Things to do at museums in ChicagoMary Houlihan – For the Sun-Timeson June 18, 2021 at 2:24 pm

Frida Kahlo, “The Bus,” 1929, oil on canvas, collection Museo Dolores Olmedo, Xochimilco, Mexico.
© 2020 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Chicago is home to some of the world’s greatest museums. Use our guide to find events and activities happening at the city’s many galleries and exhibits.

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.

‘The Obama Portraits’

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama

When: To Aug. 15

Where: Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan

What: The Art Institute is the first stop of a five-city tour for the official portraits of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald are the first African Americans to be commissioned by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Galley to create the official portraits of a president or first lady. A free stream features Sherald in conversation with Michelle Obama at 5 p.m. June 30. Pre-registration required. After the nationwide tour, the portraits will reside in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The exhibit is included with museum admission ($14-$25).

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‘Chicago Comics: 1960s to Now’

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

When: June 19-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 Carré, 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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‘Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Jane Goodall’

A new exhibit at the Field Museum, “Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Jane Goodall,” follows her journey from her childhood in England to a career as a passionate scientist studying chimpanzees in Africa.
Hugo van Lawick/National Geographic

When: To Sept. 6

Where: Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr.

What: Generations have been inspired by the work of primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall, who has not only shown the urgent need to protect chimpanzees but also redefined species conservation to include the needs of local people and the environments. A new exhibit follows her journey from a curious young child in England to a passionate scientist studying chimpanzees in Africa. Included in the exhibit are a re-creation of her field research tent, a hologramlike projection of Goodall sharing her fieldwork memories, augmented reality activities and a projection of Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park. Tickets: $18-$32.

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‘Vivian Maier: In Color’

Three Highland Park firemen Highland Park, Illinois, August 1964 Tres bomberos de Highland Park Highland Park, Illinois, agosto de 1964 Inkjet print, 2021 Gift of Jeffrey Goldstein, © The Estate of Vivian Maier 
Gift of Jeffrey Goldstein/© The Estate of Vivian Maier
Vivian Maier, “Three Highland Park firemen,” Highland Park, August 1964, inkjet print.

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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‘Frida Kahlo: Timeless’

When: Through Sept. 6

Where: Cleve Carney Museum of Art in the McAninch Arts Center, College of DuPage, 425 Fawell, Glen Ellyn

What: Here’s the not-too-miss art exhibit of the summer. Dolores Olmedo (1908-2002), a Mexican musician, businesswoman and friend of artists Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera, amassed an impressive list of works by both artists that reside in Mexico City’s Museo Dolores Olmedo. Her collection of paintings and works on paper by Kahlo have now traveled to the newly expanded Cleve Carney Museum of Art. The long-awaited exhibit, delayed a year because of the pandemic, features an array of oil paintings and works on paper, pivotal pieces created by the artist. Also featured are a multimedia timeline that offers 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: $23, $40.

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Museum of Contemporary Photography

Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery
An-My Lê’s “Migrant Workers Harvesting Asparagus, Mendota, California,” part of “Much Unseen Is Also Here.”

When: Through Aug. 29

Where: 600 S. Michigan at Columbia College Chicago

What: The museum is presenting two new exhibits. “Much Unseen Is Also Here: An-My Lê and Shahzia Sikander” features the work of two Asian-American artists who explore their relationship to America. In the tradition of American road photography, Lê’s photographs confront the political rhetoric of the moment and tackle current events; Sikander uses sculpture, drawings and animation to examine the intersection of power, gender, empire and self. “Martine Gutierrez” features work from Gutierrez’s independent art publication, “Indigenous Woman”, a magazine exploring how deeply sexism, colorism, racism, transphobia and other biases are embedded and ubiquitous in popular culture and fashion photography. Admission is free.

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Polish Museum of America

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

Hartwell Memorial Window 1917, leaded glass; design attributed to Agnes F. Northrop. Tiffany Studios, Corona, New York. The Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago
The Hartwell Memorial Window bears a design attributed to Agnes F. Northrop of Tiffany Studios.

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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‘Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Exhibition’

You can walk among life-sized reproductions of a fresco masterpiece when you visit “Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition” in Oakbrook Center.
SEE Attractions
You can walk among life-sized reproductions of a fresco masterpiece when you visit “Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition” in Oakbrook Center.

When: Ongoing

Where: Oakbrook Center, 2120 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook

What: For a new perspective on some of the world’s greatest art check out this immersive exhibition showcasing the artist’s renowned ceiling frescos from the Vatican chapel. The reproductions were made using a photographic technique that captures the look and feel of the original paintings. Tickets: $14-$26.60.

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