Year after year, Chicago adds to its arts and culture accolades with inventive new exhibits and exciting new artist exhibitions. And it’s not just the Museum Campus weighing in heavy on our hearts and minds as we consider what we saw this year–great art and museums can be found all over the city in grand mansions and cavernous buildings as well as storefronts and warehouses in just about every neighborhood. Here’s a look at some of the best of what we saw everywhere.
Creating a multi-sensory sensation in October of this year, the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art went all out with their Pictures at an Exhibition event. The event was meant to stir more than simply a music lover’s ears and included various other art forms to accompany the classical fare, which included works from lesser known Ukrainian composers as well as the titular tune, as well as a foodie’s delight song and small bite pairing and plenty of local libations meant to accompany each part of Mussorgsky’s masterpiece while “trippy” animations of the various paintings Pictures at an Exhibition was based on played behind. While it seems like something that could easily spin out of focus, our reviewer Katie Priest found it unique and interesting.
We were excited about Andy Warhol–From A to B and Back Again–it’s safe to say everyone was once they heard that the late artist’s first American retrospective would be landing in Chicago. In fact, we were so excited about this one, our Editor in Chief gave us a sneak peek by seeing the exhibit at the Whitney on a trip to NYC. Whenever and wherever you see it though, Warhol’s work stands the test of time for a reason, and it’s more than worth it to stop viewing him on screens only and come face to face with the pop art patriarch’s work. One of the best things about this best of though is that it’s on display at the Art Insittute of Chicago through January 26th, so if you’ve not made the trip, you’ve got nearly a month of 2020 to get it accomplished in.
It wasn’t a specific exhibit so much as an auspicious occasion that stands out when thinking about the year at the Oriental Institute Museum. After all, it’s not every day you reach your centennial. After some renovation, careful curation, a fantastic artist in res and truly epic works by other collaborating artists, the amazing work to preserve artifacts, language, culture and historical records of the cradle of civilization itself make it a museum with a big impact.
Great art starts conversations, inspires and makes you think. It’s some of what author and music section editor Julian Ramirez already liked about Virgil Abloh and his ouevre, but Figures of Speech solidified that when it opened up at MCA Chicago and had him contemplating notions of the Tourist and the Purist. Abloh turned out for some interviews and even dished out some criticism on critics, and the exhibit overall was a hit.
This exhibit is the one that stunned me this year. On the face of it, it’s a show featuring the several part anthology of indie games created by two man studio Studio Oleomingus out of India The beautiful, surrealist landscapes inside the games on display are based on the lost works of a semi-fictional poet, but the real treasure inside these works is their commentary on industrialism, colonialism and the destruction of the intangibles and stories that make up the feel of a place, and the way that what’s important in a culture is decided not by the people themselves, but by their oppressors. In fact, the talk we got treated to when attending the opening for this exhibit was one of the most compelling talks we’ve heard all year.
This is technically a 2018 pick, but we’re gonna let it slide because it was the bright colors and geometric wonders of the Hairy Who exhibit that picked us up during the holidays, the haze thereafter and saw us gently into 2019. Hairy Who was provocative and showed off a bold and brazen side of the Art Institute we like to see shine. Looking back it was a fitting way to usher in this year’s best of art and museums, and it’s a good time to remind you that it’s easy to miss some truly great art and exhibits in the rush of the holidays, but the first week of January is a great time to catch them before they’re gone, in many cases.
Another breathtaking and bold exhibit we saw this year centered around the Stonewall Riots, looks at queer art and artists since the time of the riots and forward. The exhibit, at the beautiful space at Wrightwood 659, was expertly curated and incredibly moving show full of 500 works of art covering every conceivable media that together reflects a shared experience, for better or worse, and the beautiful diversity of each individual part of the whole.
Of course, this is just a smattering of the fantastic exhibits to be seen on and off Museum Campus, at art museums and galleries from storefront to national forefront. Chicago has great museums on almost every topic you can imagine, and here at Third Coast we’re excited for what next year will bring to our front door. Happy New Year from us at Third Coast Review!