has become internationally known as an art destination was once a small cluster
of art enthusiasts determined to bring locals—and tourists—a new depth of
cultural diversity. Today, there are over 175 art galleries in Chicago.
in Chicago has a wonderfully long history starting
with the original benefactors of The Art Institute of Chicago, which gave our
city an amazing collection and one of the greatest museums in the world,” says
Natalie van Straaten.
of the city’s most tireless promoters of all things art, Ms. van Straaten is the
editor and publisher of Chicago Gallery
News—the city’s comprehensive guide to galleries and museums. Ms. van Straaten is regarded as one of
the city’s most trusted art authorities, and to add flame to that fire, she also
serves as the Executive Director of the Chicago Art Dealers Association.
1879, The Art Institute of Chicago was founded as both a museum and a school. It
first stood on the corner of State and Monroe Streets, and moved to its current
location at Michigan and Adams Street in 1893. It was with
the inception of the Museum of Contemporary Art in 1967, that the pulse
of the city’s artistic heart truly began to beat.
prior to the opening of the MCA, there were not many galleries in Chicago,” says Ms. van
Straaten. “When the Chicago Art Dealers began to form in the mid-sixties,
there were fewer than two dozen—most clustered near Michigan and Ontario, where the original
thereafter, gallery owners began moving to the River North area of the city.
“The attraction was low rent, huge light manufacturing buildings in close
proximity to downtown and Michigan Avenue, and a bursting international
art market,” says Ms. van Straaten. The pull to the burgeoning area was so
strong that several established Michigan Avenue galleries moved to
River North. In 1981, 16 galleries lined the streets of Franklin, Superior, Chicago, Wells and the
surrounding thoroughfares. By the end of the decade, 65 galleries showcased the
work of international talent and set the tone for what has become known as the
city’s leading art destination—as well as one of the country’s.
to Ms. van Straaten, whose offices are in the heart of the district, River
North covers the full range of specialties including outstanding photography
at Catherine Edelman, Schneider, and Stephen Daiter galleries. For contemporary abstraction
art, visit Roy Boyd Gallery, and Robert Henry Adams
Fine Art for early 20th century art. Contemporary works on paper can be
found at Printworks. For contemporary painting, sculpture, works on paper, and
master crafts go to Perimeter Gallery, and for glass sculpture visit
Marx-Saunders and Habatat galleries. For masterworks by American folk and
Outsider artists go to Carl Hammer Gallery, and for American & European
paintings and sculptures visit Gwenda Jay/Addington Gallery. You can find Asian contemporary
at Andrew Bae Gallery, and contemporary Haitian, African, and African American
arts at Nicole Galleries.
north in what is considered the North Side including Bucktown and Wicker Park you can find Art De
Triumph, which specializes in giclee prints and collectible fine art cards of paintings by well-known Chicago artist Nancie King Mertz. Also
popular in the area is The Leigh Gallery where you’ll
find an innovative selection of over 40 established and emerging artists
in an array of media including oils, pastels, watercolors, jewelry, pottery and
the exodus to River North, the Michigan Avenue area was able to
maintain its distinction as a place to view and buy art. In fact, it still
boasts some of the city’s most notable galleries. Art enthusiasts can see
contemporary and modern masters at Richard Gray Gallery, old masters at R.S.
Johnson Gallery and Hilligoss Galleries, Audubon at Joel Oppenheimer Gallery and
even peruse several galleries with vintage posters. For those in the market for
American art, shop the collection at R. H. Love Galleries. Or to see a slice of
Chicago, visit the Fine Arts Building Gallery
which primarily showcases Chicago artists. The building
itself is a National Historic Landmark and has been an artists' colony for over
the 1990s, the West Loop began establishing itself as a hotbed for art
as well. Of the 25 galleries now featured in this area, “Most are clustered
either near Washington and Peoria or in the Fulton
Market area,” says Ms. van Straaten. “The major galleries there include
Donald Young Gallery, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Carrie Secrist Gallery, Thomas
McCormick Gallery, Walsh Gallery, G.R. N'Namdi Gallery and others.” Also
on the must-see list is Aron Packer Gallery for folk and outsider art, and Function
+ Art for contemporary studio furniture, sculptural lighting and fine crafts.
visitors find themselves outside of the heaviest populated areas of the city,
however, there is still art to discover. Other areas that champion the visual
arts include Pilsen East, which has held artist open houses for decades, Bridgeport, Bronzeville and the
Bucktown/Wicker Park areas. In Pilsen, you can find 4Art, Inc., which offers
graphic design, framing and art instruction. Another popular destination in the
area is Dubhe Carreńo Gallery which boasts contemporary ceramic art by
the many accessible districts and the tightly-clustered galleries within them, shopping
for art in Chicago doesn’t have to be a
daunting experience. Unlike other art epicenters, Chicago boasts a welcoming art
scene. Visitors to the Windy City can surround themselves
with art in every price range, every medium and every period, all fostered by
so much art to see, the question in Chicago isn’t where to go, but
where to begin. To help navigate the many neighborhoods known for being
breeding grounds of hot art—despite the cold weather—be sure to pick up the
January issue of Ms. van Straaten’s revered Chicago
Landry spent the last couple of years as the editor of the leading art
publication in New Orleans--Gallery Insider
Magazine. Now a freelance writer based in Chicago, Landry has covered
art, business and notable personalities throughout the Windy City.