The Art Institute Of Chicago

The Art Institute Of Chicago The Art Institute Of Chicago

The Art Institute Of Chicago

The Art Institute Of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is located in Downtown Chicago at the intersection of Adam Street and Michigan Avenue. The main entrance to the museum is located on Michigan Avenue in a beautiful Beau Arts stone structure.

The main building of the Art Institute was built in 1892 for the 1993 Worlds Columbian Exposition. In that capacity it served as the Hall of Congress for the exposition. The Art Institute was formerly in a Norman-Gothic structure on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Van Buren, just two blocks south of it’s current location. That space is now occupied by the Chicago Club which made arrangements with the Art Institute to purchase the building for its growing membership. The Chicago Club is Chicago’s leading private club and many of the Art Institutes’s Board of Trustees are members of this club which include Stanley Field, Potter Palmer, and Marshall Field.

The original design for the main building was a large red-stone Romanesque building that was later rejected for the current design. The building had galleries on two floors with a staircase at that time near the rear of the building. It was intended as funds increased to build a larger grand staircase in the center of the building which they indeed do years later after World War I.

The first floor galleries were intended to show-case sculpture and the second floor was intended for drawings and paintings. At the entry there was an opening to the gallery above with railing around to provide fresh air and light, since that time and the advent of modern climate control systems that opening has been covered and ceiling lights take it’s space.

As you ascend the stairs you will note that there is something strange in the design of the ceiling above for the entire ceiling above the grand staircase is all glass and quite modern looking, not at all in line with the Beau Arts design of the building. Further, you will notice as you look around the mezzanine of the staircase that there are two rows of classical pillars on the east and west sides of the upper gallery and the east side even has arches. What this show is the unfinished plans for the building. It was intended at the time for there to be colonnades all around the second floor rotunda topped off with a Roman dome! However, due to restricted funds these plans were never completed and the “temporary” class ceiling over the grand staircase has become permanent.

As is the case with many of our country’s great museums they start with one design and end up with another. Case in point, the massive stone blocks piled up on top of the entry pillars at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York were intended for sculptured figures that never received the funding. However, we must be thankful for these wonderful places for they stir our imagination and inspire us to be creative, enriched citizens.

Stephen F. Condren – Artist

By Stephen Condren

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