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Anne Imhof: Sex
May 30–Jul 7, 2019

Anne Imhof (born 1978, Giessen, Germany) has emerged as one of the most provocative and pioneering voices of her generation. Her work establishes a new paradigm for exhibitions and gives form to a sense of alienation and detachment that increasingly shapes our society.
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This exhibition, entitled Sex, shows the wide range of attitudes present in Imhof’s practice, opening with three days of live performances and continuing as an installation that includes sculpture, painting, and sound in the weeks that follow. The central sculptural element is a large wooden pier, a structure typically used to gaze at the horizon. Imhof, however, proposes the pier as an architecture that divides the gallery into oppositional zones: above and beneath, top and bottom, light and shade, inside and outside, visible and invisible. In the performance that inaugurates the installation, these binaries expand into male and female, hope and desperation, pain and pleasure, and ultimately, life and death. Sex deals with the fluidity between these seemingly irreconcilable forces, as Imhof and her collaborators continuously shift between them and merge what appears to be incompatible.

Since 2012, Imhof has worked with a core group of collaborators, in particular Eliza Douglas, whose contributions to Sex have been integral to the conceptual and aesthetic development of the work. Douglas and Billy Bultheel, together with Imhof, have composed an original score that combines classical references with punk, electronic music, and grunge to create dark metal waltzes and eerie arias for a ballroom charged with aggression and desire. Imhof has also developed new choreography that responds to specific conditions of the space and the dynamic between the performers and the audience. A series of new paintings and objects that function as both props and sculptures intensify the atmosphere set in motion by the exhibition’s main architecture: stepping away from the light, into the darkness, in search of another sunrise.

Performances are scheduled to take place on:

Thursday, May 30, 3:30–7:00
Friday, May 31, 12:30–4:00
Saturday, June 1, 12:30–4:00

Registration for the performances is not required; viewing is on a first-come, first-served basis.

This exhibition is the second of three chapters in a project commissioned by Tate Modern, London; the Art Institute of Chicago; and Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Turin.

Manet and Modern Beauty
May 26–Sep 8, 2019

The first Art Institute exhibition devoted exclusively to Édouard Manet in over 50 years focuses on the transformation of the artist’s style in his later years.

By the late 1870s, when this exhibition begins, Édouard Manet had become recognized as a painter of modern life. He had long looked to historical subjects and style for inspiration but in the 1870s grew more and more immersed in the now—eventually proposing a radical new alignment of modern art with fashionable femininity. While he continued to pursue highly finished, heroically scaled paintings intended for the Salon throughout these later years (a time also marked by health problems and limited mobility), he simultaneously approached smaller works more fluidly and spontaneously, taking up pastel and watercolor while unapologetically embracing beauty and visual pleasure.

This exhibition is the first to focus on this important period in the artist’s career, bringing together an impressive array of portraits of fashionable women—favorite actresses and models, bourgeois women of his acquaintance, and his wife—as well as intimate male friends. Among these are two striking paintings, one of the young model-actress Jeanne Demarsy and the other of his friend Méry Laurent. Called Jeanne (Spring) and Autumn (Méry Laurent), the pair comprises the only two completed works in a project to portray the seasons through paintings of stylishly attired women.

Supplementing this display are the delicate and rarely seen letters Manet wrote to his friends, featuring exquisite illustrations of fruits and flowers; garden pictures, which themselves often feature elegantly attired women; and flower studies, consummate expressions of Manet’s favorite subjects at the end of his life. Punctuating the presentation are large-scale multifigure paintings, including In the Conservatory and Boating, both shown in the 1879 Salon, which focus attention on modern social and gender relations. Together these works showcase both Manet’s responsiveness to the moment and the continual flowering of his artistry.

Everyone’s Art Gallery: Posters of the London Underground
May 25–Sep 5, 2019

In 1919, 39 posters came to the Art Institute of Chicago, courtesy of the Underground Electric Railways London. The posters, full of brilliant colors and innovative designs, were part of an effort to encourage Londoners to use this commercial transportation system: to visit the city’s cultural attractions, go shopping, attend sporting events, and even venture into the countryside—all by taking Underground trains and buses, of course. Installed outside Underground stations on public streets and on the front of buses that traversed the city, these posters formed a vibrant civic art presence—a public gallery available to all.

Over the next 20 years more posters arrived at the museum, coming at irregular intervals and eventually forming a collection of almost 350 artworks—an extraordinary sample from the golden age of this remarkable poster campaign, one that continues to this day. Until now, however, the story of how and why these posters came to Chicago has not been known. The architect of the poster campaign, from its inception in 1908 until 1939, was Frank Pick, an executive with London’s Underground. Pick’s enthusiasm for art education led him to commission poster designs from many young artists. Indeed, it is likely that the close relationship between the Art Institute of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute was one reason that Pick chose the museum as the eventual keeper of this poster archive.

This exhibition, the first at the museum to showcase this unique collection, begins with a chronological sampling of the posters. Thematic sections feature popular subjects, such as the zoo, museums, and Hampton Court, the royal palace southwest of London on the Thames, while focused displays are devoted to three of the greatest artists who worked for the Underground: Charles Paine, Frederick Herrick, and one of the most illustrious poster artists of the 20th century, Edward McKnight Kauffer, who studied briefly at the School of the Art Institute on his way to Europe.

Among the show’s highlights is Charles Paine’s clever take on King Henry the VIII, depicting him with large shears trimming the heads off his topiary queens in Hampton Court by Tram (1922). Others include Mary Koop’s Summer Sales (1925), which invites viewers to follow a riot of brightly colored umbrellas toward their shopping destination; a modernist depiction of time by Clive Gardiner from 1928 urging riders to buy a season Underground ticket; and Harold Sandys Williamson’s Cheap Tickets to Town, Shop between 10 and 4 (1939), an almost surrealistic view of the London cityscape, its sky a sea of floating barrage balloons as protection from German bombs.

A century after the initial posters arrived at the museum, this exhibition features 100

Room to Move
Through December 31, 2019
Interactive Gallery, Ryan Learning Center

The Interactive Gallery in the museum’s Ryan Learning Center is a place for creative play—a space where visitors of all ages are invited to experiment with artistic ideas, materials, and practices, and to respond creatively to the things they see, feel, and think about their experiences in the museum.

Visitors who have stepped into the Interactive Gallery over the last year will know that this space has hosted different types of participatory interactions. Drawing Room made space for people to engage with drawing as an interpretive act. Living Room encouraged visitors to contemplate and converse, inspired by the museum’s collection. Coloring Room was a celebration of hues and tones, engaging participants in hands-on explorations of color theory. This exhibition, Room to Move, is the first installation in the Ryan Learning Center that invites people to work together in movement-based creations.
A concept sketch for the Room to Move installation by School of the Art Institute of Chicago undergraduate and exhibition design intern Juan Arango Palacios.

A concept sketch by School of the Art Institute of Chicago undergraduate and exhibition design intern Juan Arango Palacios, who contributed to the development of the space’s design and interactive zones.

The installation is inspired by performance art and connects to a number of notable happenings in the museum this year. One is Iterations, the Art Institute’s new series of contemporary performance commissions. Launched this past February, Iterations explores the range of practices in the world of performance art today. The series will continue over the next three years with artists activating various museum spaces, challenging both our understanding of those spaces and what a work of art can be.

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus, the German art school founded by Walter Gropius. Bauhaus artists worked in a range of media and techniques—from painting and sculpture to textile design, graphic design, typography, architecture, and performance—and understood these different artistic disciplines as being equal and connected. Bauhaus performance artists often investigated the relationships between human movement, geometry, structure, and physical space.
Sketch by artist Sandra Leonard of a design for the costumes for the Room to Move. The sketch shows a figure in a pink skirt.

Artist Sandra Leonard designed the exhibition’s costumes, based on works from her own staged pieces.
While Room to Move connects to historical and contemporary performance practices, it is first and foremost a place for intergenerational creative play. You don’t need to know anything about performance art to enjoy dressing up and inventing new ways to move—but you may just discover how moving playful participation can be.

Christien Meindertsma: Everything Connects
Through Oct 20, 2019

Exhibitions are free with museum admission.

What can you do with an entire harvest of flax or 1,000 wool sweaters? The possibilities are endless and entwined.

Since graduating from the Eindhoven Design Academy, Christien Meindertsma has become known for her research-oriented work that explores the potential of raw materials and reveals processes that have become obsolete due to industrialization. Her prototypes, documentary videos, and finished objects highlight our relationship to the materials and products in the world around us and address concerns of environmental sustainability.
A photo of the different stages of turning flax into a biodegradable chair.

This exhibition showcases two of Meindertsma’s recent projects. For Flax Project (2012–present), she purchased a harvest of flax from a farmer in order to study methods of production from unprocessed material to final products. On display in this exhibition is each step involved in transforming raw flax into an entirely biodegradable chair, one that won Meindertsma the Dutch Design Award in 2016. The designer shifted her focus to a different production process for Fibre Market (2016–present), using fiber-sorting machines to scan and sort 1,000 wool sweaters based on their material content. The scanned results revealed frequent inaccuracies in the information provided on the sweaters’ labels, making evident the fact that common clothing is often made from a wider range of materials than indicated. After sorting, the sweaters were shredded and made into fibers that Meindertsma developed into a yarn and then a bespoke Donegal tweed. This recycled fabric can be used in many ways, including as an upholstery fabric for one of her biodegradable Flax Chairs—bringing Meindertsma’s design process full circle.

By exploring the often hidden lives of products within their social, political, and material contexts, Meindertsma invites us to reconsider the value of objects, especially the potential of undervalued resources such as flax and recycled wool. Her projects suggest that intelligent processes and design can play an important role in addressing the overconsumption of resources and prompting positive change.
Sponsors

Christien Meindertsma: Everything Connects is the second exhibition in the Franke/Herro Design Series, which highlights the work of important design talent. This exhibition is made possible by Jay Franke and David Herro.

The People Shall Govern! Medu Art Ensemble and the Anti-Apartheid Poster
Through Sep 2, 2019

Revolutionary images with bold slogans were one tool this art collective used to advocate for social justice and pan-African solidarity.

The Medu Art Ensemble formed in the late 1970s in opposition to South Africa’s apartheid policy of racial segregation and violent injustice. Through graphic design and poster production, members forcefully articulated a call for radical change, advocating for decolonization or majority (nonwhite) rule in South Africa and in the neighboring countries of Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. Medu, meaning “roots” in the Sepedi language, evolved organically and operated underground, as its name suggests. Persecuted by the South African Defense Force, Medu members lived and worked in exile just across the South African border in Gaborone, Botswana. Defying a ban on their existence, the Medu collective at its height numbered as many as 50 South African and international artists, musicians, and writers.

The People Shall Govern! is the first-ever exhibition on Medu in North America. Featured among its 130 objects are more than 60 posters by members of the ensemble and related makers, all recently acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago. Collaboratively executed and often printed in the hundreds, Medu’s offset lithograph and screen-printed posters combine sobering and revolutionary imagery with bold slogans that, in word and image, mobilized citizens to support causes in social and economic justice and encouraged pan-African solidarity.

Surviving examples of Medu posters that were smuggled into South Africa and mounted in public spaces are exceedingly rare, as they were regularly confiscated or torn down on sight. With this recent acquisition, the Art Institute is home to the most comprehensive holding of these vibrant works outside South Africa. Additional items, on loan for this exhibition from former Medu members and archival sources in South Africa and Chicago, make clear how the Medu spirit of oppositional creativity transformed the culture of resistance in southern Africa during the late 20th century.

PHOTOGRAPHY + PHOTOGRAPHY Iconic: Photographs from the Robin and Sandy Stuart Collection
Through Aug 4, 2019

From the pyramids to the Mona Lisa, photography has long helped make other works of art iconic. Few photographs, however, have become icons in their own right. A photograph is typically considered “iconic” on account of a famous subject or a momentous occasion. The works in this exhibition, by contrast, have achieved iconic status simply as pictures. The stories of how they became icons, however, are not so simple—in fact they are part of the complicated history of photography as a form of fine art.

Over the past four decades, Robin and Sandy Stuart have acquired an impressive number of these exemplary images, principally from the modernist period of roughly 1920–1970. During this period, many artistically ambitious photographers argued for honest or “straight” images—reality-based, sharply focused—and emphasized the craft of photographic printing. They worked to make art from ordinary subjects, such as a comb or a pepper; to picture brand-new creations, such as a massive dam or a skyscraper; or make viewers see familiar experiences, from sensual intimacy to working life, in new ways. As the variety of images on view make clear, the vocabulary of modern art photography quickly permeated work supposedly made at the margins of the art world—fashion, advertising, and photojournalism.

At the same time, in the mid-20th century, museums—including the Art Institute of Chicago—began collecting and mounting exhibitions of photography, and photographic books and magazines circulated on a vast scale. Scholars, curators, and editors—new voices of authority—proclaimed particular images as definitional to a history of photographic achievement, giving rise to a canon of art photographs that has held an outsize influence on photographers and admirers ever since. Featuring more than 30 photographs by such acclaimed artists as Berenice Abbott, Margaret Bourke-White, Brassaï, Walker Evans, Tina Modotti, Man Ray, Paul Strand, Edward Steichen, and Edward Weston, Iconic examines how that canon was formed and further reminds us that photography’s acceptance as an art was not a foregone conclusion, but was shaped by passionate individuals, interested institutions, and the reproductive capacity of photography itself.
Sponsors

This exhibition is made possible through the Black Dog Fund.

Gregg Bordowitz: I Wanna Be Well
Through July 14, 2019

Since the late 1980s, writer, artist, and activist Gregg Bordowitz has made diverse works—essays, poems, performances, drawings, sculpture, and videos—that explore his Jewish, gay, and bisexual identities within the context of the ongoing AIDS crisis.

A professor and director of the Low-Residency MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Bordowitz was an early participant in New York’s ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), where he cofounded various video collectives, including Testing the Limits, an advocacy group within ACT UP, and DIVA (Damn Interfering Video Activists). While developing a visual language capable of communicating harm-reduction models to a broad public in his collaborative works, he made his own videos and television broadcasts, such as some aspect of a shared lifestyle (1986) and Fast Trip, Long Drop (1993), that juxtaposed performance documentation, archival footage, role play, and recordings of protest demonstrations, drawing influence from feminist conceptual art. In recent years Bordowitz has increasingly introduced poetry and performance as art events, exploring histories of televised stand-up comedy in works such as Only Idiots Smile (2017) and Some Styles of Masculinity (2017).

I Wanna Be Well—named after the 1977 Ramones song—marks the first comprehensive overview of the artist’s prodigious career, which spans three decades of production. Moving between multiple genres including video, art made for television, published poems, site-specific installation, live performance, and rare selections from the artist’s personal archive and library, the exhibition contemplates an expanded concept of portraiture as a mode of political and artistic address.

All videos in the exhibition have closed captioning. The videos shown in the Stone Gallery alternate and can be seen on the following schedule:

Fast Trip, Long Drop (1993)
10:45–11:39
12:01–12:55
1:17–2:11
2:33–3:27
3:49–4:43
5:05–5:59
6:21–7:15
7:37–8:31

Only Idiots Smile (2017)
11:39–12:01
12:55–1:17
2:11–2:33
3:27–3:49
4:43–5:05
5:59–6:21
7:15–7:37

Support is partially provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Time-Based Media.

Members of the Exhibitions Trust provide annual leadership support for the museum’s operations, including exhibition development, conservation and collection care, and educational programming. The Exhibitions Trust includes 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.

Connoisseurship of Japanese Prints
Through June 23, 2019

“People always ask, ‘Where’s
The Great Wave
? Why isn’t it out?’”

What does it take to be a connoisseur of Japanese prints? A keen eye, for starters—one able to spot differences between multiple prints of the same design.

Connoisseurship is an avenue of art historical inquiry shared by scholars, collectors, and other specialists that relies on close examination to assess a work of art. When it comes to ukiyo-e, or pictures of the floating world, differences in color intensity, design, line definition, and condition among prints of the same design can provide valuable insight into a given print’s origin, authenticity, and quality. Often, assessing a print requires comparing it to another example of the same work to identify fading, repairs, or additional elements not present in other versions.

This exhibition brings together works by Hokusai, Utamaro, Sharaku, and other ukiyo-e printmakers to explore questions of connoisseurship, asking the viewer to closely compare multiple editions of the same design and observe the differences between them. Although The Great Wave was traditionally printed with a bright pink sky, surviving prints most often feature a sky of pale beige, the result of fading from light exposure. All three of the Art Institute’s Great Wave prints—one of which retains its pink color—are presented together in this exhibition. Each was made after the first state of the design, a fact evidenced in distinct ways, such as the broken lines of the title cartouche in the upper left corner, the most obvious sign that these prints were not made when the blocks were new and unworn.

While the earliest state of a print is considered to be the closest approximation of the artist’s original intent, later states, many of which were produced by a publisher rather than the artist, are not necessarily less aesthetically appealing or less valid. From time to time, blocks were recut to insert a different detail, modify text, or even add or remove a feature of nature, such as a cloud or a tree. The different shapes of light blue on the waves of one of the Great Wave prints, for example, are the result of a new block that was added later on. In other instances, a print may have deteriorated from fading, paper loss, and other ravages of time before being carefully repaired in ways only detectable when the work is compared to a print in pristine condition.

By identifying and closely examining differences in works of the same design, viewers can gain insight into the intricacies of the dating, authentication, repair, and commercial production of Japanese woodblock prints—and learn to draw their own informed conclusions.

Rembrandt Portraits
Through June 9, 2019

The prolific Rembrandt created over 80 self-images over his lifetime.

A portrait is typically understood to be a faithful reproduction of a person’s likeness.

Rembrandt complicated the genre, constructing identities through props, lighting, and ambiguous settings—leaving us to ask, “What is a portrait?” This spring, two portraits by Rembrandt van Rijn are visiting the Art Institute from the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California. The paintings, Portrait of a Boy and Self-Portrait, join the Art Institute’s own Old Man with a Gold Chain and Young Woman at an Open Half-Door for a look at Rembrandt’s approach to portraiture—one that is decidedly more complex than it may first appear.

The earliest of the paintings, Old Man with a Gold Chain (1631), is a bust-length painting of an elderly man. Rembrandt depicted this model so frequently that many assumed he was the artist’s father, though no evidence for this claim exists. The man is richly dressed in a sumptuous black velvet coat and feathered hat, sporting a gold-hoop pearl earring, as well as both a heavy gold chain and steel gorget around his neck. While these latter adornments were often used in Renaissance portraits to indicate actual military accomplishments, in Rembrandt’s painting they are mere theatrical props, which along with the dramatic lighting imply that we are to understand the work as a type of character study (called a tronie) rather than as a true portrait.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. Self-Portrait, about 1636–38. The Norton Simon Foundation, Pasadena, California.

In his Self-Portrait of 1636–38 from the Norton Simon Museum, Rembrandt similarly portrayed himself in three-quarter profile, thoughtfully making eye contact with his audience from under a knitted brow. Although his likeness is faithful and familiar, his pose is affected, his left hand tucked into the breast of a costly and elaborate jacket. His attire once again harkens back to costumes from the previous century, a way to align his painting with Renaissance portraits intended to elevate the status of painters, who had long been regarded as craftspeople rather than as proper artists. His well-off and aristocratic appearance is aspirational in regard to his economic means as well: at the time Rembrandt was hovering on the brink of bankruptcy. Again, dramatic lighting underscores the artificiality of the work.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. Portrait of a Boy, 1655–60. The Norton Simon Foundation, Pasadena, California.

Portrait of a Boy, also visiting from the Norton Simon, has a similarly imaginative nature, showing a boy with a roughly sketched pet, perhaps a bird or monkey, on his left shoulder. His ornate garb—a plumed hat and lace-collared shirt—is again from an earlier period. And yet despite the theatrical costume and inclusion of the exotic pet, the portrait comes across as frank and honest. The boy, illuminated by a soft light that falls evenly across his face, engages us directly with his shining, round eyes. The portrait may be unfinished—affording a rare glimpse of the artist’s hand at work—but the boy’s expression is anything but incomplete.

Costuming plays less of a role in Young Woman at an Open Half-Door by Rembrandt and his workshop; instead it is the way in which the young woman interacts with the viewer that complicates the work. Paintings in which the subject greets the viewer at a shop or house door are not uncommon; indeed they date back to the Renaissance. However, in the Art Institute’s painting, the woman does not directly acknowledge us as a dear friend or valued customer but rather leans forward out of the door and, seemingly, out of the picture plane. Placing her hands firmly on the wooden ledge in front of her, she creates a physical barrier between herself and the viewer. At the same time, she looks askance, her face half-shrouded in darkness. While the image is a “portrait” of a young woman, it also gives the subject herself agency. She is clearly directing her gaze elsewhere, but to whom or to what?

Taken together these four paintings show Rembrandt’s brilliant skill as a painter, especially as a painter of people, as well as his deep knowledge of historical subjects and art history. His use of artifice and costumes not only celebrates a historical genre but also anticipates a future in which identity is something created by the artist, and humanity is expressed by everyday people.

Beyond Temporary: Art Ephemera and the Design of the Exhibition Announcement
Through June 7, 2019

Super/Natural: Textiles of the Andes
Feb 23–Jun 16, 2019
Galleries 57–59

Over the course of millennia, textiles were the primary form of aesthetic expression and communication for the diverse cultures that developed throughout the desert coasts and mountain highlands of the Andean region. Worn as garments, suspended on walls of temples and homes, and used in ritual settings, textiles functioned in multiple contexts, yet, within each culture, the techniques, motifs, and messages remained consistent.

The detail illustrated here is one of over 50 brightly colored figures neatly embroidered in orderly rows that decorate a dark indigo blue mantle, or cloak. Each figure holds a small feline whose striped legs identify it as the pampas cat, a powerful predator and protector of agricultural fields. The individual appears to channel otherworldly power, as streamers emerge from his mouth and down his back, suggesting that the figure embodies the supernatural forces believed to govern the natural world. Made by the Paracas, a southern coastal community that flourished in Peru from about 500 BC to AD 200, this type of figure appears throughout the Andes and across artistic media. For example, among the Nazca, a community that emerged following the decline of the Paracas, woven textiles and painted vessels depict similar imagery—individuals dressed in ornate costumes and wearing whiskered masks—that suggests otherworldly transformation and connection between the natural and supernatural.

This exhibition features over 60 textiles along with a small selection of ceramics from the museum’s collection that together explore the ways select Andean cultures developed distinct textile technologies and approaches to design. While emphasizing the unique aspects of each culture and highlighting Andean artistic diversity, the exhibition also invites comparisons across cultures and time periods. These objects speak to shared ideas concerning everyday life, the natural world, the supernatural realm, and the afterlife, demonstrating a unified visual language that spans the Andes region from its ancient past to modern communities.

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.
Sponsors

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.

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.

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