Things to do at museums and galleries in ChicagoMary Houlihan – For the Sun-Timeson September 16, 2021 at 3:38 am

Welcome to our highlights of events and entertainment in Chicago at our city’s best museums and galleries. Bookmark this page and check back for updates on the latest activities.

‘Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You.’

Barbara Kruger. Untitled (Truth), 2013. Digital image courtesy of the artist

When: Sept. 19-Jan. 24

Where: Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan

What: The Art Institute presents a major solo exhibition devoted to the work of Barbara Kruger, a conceptual artist known for combining images and type that raise questions about our relationship to consumerism, society and more. The exhibit includes early work and rarely seen paste-ups of the early 1980s, which reveal her process, to her digital productions of the last two decades. Admission: $14-$25. (Also Art on the Mart is projecting a selection of Kruger’s work on the facade of the Merchandise Mart through Nov. 25.)

More information: For updated information regarding the museum’s COVID-19 vaccination and/or mask policies, visit

‘Chicago Avant-Garde’

Dancer Katherine DunhamSun-Times file

When: To Dec. 30

Where: Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton

What: This interesting new exhibit puts the spotlight on five women whose lives and careers embodied a uniquely Chicago style of avant-garde creativity in 1930s-1950s: artist Gertrude Abercrombie, poet Gwendolyn Brooks, dancers Katherine Dunham and Ruth Page and curator Katharine Kuh. “All five women challenged social constraints — based on their gender, their race, or both — to subvert convention and find beauty and freedom in their art,” says curator Liesl Olson. The exhibit includes paintings, photographs, posters, dance costumes and rare video footage. Admission is free.

More information: For updated information regarding the museum’s COVID-19 vaccination and/or mask policies, visit

The Neon and Light Museum

When: Through Oct. 31

Where: 325 W. Huron

What: This pop-up features an immersive exhibition of nearly 70 neon and light-based sculptures. Among the highlights are John Bannon’s 14-foot-tall neon sculpture “Breathe,” Monika Wulfer’s installation “Circle’s Edge” and an iconic neon self-portrait by John Lennon. Other artists include feminist neon artist Zoelle Nagib, pop sign artist Jason Pickleman, projected light specialist Gary Justis, abstract artist sculptor Michael Young and more. Tickets: $40+, reservations required.

More information: For vaccination and/or mask policies, visit

‘Frida Kahlo: Timeless’

(C) 2020 Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

When: Through Oct. 15


What: Though it closed Sept. 12, the not-too-miss art exhibit of the summer can still be seen on a virtual tour. Dolores Olmedo’s collection of paintings and works on paper by Kahlo were on view at the newly expanded Cleve Carney Museum of Art in Glen Ellyn. Curator Justin Witte and executive director Diana Martinez offer commentary during the virtual tour. Also featured are a multimedia timeline that offered a framework of Kahlo’s life, more than 100 photographs, a Kahlo-inspired garden and a family-friendly children’s area featuring a replica of Kahlo’s Casa Azul in Coyoacan, Mexico. Tickets: $18.

‘Dias de Muertos: A Time to Grieve & Remember’

George Rodriguez, “Mictlantecuhtli Offering,” 2020, ceramic installation, is featured in the exhibit “Dias de Muertos: A Time to Grieve & Remember.”Courtesy of the artist

When: Sept. 10-Dec. 12

Where: 1852 W. 19th

What: This year’s Day of the Dead exhibition at the National Museum of Mexican Art pays tribute to and remembers the many individuals from Mexico and the U.S. who have died from COVID-19. An annual time-honored tradition in Mexico, the Day of the Dead offers a way to join together to grieve and celebrate the lives of loved ones. The exhibit is a way to contemplate this moment via artworks and installations by artists from both sides of the border. Among those creating installations are Sandra Cisneros, Hector Duarte, Alejandro Garcia Nelo, Enrique Garcia and the Yollacalli Arts Center. These colorful displays sit alongside artwork by a long list of Mexican and Mexican American artists. Admission is free.

More information: For vaccination and/or mask policies, visit

‘American Epidemic: Guns in the United States’

“Untitled (Death by Gun),” by Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1990)Provided

When: Sept. 10-Feb. 20

Where: 600 S. Michigan

What: The Museum of Contemporary Photography presents an exhibit that brings together work by nine artists who examine the past three decades of gun culture in the United States. Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Carolyn Drake, Zora J Murff, Stephen Foster, Renee Stout, Hank Willis Thomas, Kambui Olujimi, Nancy Floyd and Andres Gonzalez use photography to approach the topic from a wide range of perspectives. “We hope this exhibition lays bare the persistent epidemic of gun violence in this country,” said Karen Irvine, MoCP chief curator and deputy director. “These artists point us towards nuanced ways of reckoning with this tragic — and uniquely American — plight.” Admission is free.

More information: For vaccination and/or mask policies, visit

Future Fossils: SUM

A “Future Fossils: SUM” piece by Lan TuazonCourtesy of the artist

When: Sept. 7-Nov. 13

Where: 5020 S. Cornell

What: This is the final sculpture installation in Lan Tuazon’s decade-long trilogy of work that visualizes the lifespan of our material goods. The Chicago artist calls her process “documentary sculpture.” Common packaged goods, tchotchkes and household items are accumulated, dissected and layered to give an accounting of the unseen byproduct of consumption. Tuazon offers visitors an encounter with a future house — one constructed solely with recovered materials — built to scale and exhibited from inside the two-story gallery at the Hyde Park Art Center. Admission is free.

More information: For vaccination and/or mask policies, visit

‘Bani Abidi: The Man Who Talked Until He Disappeared’

Bani Abidi’s watercolor “The Man Who Talked Until He Disappeared.”Courtesy of Kiran Nadar Museum of Art

When: Sept. 4-June 5

Where: Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago

What: Two decades of the work of multidisciplinary Pakistani artist Bani Abidi are brought together for this exhibition. Informed by her upbringing in Karachi and experiences in cities including Chicago, where she studied at the School of the Art Institute, Abidi, a master storyteller, uses video, photography, sound and installation to uncover the influence of cultural and political power struggles on everyday life. Admission: $15.

More information: For vaccination and/or mask policies, visit

‘Chicago Works: Caroline Kent’

The Museum of Contemporary Art presents “Chicago Works: Caroline Kent,” the first solo museum exhibition of work by the multidisciplinary Chicago-based artist. Nathan Keay, (C) MCA Chicago

When: To April 3

Where: 220 E. Chicago

What: The Museum of Contemporary Art presents the first solo museum exhibition of work by the multidisciplinary Chicago-based artist. In this site-specific installation, Kent explores the abbreviated forms of communication that develop in intimate relationships such as those between sisters. Inspired by the experience of communicating with her own twin, she transfers her visual language to painting, sculpture and installation. Admission: $15.

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Paul Nicklen, “Face to Face,” Svalbard, Norway, 2008.Courtesy the artist

When: Aug. 27-Oct. 2

Where: Hilton/Asmus Contemporary, Morgan Arts Complex, 3622 S. Morgan

What: The work of National Geographic photographers, filmmakers and marine biologists Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier are featured in this new exhibit. Nicklen, one of the world’s prominent nature photographers, has spent the last 20 years documenting the beauty and the plight of our planet. Mittermeier, whose work documents the conservation movement, is globally recognized as an influential wildlife writer and conservationist. Admission is free.

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‘The Art of Banksy’

Banksy’s “Flower Thrower”The Art of Banksy

When: To Oct. 31

Where: 360 N. State

What: The identity of the artist known as Banksy has for years been the art world’s most intriguing mystery. But while we don’t know the man, we do know the art. The English-based street artist has created some of the most iconic images of the past few decades. A new exhibit brings more than 80 of these original works to Chicago. World-famous pieces from private collections including “Flower Thrower,” “Rude Copper” and “Girl with Balloon” will sit alongside other works rarely seen by the general public. As the artist-provocateur Banksy says: “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” Tickets: $40, $30 for 16 and younger.

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‘Helmut Jahn: Life + Architecture’

“Helmut Jahn – Life + Architecture”Chicago Architecture Center

When: To Oct. 31

Where: 111 E. Wacker

What: Chicago Architecture Center presents a new exhibit honoring the late Chicago architect, which highlights his designs ranging from signature early projects like the Michigan City Public Library (1977) and the James R. Thompson Center (1985) to the Sony Center in Berlin (2000) and the Pritzker Military Archives Center, currently under construction in Somers, Wisconsin. Photography, models and sketches illuminate each project and explore the collaborative design and engineering process, while personal imagery, video and recollections by those who knew and worked with Jahn underscore his flair for the dramatic and zest for life. Admission is $15.

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‘Van Gogh for All’

“Van Gogh for All”Lou Bank

When: To Sept. 26

Where: 333 N. Michigan Ave.

What: The immersive art experience that debuted in Chicago in 2019 returns for a limited run. The exhibit allows attendees to step into many of the artist’s works and learn about them in a whole new way. Fly through the Starry Night or step behind the shutters of his iconic Yellow House and walk through a re-creation of his studio. Open seven days a week 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Tickets: $20, $10 for 12 and under.


‘Mimi Cherono Ng’ok: Closer to the Earth, Closer to My Own Body’

“Untitled” by Mimi Cherono Ng’ok(C) Mimi Cherono Ng’ok

When: To Feb. 7

Where: Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan

What: This new exhibit features the work of a photographer who travels extensively across the tropical climates on a mission to understand how natural environments, botanical cultures and human subjects coexist and evolve together. In this solo exhibit, she presents photographs and a film in which she tracked flowers and floral imagery across varied contexts and a range of hidden associations. Admission: $14-$22.

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Hyde Park Art Center

Mel Chin’s Fundred Dollar Bill ProjectProvided/Courtesy of the artist

When: July 25-Oct. 24

Where: 5020 S. Cornell

What: Mel Chin’s Fundred Dollar Bill Project as well as works by LaToya Ruby Frazier and Fazal Sheikh are on display at the Hyde Park museum as part of “Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40.” Chin’s 13-year-project, here titled “Chicago Fundred Initiative: A Bill for IL,” invites people to create their own “Fundred,” a form of currency that affirms the right of each maker to equal protection against lead contamination; Frazier’s film “Flint is Family” uses her photographs and voiceover by Flint, Michigan, resident Shea Cobb to understand the Flint water crisis; Sheikh’s landscape photography examines the connection between desertification, colonialism, and the displacement of Bedouin communities from ancestral lands in Israel’s Negev desert. Admission is free.

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Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

When: Ongoing

Where: 2430 N. Cannon Dr.

What: The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, where children of all ages can connect to nature and science, reopened July 8. Exhibits include “Without a Trace,” selections of photographs by Zbigniew Bzdak; “Patterns in Nature: A Bridge between Art and the Natural World,” mixed media work by artist Katherine Lampert; “Judy Istock Butterfly Haven,” “Birds of Chicago” and many more. Admission: $6-$9, children under 3 free.

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‘Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40’

Toba Khedoori’s “Untitled” at the Smart Museum of Art.Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner and Regen Projects, Los Angeles (C) Toba Khedoori.

“Toward Common Cause — Art, Social Change and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40” is a multi-museum venture organized by the Smart Museum of Art that explores the current sociopolitical moment, challenging questions of inclusion, exclusion, ownership and rights of access. In its gallery, the Smart Museum features works by Mark Bradford, Mel Chin, Nicole Eisenman, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Jeffrey Gibson, Toba Khedoori, Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, Julie Mehretu, Fazal Sheikh and Xu Bing. From July 15-Dec. 19 at Smart Museum, University of Chicago, 5550 S. Greenwood. Admission is free. Visit; for a list of participating museums visit

Stony Island Arts Bank reopens with its contribution to “Towards Common Cause.” The group show features work by Carrie Mae Weems, Kerry James Marshall, Gary Hill, Whitfield Lovell, Trevor Paglen, Deborah Willis, Dawoud Bey, Fred Wilson and Nicole Eisenman. From July 18-Dec. 19 at Stony Island Arts Bank, 6760 S. Stony Island. Admission is free. Visit
The reopened DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Pl., participates with an exhibit of “Presenting Negro Scenes Drawn Upon My Passage through the South and Reconfigured for the Benefit of Enlightened Audiences Wherever Such May Be Found, By Myself, Missus K.E.B Walker, Colored,” a signature black silhouette installation from the artist Kara Walker. Admission: $3-$10 (Sundays free), children under 5 free. Visit:

‘Chicago: Where Comics Come to Life (1880-1960)’

A 1954 “Brenda Starr” panel at the Chicago Cultural Center exhibit.DCASE

When: To Oct. 3

Where: Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph

What: This exhibit looks at Chicago’s significant role in the development of the early comic strip. Curated by artist-author Chris Ware and the City of Chicago’s cultural historian emeritus, Tim Samuelson, it focuses on comics in popular publishing, African American cartoonists, the first women cartoonists, the first daily comic strip and more. Admission is free. (The exhibit is a historical companion to “Chicago Comics: 1960s to Now,” the survey of contemporary Chicago comics at the Museum of Contemporary Art.)


National Museum of Mexican Art

“We the People” by Chaz BojorquezNational Museum of Mexican Art Permanent Collection, gift of Chaz and Christina Bojorquez

When: Ongoing

Where: National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th street

What: After being closed for 15 months, the museum has reopened with a handful of exhibits. “Spotlight on Chaz Bojorquez and Enrique Alferez” features the museum’s newest acquisition, “We the People,” a painting by Bojorquez, and Alferez’s iconic bronze sculpture “La Soldadera.” Plus “Adlateres and the Unexpected Journey: Works by Carmen Chami” features paintings inspired by Mexican Baroque painting and figurative style. Admission is free.

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‘Toward Common Cause’

“Mother and Child,” Njideka Akunyili Crosby (2016). Courtesy the artist, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner.(C) Njideka Akunyili Crosby

When: To Nov. 21

Where: National Public Housing Museum, 625 N. Kingsbury, and at the Minnie Riperton Apartments, 4250 S. Princeton

What: The National Public Housing Museum partners with the Chicago Housing Authority to display artwork by MacArthur Fellow Njideka Akunyili Crosby as part of “Toward Common Cause,” a multi-site exhibition organized by the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the MacArthur Fellows Program. Crosby uses acrylic, colored pencil and photo collages to create her distinctive portraits of African American life. “I almost want people to feel like the door is open and they’re walking by a scene into someone else’s life,” she says, “because that really is what I’m doing… mining my life to tell a story that is global but really wanting people to feel like they’re getting a glimpse into my world.” Crosby’s artwork installation is displayed on 70-foot banners on the sides of two buildings.

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‘Drawn to Combat: Bill Mauldin & the Art of War’

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Bill MauldinCopyright the Pritzker Military Museum & Library

When: Through spring 2022

Where: 104 S. Michigan

What: Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bill Mauldin, who studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and was a cartoonist for the Chicago Sun-Times, is the subject of a retrospective at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library. “Drawn to Combat” covers Mauldin’s career as a wartime cartoonist focusing on soldiers’ experiences and as a political cartoonist. The exhibit draws from more than 5,000 cartoons and objects donated to the museum by the Mauldin family. Tickets: $8, $10, children under 12 free.

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‘Chicago Comics: 1960s to Now’

Nick Drnaso’s painting for the cover of his graphic novel “Sabrina” in “Chicago Comics.”Provided

When: To Oct. 3

Where: Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago

What: A new exhibit celebrates Chicago’s pivotal role as a national and innovative center for comics and cartooning. With a focus on rediscovering the work of women and BIPOC comic artists, this major exhibition presents the last 60 years of the city’s artful cartooning history, showing how comic art is a democratic medium that allows artists to speak directly to people in relatable ways. Over 40 cartoonists are featured including Lynda Barry, Lilli Carre, Daniel Clowes, Nick Drnaso, Edie Fake, Emil Ferris, Nicole Hollander, Charles Johnson, Kerry James Marshall and Chris Ware. On display are comics, graphic novels, zines, original drawings, dioramas, commissioned films, installations, rare ephemera and books. Admission: $8, $15.

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‘Vivian Maier: In Color’

Vivian Maier, “Three Highland Park firemen,” Highland Park, August 1964, inkjet print. Gift of Jeffrey Goldstein/(C) The Estate of Vivian Maier

When: To May 8, 2023

Where: Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark

What: Much has been heralded about street photographer Vivian Maier’s black-and-white photographs in exhibits, books and films. Now this multimedia exhibit features 65 color images made during her time as a suburban Chicago nanny from the 1950s to 1970s, many of which have never been seen before. Maier, who died in 2009, was a bit of a character and always had a Roloflex camera around her neck as she walked the streets snapping images of women, children, the old, the poor, the abstract. While her motives remain elusive, her photographs continue to speak volumes. Tickets: $17, $19.

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Polish Museum of America

The Paderewki Collection at Polish Museum of America.Courtesy Polish Museum of America

When: Ongoing

Where: 984 N. Milwaukee

What: The museum, since 1935 a repository for a wide variety of materials pertaining to Poland and the Polish-American community, has reopened after being shuttered for more than a year. Among the many permanent exhibits are “Polish Chicago 1850-1939,” “Folk Art Collection” and “The Paderewski Collection,” which documents the life of Polish pianist and composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski. Tickets: $6-$10.

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The Hartwell Memorial Window

The Hartwell Memorial Window bears a design attributed to Agnes F. Northrop of Tiffany Studios.The Art Institute of Chicago

When: Permanent

Where: Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan

What: A magnificent stained glass window made by Tiffany Studios in 1917 is now on permanent display at the Art Institute. The Hartwell Memorial Window, attributed to Agnes F. Northrop, Tiffany’s leading landscape window designer, was originally commissioned for a church as the gift of Mary L. Hartwell in memory of her husband Frederick W. Hartwell. It consists of 48 different panels, and is a scenic view of Mount Chocorua, a peak in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The window, located near the museum’s entrance, is one of the most ambitious landscape window projects produced by Tiffany. Museum admission: $14-$25.

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McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum

Gears that open the bridge.Friends of the Chicago River

When: Ongoing

Where: 99 Chicago Riverwalk

What: This five-story museum celebrates the Chicago River and its world-famous movable bridges. Visitors explore a historic bridgehouse, watch the massive gears of a moving bridge and learn about the history of the Chicago River. Plus from the top floor, there’s a 360-degree view of the city and river. Find the museum at 99 Chicago Riverwalk. Admission: $5, $6; children 5 and under free.

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