CHICAGO – Located on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago's Grant Park lies a building few can compare to in the world. With its two large bronze lions standing guard outside, the Art Institute of Chicago was founded in 1879 and has nearly 300,000 works of art in its permanent collection. When I first visited the Art Institute in 1998, it was already an impressive site. The subsequent expansion and opening of the Modern Wing in 2009 has only added to the immensity and grandeur of the facility.
To spend even three hours in the Art Institute of Chicago as I did will often feel not long enough due to the sheer magnitude of what one can see within its walls. As an overview, the collection is divided into African Art and Indian Art of the Americas, American Art, Ancient and Byzantine, Architecture and Design, Asian Art, European Decorative Arts, European Painting and Sculpture, Modern and Contemporary Art, Photography, Prints and Drawings, and Textiles.
Personally, my favorite pieces in the Art Institute include a smattering of iconic American and European pieces. These include Edward Hopper's moody oil painting Nighthawks from 1942.
Forever linked with the 1986 John Hughes comedy Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Georges-Pierre Seurat's pointillist masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte is another.
A master of the Post-Impressionist period, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's At the Moulin Rouge serves as a time capsule of the Moulin Rouge cabaret circa 1889.
A more modern counterpart is Chicago native Archibald J. Motley's Nightlife, representing the vibrancy of African-American jazz culture in the 1940s.
Yet another memorable piece is Paris Street; Rainy Day, an 1877 oil painting by Gustave Caillebotte, which shows the artist's early interest in photography captured in the work.
An example of abstract expressionism is Number 17A, an oil on fiberboard piece by American master Jackson Pollock.
Though American Gothic by Grant Wood is usually part of the Art Institute of Chicago's permanent collection, it was on loan to the Royal Academy of Arts in London when I made my pilgrimage. Instead, by some twist of fate, another iconic American painting made a visit to the Institute from the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1, more popularly known as Whistler's Mother by James McNeill Whistler, returned to the United States and will be on display here until May 20, 2017.
As mentioned earlier, the sheer number of statues, paintings, sculptures, and other pieces of art within the facility is staggering. Greek sculptures made of marble, Byzantine tile work, and even Asian representations of Vishnu and Lakshmi can be seen in different areas.
Work from the Rennaissance is also more than well-represented with works such as The Assumption of the Virgin by El Greco, among others.
Some work from Andy Warhol, showcasing his championing of the pop art movement are also found in the Modern Wing.
What is written here cannot begin to encapsulate the wonders housed within its walls. Suffice it to say that my mind and my soul were completely nourished emerging from the Art Institute of Chicago than it was when I first entered its doors. It is an experience that I'd gladly repeat if given the chance.