Posted March 12, 2020

Chicago’s Must-See Art, Architecture + Design

Destinations

There may be other cities top-of-mind when people think of great destinations for architecture, art and design, but those that know, know that Chicago is a spectacular destination to take in all three. These are some of our must-sees around the city, from renowned architecture and museums to the impressive outdoor public art displays from modern masters.

Some of the city’s best architecture flanks the Chicago River. Photo credit: Max Bender on Unsplash

Chicago’s Best Architecture: Modern Masters, World Records and a Boatload of History

  • Right in the middle of the Illinois Institute of Technology’s campus sits Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Crown Hall. Considered a masterpiece of minimalism and openness, it’s one of the most architecturally significant buildings of the 20th century Modernist movement.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio. Photo credit: littleny on iStock

  • Seeking a moment of quiet reflection? The stunning Bahá’í Temple, with its elaborate dome and intricate carvings, is surrounded by peaceful gardens and fountains. The temple is a quick jaunt just north of the city, in the village of Wilmette. It’s one of only eight dedicated temples of the Bahá’í Faith and is the oldest Bahá’í House of Worship in the world.
  • The Kimpton Gray Hotel, centrally located in the Loop neighborhood, is housed in the historic New York Life Insurance Building. Incorporating modern design elements, the hotel is the stylish marriage of past and present.

Cruising the Chicago River is a quintessential way to experience Chicago’s best architecture. Photo credit: Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash

Chicago’s Museums & Galleries: Art & Design with Multicultural Influence

Eclectic collections and exhibitions across the city mean there’s something for every type of art enthusiast to love.

  • Though it was originally founded as a pop-up museum in 2012, there was a powerful demand for a museum in the city devoted explicitly to design, so the Design Museum of Chicago is now a year-round fixture. There are three new shows each year and admission is free, with a $5 suggested donation.
  • A gallery crawl in the River North Gallery District is a great way to spend a couple of hours. Considered the densest gallery center in the city, it’s an embarrassment of riches for all types of art from painting and photography to textiles, furniture and glass. Find out which galleries to visit in River North—plus where to get lunch!—in our guide to Chicago’s most fun neighborhoods.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Michigan Avenue Entrance. (Photo credit: The Art Institute of Chicago.)

Chicago Public Art: A Picasso, A Mosaic and Larger-Than-Life Sculptures

With more than 500 works exhibited across the city, Chicago’s public art program is seriously inspiring. The Loop neighborhood alone is home to a wealth of acclaimed pieces.

  • The untitled sculpture by Pablo Picasso, fittingly called The Picasso, can be viewed and even climbed on, in Daley Plaza. Picasso was offered $100,000 for the sculpture but actually refused the payment and instead offered it as a gift to the city.

The Picasso scuplture is a striking contrast to the surrounding skyscrapers

  • Just around the corner from The Picasso sits Joan Miro’s Miro’s Chicago originally called The Sun, the Moon and One Star. At 39 feet tall, this mixed media sculpture towers over Brunswick Plaza.
  • The Four Seasons mosaic by famed Modernist Marc Chagall can be seen in the Chase Tower Plaza. It’s comprised of thousands of fragments and features 250 different colors. Doing it for the ‘gram? No shame! Take your best art-filled photo with these tips for taking better art wall photos.
  • The Agora installation by Magdalena Abakanowicz consists of 106 headless and armless iron sculpted figures on the south end of Grant Park. The statues are assembled to look like a crowd, some standing and some walking in different directions. Visitors can walk amongst the statues for a truly immersive experience.

Private donors, including Robin Williams, contributed to help bring Abakanowicz’ Agora installation to Chicago

  • And of course, you’ll want to get a mirrored selfie in the world famous Chicago “Bean.” Designed by British artist Anish Kapoor, it’s actual name is the much prettier sounding Cloud Gate, and it’s located in Millenium Park in downtown Chicago.

Where to stay: Whatever your interest in art, architecture and design, there’s no shortage of gems to discover. Stay close to the sights at one of Kimpton’s four boutique hotels in Chicago.

Ready to plan your next art-lovers trip? Check out the best under-the-radar museums in Washington, DC or make a trek to one of the new museums opening this year around the world.

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