Chicago is one of the best cities in the world for art.
Don’t think it pales in comparison to cities like New York and Los Angeles —in 2013 Trip Advisor ranked the Art Institute of Chicago the No. 1 museum in the country and the No. 3 museum in the world, and the museum alone houses some of the most famous art in the world, including Grant Wood’s “American Gothic,” Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks,” and Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”
But the Art Institute is just the beginning. From contemporary to classical, the city has a multitude of great museums to explore.
Like students going back to school, museums ramp up their programming in September, with almost all major museums around the city opening new exhibits this month.
Getting cultured won’t break the bank either—all the museums listed either have free admission, a student rate or certain free days.
So take a free afternoon before your coursework gets too heavy, see some great art, impress your friends by how cultured you are, repeat.
Opened Sept. 11 | 935 W. Fullerton Ave. | Free
Time Out Chicago recently named our own DPAM the most underrated musuem in Chicago, and it’s living up to its name with a unique featured exhibit of Depression-era art. The Works Progress Administration gave federal funds to artists during the Great Depression, leading to the creation of everything from fiction to fine art. Prints from artists such as Fletcher Martin, Edward Arthur Wilson and Harry Sternberg explore the social issues of their time in their work.
Opens Sept. 18 | 111 S. Michigan Ave. | $12 for students
Free Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m. for Illinois residents.
The beginning of the museum’s nine-month series, “Photography Is” celebrates the 40th anniversary of photography at the museum, as well as the fifth anniversary of photography in the Modern Wing. The series begins with exhibits of two photographers in the Modern Wing, Sarah Charlesworth and August Sander. “Sarah Charlesworth: Stills” exhibits a set of enlarged, cropped news photographs of people jumping or falling from tall buildings. A group of seven of these photos were originally exhibited in 1980, but the complete series of 14 photographs have never been exhibited. “Stills” is the first American museum solo show of Charlesworth’s work in 15 years. Also make sure to check out “Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938,” an amazing retrospective of the artist’s work, including “The Treachery of Images” and “Time Transfixed” before it closes Oct. 13.
Opens Sept. 19 | 1852 W. 19th St. | Free
The Pilsen museum’s permanent collection is currently closed through December, but NMA’s annual Day of the Dead exhibit, the largest in the U.S. warrants a trip despite the absence. Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican tradition of honoring and remembering the dead, and the museums exhibits does so with a traditional Otomí altar and a burial mound offering (ofrenda-túmulo) from the state of Mexico as well as installations and other art from more than 60 artists from Mexico and the United States. Chicagoans with work on display include Rita Arias-Jirasek’s installation for author Gabriel García Márquez, Marcos Raya, Héctor Barrón and more.
Opens Sept. 23 | 220 E. Chicago Ave. | $25 for “David Bowie Is,”
The MCA easily has the most-hyped exhibit of the fall: A 400-object retrospective of the incredible career of David Bowie. The exhibit will feature everything from Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust bodysuits to handwritten lyrics, set designs to album art work and more. Along with the extensive collection, the museum has planned a variety of events related to the exhibit with everything from the Chicago brother-and-sister duo White Mystery covering Bowie to a talk of of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes on the artist later in the fall. Tickets can be purchased with admission or online at mcachicago.org before visiting the museum. Tickets for the special exhibit will set you back more than normal—a student-rate ticket for the MCA is $7, with free admission on Tuesdays.
Opens Sept. 27 | 5550 S. Greenwood Ave. | Free
University of Chicago’s museum usually houses a few different temporary exhibits as well as a permanent collection, but the entire space is being taken over by the sculpture exhibit. Celebrating the museum’s 40th anniversary, the exhibit is completely comprised of 3-D works (and a few drawings by sculptures), including a piece that was part of the museum’s first exhibit in 1974. Sculptures from contemporary artists such as John Chamberlain and Robert Irwin will be exhibited along with small-scale work from Auguste Rodin, Jacques Lipchitz, ancient Chinese mingqi tomb and European bronze work. The exhibit promises to be impressive—the Smart Museum is closed for the entire month to prepare for the opening.