A Night at the Museum

A Night at the Museum

Install shot of three Constantin Brâncuși sculptures.

While in Chicago last week, I had the pleasure to visit the Art Institute on multiple occasions for some special celebrations. One of these occasions entailed visiting the museum almost privately at night, hence being able to focus on some of the masterpieces present at the space without a crowd and with all the time I required to stand in front of the pieces.

I was excited to see a few works in particular, such as: ‘A Sunday on La Grande Jatte’ by Georges Seurat; “Paris Street; Rainy Day” by Gustav Caillebotte; “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper; and “American Gothic” by Grant Wood.

The permanent collection also contains pieces by Pablo Picasso, Constantin Brâncuși, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Marc Chagall and Georgia O’Keeffe, to name a few.

The entirety of the museum is scrutinously curated, offering insight into different art movements and a multitude of angles from which to observe art through diverse perspective, taking it all in.

It was particularly great to see some pieces from Cézanne which had been lent to the Tate Modern in London by the Art Institute of Chicago for the exhibition that took place from October 2022 until March 2023.

“Salvador Dalí: The Image Disappears”

“Salvador Dalí: The Image Disappears”

Install shot of exhibition room with "Untitled (Dream of Venus), formerly Visions of Eternity," 1939 and "Venus de Milo with Drawers," 1936.

As part of the programme at the Art Institute, there was a temporary exhibition on Dalí: “Salvador Dalí: The Image Disappears.” As expected, and rightly-so, the exhibition focuses on the impact the artist had on Surrealism, and the masterful mark-making he brings to his absurd depictions of dream-like settings. The exhibition walls were painted in a faded pink, proposing this dream state to the visitors of the exhibitions, whom wondering around the gallery surrounded with such paintings and objects could almost feel as being part of the absurdity of the works themselves.

The title of the exhibition is spot-on: “the image disappears”, with the subjects of Dalí’s paintings mutating from one to another, blurring the line between the real and imaginative, as one disappears into the other with a focus on the artist’s “defining, [yet] contradictory, impulses: an immense desire for visibility and the urge to disappear.” (Art Institute of Chicago)

The exhibition included works from the permanent collection of the Art Institute as well a multiple loans from around the world.

"Van Gogh and the Avant-Garde: The Modern Landscape"

"Entrance to the Voyer-d'Argenson Park at Asnieres" by Vincent Van Gogh, 1887.

The second temporary exhibition that was on at the Art Institute of Chicago was centred around Van Gogh, titled “Van Gogh and the Avant-Garde: The Modern Landscape.”

The show, put together by the Institute and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, showcases more than 70 pieces not only from Van Gogh, but also from fellow artists George Seurat, Paul Signac, Emile Bernard and Charles Angrand, whom all took the tranquil suburbs of Paris like Asnières, as source of inspiration for some of their paintings.

This area, initially considered a relaxing spot outside the hustle of the capital, was becoming increasingly industrialised due to the expansion of the Paris’ city limits. This served as inspiration to the artists in question, who were fascinated by the contrast between countryside and industrialism by “how the bringing together of extremes—the countryside as a whole and the bustle here [in the city]—gives [me] new ideas.” (Vincent Van Gogh, letter dated around January 2, 1886). (Art Institute of Chicago)

These years of the 80s of the 19th Century, brought experimentation and exploration through colours and techniques, resulting in the development of Divisionism (unblended brushstrokes), Pointillism (small dots rather than lines used to create the picture) and Cloisonnism (depictions of large landscapes contoured by dark contours.