Art Institute Chicago attracts 1.5 million visitors annually. Since its founding in 1879, the Art Institute Chicago has collected approximately 300,000 art works spanning the history of humanity and expanded into eight buildings covering nearly 1 million square feet near Lake Michigan.


The Art Institute Chicago began in 1879 as a school for the fine arts and museum in an effort to rebuild after the metropolis in Chicago had been destroyed by the Great Fire of 1871. The City of Chicago and Art Institute worked together to construct a building for the World’s Columbian Exposition which would become the Art Institute permanent home in 1893 on Michigan Avenue and Adams Street. The famous bronze lions that still flank the entrance of the Art Institute have been at the entrance from the very beginning.

The research library was constructed in 1901 followed by 8 major expansions over the last century, the most recent of which was the modern art wing in 2009. The permanent collection, which began as only a few plaster casts, has now amassed over 300,000 works from ancient human history to modern art. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the museum of the Art Institute are both internationally recognized as leaders in the world of fine arts.

The museum is open daily from 10:30am-5pm with extended hours on Thursdays when the museum stays open with free admission for Illinois residents until 8pm. There are select holidays in which the Art Institute is closed. Admission information is available online.

Collections and Exhibitions

The Exhibitions at Art Institute Chicago are always rotating and changing. With over 300,000 pieces in the collection, pieces are on exhibit temporarily and on loan to other museums and educational institutions from time to time. The current pieces on exhibit can always be found on the Art Institute Website. Past and future exhibition details can also be found online.

Currently there are over 95,000 works from the collection that can be viewed through the online database with basic information about each piece. Users can also create their own custom gallery with their favorite pieces.

African-The African collection includes more than 400 works spanning the continent but highlighting the sculptural traditions of the West Coast and Central regions. The collection includes masks, beadwork, textiles, and furniture, as well as the largest collection of African ceramics, at over 80 pieces, in any American museum.

American- This department includes work from the 18th century through modern art with more than 1,000 paintings and sculptures and 2,500 decorative objects dating back to the 17th century. The collection includes several pieces from Alfred Stieglitz, James McNeill Whistler and Georgia O’Keefe.

Ancient and Byzantine- Dating back nearly 4,000 years, this collection holds some of the earliest and most significant art in human history from ancient Byzantine, Egyptian and Roman cultures. There are more than 5,000 pieces in this collection including pottery, terracotta and stone sculpture, jewelry, and coins.

Architecture and Design- More than 250,000 objects comprise this impressive collection that is largely made up of works by Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, along with contemporary architects Elizabeth Diller and Lindy Roy among others.

Arms, Armor, Medieval, and Renaissance- The 500-year period of European history during the Renaissance is the focus of this collection that includes paintings, sculpture, textiles, stained glass, and other objects from Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands.

Asian- 35,000 objects from 5 millennia of Asian history are part of this collection that highlight China, Korea, Japan, India, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.

Contemporary- Iconic works from around the world since 1945 are featured in the Contemporary Collection that currently has more than 1,000 works from paintings to sculptures and installations. Jackson Pollock and Joan Mitchell are two of the most recognizable names of artists in this collection.

European Decorative Arts- Furniture, metalwork, glass, enamel and other decorative arts from Europe circa 1100 to present comprise this 25,000-piece collection that also includes the Arthur Rubloff Paperweight Collection.

European Painting and Sculpture- With 3,500 pieces from the 12th-29th centuries, the European Painting and sculpture collection is considered to be one of the best in the world with many rare holdings from impressionist and post-impressionist artists from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Indian Art of the Americas- Mesoamerican and Andean works with a focus on Plains Indians and the Southwest Native Americans.

Modern Art- More than 1,000 modern art pieces from Europe and the Americas including pieces from Picasso and Matisse.

Photography- With pieces dating back to the inventory of the form, this collection began in 1949 with a donation from Georgia O’Keeffe.

Prints and Drawings- These works on paper include more than 11,000 drawings and 60,000 prints dating back to the 15th century featuring strengths in the French 19th Century art forms in particular.

Textiles- The collection has some of the most ancient artifacts, going back to 300 B.C. and highlighting Pre-Columbian works.

Thorne Miniature Rooms- 68 rooms total, these miniature rooms are outfitted to the furnishings of European and American life from the 13th century through the 1930’s.

111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 60603, website, Phone: 312-443-3600

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