jim Nutt—two artists of the Hairy Who—as well as supplemental ephemera from the special collections of the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries and the Art Institute of Chicago. This display complements Hairy Who? 1966–1969, which is the first major exhibition dedicated to the Hairy Who—the self-named group of six Chicago artists who graduated from the School of the Art Institute and began exhibiting in the city in the mid-1960s. As the Hairy Who, Jim Falconer, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Suellen Rocca, and Karl Wirsum transformed the art landscape of Chicago through their groundbreaking and unconventional work.

The Hairy Who artists treated promotional materials as a key part of their exhibitions. Items that are generally considered ephemeral—including comic books, posters, magazine advertisements, buttons, decals, and postcards—not only served as source material for artworks but were produced by the artists themselves to be treated as art objects. Nilsson and Nutt have amassed, preserved, and now given their collection of such materials to the Art Institute, effectively acting as archivists for their fellow artists and friends.

Roger Brown. Famous Artists from Chicago, 1970. Gift of Gladys Nilsson and Jim Nutt.

Rosalind Nashashibi: Vivian's Garden
August 23, 2018–December 31, 2018
Gallery 186

London-based filmmaker and artist Rosalind Nashashibi’s meditative films merge everyday observations with a more sensuous and even fantastical cinematographic vocabulary. Presented for the first time in the United States after its premiere at documenta 14 in 2017, Nashashibi’s tender and dreamy film Vivian’s Garden depicts the relationship between Austrian Swiss émigré artists Elisabeth Wild and Vivian Suter—mother and daughter—in the connected houses they share in a jungle garden in Panajachel, located outside of Guatemala City. Wild and Suter have a fluid relationship—the daughter is as much a mother as the other way around. The women live together with Mayan villagers, who act as guardians and maids. Nashashibi’s filmic portrait, which is presented adjacent to Suter’s exhibition el bosque interior in Griffin Court, focuses on the artistic, emotional, and economic lives of the household and offers a delicate look at the complex postcolonial relations within their domestic space. In the fractured moments, incomplete conversations, and intimate interiors that are integral aspects of Nashashibi’s approach to filmmaking, Vivian’s Garden presents a mesmerizing view into lives filled with moments of abstraction and lush beauty.

Ornamental Traditions: Jewelry from Bukhara
Through June 30, 2019
Gallery 50

Located in present-day Uzbekistan, the Emirate of Bukhara (1785–1920) was an important center of Islamic religion and scholarship and a major oasis on the famous Silk Road that traversed Central Asia from ancient times. As such, it was highly diverse—home to the majority Uzbek and Tajik populations in addition to communities of Arabs, Jews, and Turkmens who played a role in the emirate’s vibrant trade. Over time, Bukhara developed its own iconic style of jewelry characterized by intricate blue enamelwork that mirrored the area’s blue-glazed, tiled architecture. Russia’s colonization of the region in 1866 brought with it more advanced enameling techniques, allowing for increasingly complex designs.

In almost every context, the jewelry of Bukhara embodied great meaning and was rarely considered mere decoration. Incredibly large, ornate suits of jewelry were thought to protect the wearer from evil spirits, particularly during important events like weddings, and were the strongest assertion of a person’s power and wealth. Throughout Uzbekistan, such objects were designed to be worn as sets rather than exist as singular pieces.

Some of the most magnificent examples of Uzbek jewelry come from the court of the last emir of Bukhara, Mohammed Alim Khan (1880–1944), where men and women dressed in embroidered silks, fine silver, and enameled jewels. Their jewelry served various functions, often simultaneously: indicating political status and wealth, signifying religious and spiritual practice, and marking important rites of passage or ethnic identity.

Ornamental Traditions: Jewelry from Bukhara brings together nearly 50 jeweled objects from the Central Asian region of Bukhara—promised gifts from the private collection of Barbara Levy Kipper and her late husband, David—and rare ikat and embroidered textiles from the Art Institute’s permanent collection. The jewelry and decorative objects presented in this exhibition offer an exceptional experience of a rich and vibrant artistic heritage rarely seen outside the former Soviet Union.

Music and Movement: Rhythm in Textile Design
Through Jamuary 6, 2019
Galleries 57–59

A tapestry that depicts a violin fractured by vibrations as it produces a sonata, a printed fabric that illustrates the bright experimentations of jazz, a gift-wrapping cloth that portrays graceful and elegantly attired dancers moving in a procession—each of these works offers a small window onto the various ways visual artists engage with, interpret, and express rhythms. Understood here as a repeated pattern of sound or movement or a harmonious sequence, rhythm invites cross-disciplinary artistic ventures, and Music and Movement: Rhythm in Textile Design explores how textiles can suggest a multisensory aesthetic.

Featuring a selection of 17th- through 20th-century works made in countries including Brazil, Finland, France, Japan, and the United States, the exhibition highlights the global nature of the Art Institute’s collection and invites visitors to consider how rhythm informs textile design. Channeling the hurried pace of modern life, Sonia Delaunay’s Jazz is composed of forms suggestive of musical notes and notations. Rendered in black, white, red, and gray, pointed angular forms abut smooth short curves, and the undulations punctuated by strong diagonals convey syncopated sensations indebted to music and dance popular in the 1920s. In contrast to the sharp visual rhythm of Delaunay’s design, the furoshiki, or gift-wrapping cloth, featured in the exhibition conveys a gentler sense of motion, presenting dancers in a receding, curved line emphasized by the fluidity of the performers’ limbs and costumes. These two dramatically different works, along with others in the exhibition, exemplify the various and complex ways in which textile designers and producers have communicated sound and movement through their work, using rhythm to connect artists and art forms.

Marcel Duchamp. Bottle Rack, 1914/59

Art Institute of Chicago Acquires Exceptional, Radical Duchamp Readymade

Bottle Rack 1914/59, Signed by the Artist in 1960, and Owned by Robert Rauschenberg will Redefine the Storytelling Power of the Museum’s Collection of Modern Art

The Art Institute of Chicago announced a collection-changing acquisition of Marcel Duchamp’s boundary breaking readymade Bottle Rack (1914/59). Signed by Duchamp in 1960 for its owner—a young Robert Rauschenberg—this ever-provocative and still-astonishing work has a deep connection to two significant artists who radically challenged and redefined our notions of “art” and changed the course of art history. Acquired from the internationally respected Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, through Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, Duchamp’s Bottle Rack will go on view today, February 13, 2018, in the Art Institute’s Gallery 395B, contextualized within the museum’s exceptional galleries of modern art.

Art Institute President and Eloise W. Martin Director James Rondeau shared: “Bottle Rack is among the most pivotal, landmark works in Marcel Duchamp's profoundly influential body of work. Rarely, do we have an opportunity to acquire an object that so succinctly embodies the expansive influence of an artist on future generations, including countless on display in our museum every day. This is a transformational moment for our world-class collection--with pride and gratitude we take another progressive step forward in a shared vision with our audiences, curators, and donors to create incomparable experiences of art and artists in our galleries in Chicago."

Duchamp’s contributions are foundational to the history of modern art, and the history of modern art in Chicago. Taken out of its original context, reimagined, and signed by the artist, the readymade upended tradition and artistic convention—transforming an everyday, ordinary object by virtue of the artist selecting it. In 1914, Duchamp purchased a common, mass-produced bottle rack at the French department store Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville. Duchamp felt free to acquire new versions for exhibitions and display after his sister accidentally discarded the “original.” He selected the Art Institute’s newly acquired version for the 1959 exhibition Art and the Found Object in New York. Robert Rauschenberg acquired Bottle Rack after the touring exhibition and later, in his studio in 1960, asked Duchamp to sign it; he obliged, writing in French, “Impossible de me rappeler la phrase originale M.D./Marcel Duchamp/1960” (Impossible for me to recall the original phrase M.D./Marcel Duchamp/1960).

Art Institute Deputy Director, Chair and Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Ann Goldstein enthusiastically shared: “Duchamp’s readymade revolutionized the way we think about what an artwork is, how it is produced, and the ways in which it is exhibited—over the course of the twentieth century, it opened up new worlds of art. This still radical work of modern art empowers us to expand, extend, and highlight some of the richest and most important stories in the history of art.”

Bottle Rack deepens incredible moments of resonance and brings new storytelling power to the Art Institute’s permanent collection: from Duchamp’s intertwined history with our progressive and visionary embrace of the Armory Show in our galleries in 1913, to Brancusi’s Golden Bird (1919/20), which was included in the artist’s landmark 1927 exhibition at the Arts Club of Chicago that was installed by Duchamp (and which entered the Art Institute’s collection in 1990). In addition Brancusi’s Leda (1923) also entered the Art Institute’s collection through the support of Duchamp as a gift from Katherine S. Dreier’s estate in 1953. Duchamp was a friend and advisor to our museum’s first curator of modern art, Katharine Kuh, and he also played special role in the gift of the prestigious Mary Reynolds Collection of Surrealism in 1951.

Speaking on behalf of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Senior Curator David White said, “I am delighted that this groundbreaking work by Duchamp, which was one of Bob Rauschenberg’s proudest possessions, has been acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago. Duchamp and his work hugely influenced Rauschenberg’s thinking about art and the Bottle Rack will continue to provoke and enrich viewers as it joins the Institute’s extraordinary collection.

The experience of Duchamp’s Bottle Rack at the Art Institute of Chicago will encourage visitors to consider whether any other work of art occupies such an interesting and provocative position within, between, and at the forefront of so many pivotal moments in modern and contemporary art.

Through prior gifts of Mary and Leigh Block, Mr. and Mrs. Maurice E. Culberg, and Mr. and Mrs. James W. Alsdorf; Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection Fund; through prior gift of Mary and Earle Ludgin Collection; Sheila Anne Morgenstern in memory of Dorothy O. Morgenstern and William V. Morgenstern; through prior bequests of Joseph Winterbotham and Mima de Manziarly Porter; Ada Turnbull Hertle and Modern Discretionary funds.

Past Forward: Architecture and Design at the Art Institute
Gallery 285

This fall the Art Institute opens a new installation devoted to the museum’s seminal collection of architectural drawings and furniture, graphic, and industrial designs of the 20th and 21st centuries. This evolving Modern Wing display is the first of its kind in the United States, highlighting important acquisitions and presenting architecture and design as an integrated, ever-changing, and multilayered experience.

The practitioners represented in the Art Institute’s diverse collection showcase the many voices that have shaped the fields of architecture and design and continue to do so today. From Daniel H. Burnham, Marion Mahony Griffin, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to Armin Hofmann, Louis Kahn, and Lauretta Vinciarelli as well as contemporary practitioners such as Stan Allen, Irma Boom, Studio Gang, and Yuri Suzuki, works from our past, present, and future are organized chronologically by theme. Sections range from the history of ornament and Pop to contemporary moments in urbanism and speculative design. Delving into the development of the modern city, the effect of technological transformations, the impact of evolving health concerns, and the influence of global dynamics, the history of modern and contemporary architecture and design is presented as a living social and cultural process. A series of new, immersive videos further illuminate key issues and works from Chicago and the Midwest, across the nation, and around the world.

Taking our increasingly complex social, cultural, and political landscape into consideration, this display emphasizes the critical role architecture and design continues to play in identifying urgent issues and generating new thinking and problem solving. Its dynamic narratives highlight the impact of architecture and design thinking and practice on our lives, opening up a space for conversations with the general public, architecture and design enthusiasts, and experts in these fields alike.

Saints and Heroes: Art of Medieval and Renaissance Europe
Galleries 235–239

Step back in time and immerse yourself in the spiritual, domestic, and chivalric worlds of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. This spring, the Art Institute unveils the new Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor, presenting nearly 700 objects from the museum’s rich holdings of art from 1200 to 1600: monumental altarpieces, exquisite jewelry, and the beloved arms and armor collection.

The sumptuous display begins with a large room featuring architectural sculpture, treasury objects, and early painting that convey the austere sanctity of earlier medieval art. The centerpiece of the gallery is the meticulously conserved Ayala Altarpiece, commissioned in 1396 by the chancellor of Castile for his family’s funerary chapel in northern Spain. Spanning nearly 24 feet across and eight feet high, the painted wood altarpiece has undergone extensive treatment over the last three years and makes its restored debut in brilliant form. Two linked vaulted galleries showcase altarpieces and altarpiece fragments from Italy, Spain, and northern Europe, including the Art Institute favorite Saint George and the Dragon by Bernat Martorell. Each is displayed to suggest its original religious space, highlighting the church as a center of public life.

The spaces that follow are more intimate, focusing on the texture of late Gothic and Renaissance life. One gallery presents luxury goods and the accessories of feasting, while another displays works of art for the bedchambers of Tuscany’s merchant elite. Everyday objects from northern Europe, along with jewelry and items of personal display, complete the domestic picture of the period.

An elegant rotunda introduces the collection of arms and armor with equipment for the bodyguards of four rulers. From here, the space opens to a gallery filled with weaponry and armor dominated by two armored figures on horseback—one dressed for battle, the other for sport—and two armed and costumed figures engaged in foot combat. Finally, a gallery lined with cabinetry features the art of the sword, luxury firearms, and equipment for the hunt extending through the Baroque era.

The new installation expands the display of art of this fascinating period sixfold, premiering several recently conserved works and many significant new acquisitions—an elegant late Gothic breastplate and backplate, a rare 15th-century German portrait, and an outstanding group of 17th- and 18th-century swords. Subtle changes in the architecture of the galleries propel visitors through time and from religious to secular works, while digital labels provide an interactive multimedia experience. At the heart of this display are the gifts of major collectors whose donations serve as the collection’s foundation: the Ayala Altarpiece and Saint George and the Dragon from Charles Deering, Sienese and Florentine gold-ground paintings and early Northern works given by Martin Ryerson, a terracotta altarpiece by Florentine Benedetto Buglioni and a South German carved and painted Saint Catherine from Kate Buckingham, and George F. Harding’s impressive collection of arms and armor. All come together in the new Deering Family Galleries, offering a transporting experience to a time that continues to enchant.

The Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor are made possible by the extraordinary lead support of The Chauncey and Marion D. McCormick Family Foundation, Laurie V. and James N. Bay, Linda and Vincent Buonanno, The Edwardson Family Foundation, and The Estate of Arthur Maling.

Major support is generously provided by the Deering Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. William C. Vance.

Additional funding has been contributed by Mr. and Mrs. William R. Jentes, Richard Gradkowski, Holly and John W. Madigan, Mae Svoboda Rhodes, Daniel T. Manoogian, and the historic commitments of Marilynn Alsdorf, Kate Sturges Buckingham, and Bea and Herman M. Silverstein.

The New Contemporary
Through December 31, 2018
Galleries 288, 290–299

This December, we reopen our galleries of contemporary art, unveiling the largest gift in the Art Institute’s 136-year history: 44 iconic works by artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jasper Johns. Generously donated by Chicago collectors Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson, these 44 paintings, sculptures, and photographs transform the museum’s presentation of contemporary art, bringing new depth and perspective to the Art Institute’s already strong holdings and making this collection the strongest of any encyclopedic art museum in the world.

The Art Institute has been committed to collecting and exhibiting contemporary art since the museum’s founding in the 19th century, when Impressionism was considered “contemporary.” Our rich collections today are largely the result of the generosity and vision of private collectors who have chosen to become great benefactors, and the Edlis/Neeson gift is the latest chapter in this long legacy of patronage and support.

Their gift charts the course of the most adventurous art movements since the 1950s, primarily in the United States, beginning with the work of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Cy Twombly, who began to forge a path out of Abstract Expressionism toward Pop Art with the use of images, materials, and techniques from mass media and found objects. Pop itself is represented in the gift by a landmark group of works by Andy Warhol—including two self-portraits—and signature works by Roy Lichtenstein. The collection also chronicles the significant and enduring influence of Pop Art on later generations of artists, including the virtuouso painter Gerhard Richter, the photography-based critiques of Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman, and the pop-culture riffs of Katharina Fritsch, Jeff Koons, and Takashi Murakami.

The Art Institute is a collection of collections, each compelling on its own terms yet capable of telling richer, more extraordinary stories when brought into dialogue. To be sure, the Art Institute of Chicago—and the stories we tell—have been made far greater by Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson’s gift, an extraordinary benefaction to the city, and, indeed, to the world.

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