20 APRIL 2011 :: IT FILLS MY HEART WITH JOY
There are some cities that leave a lasting impression on you, just a couple of nights and you’re already feeling at home. In 2006 I first passed through Chicago, I knew from day one it was “my kinda town”. At the time I described it as a big city populated by small town folks. Last week my work took me back through Chicago, I’m very happy to say my outlook has not changed one bit.
Rather than talking about the people, or the food, or the atmosphere, all of which could be considered highlights in their own right. I want to talk about the one attraction I took the time off work to go and visit: The Art Institute of Chicago. Having skimmed through it once before, my expectations were high. I was not disappointed.
Walking around, my mind was racing with ideas to write about. Now that I’m sitting and writing they are not so forthcoming. That said, what struck me from the outset was the incredible quality of everything on display.
I started in the basement with the paperweight and miniature collection. While it’s not hard to imagine me getting excited about paperweights, even I was shocked by the miniatures! These are one inch to one foot, model reproductions of European and American interiors up to the 1930s. Essentially you’re walking around looking at doll house furniture!?!? Yet you can’t help being entranced by it all.
I decided to walk upstairs find something a little more age/gender/sexuality appropriate. While walking around I was once again overwhelmed by just how good the collection was. Room after room after room, all filled with the most amazing art imaginable.
Consider this, I am not a modern art fan, in any sense of the word. I’m someone who has begrudgingly walked around PS1, the Tate Modern and MOMA, yet here in Chicago, even the modern art was sensational.
While I spent much time enjoying the moment impressionist art achieved perfection - Georges Seurat, Sunday on la grande jatte - Among a collection this good, it did not stand out the way you’d expect it to. In fact, it was a smaller painting in an adjacent room that struck me most.
Camille Pissarro’s simple and beautiful painting left a lasting impression on me. While I’ve always loved the Seurat, this painting really took my breath away.
Had I continued photographing everything I liked, I’d have needed a bigger camera. I decided it’d be a better challenge to find something I didn’t like. Eventually I spied it across a room. Hanging there so tragically out of place, the exception that proves the rule. The one bad piece in the entire Art Institute… Plucked chicken hanging from broken door.
Having finally found something bad I decided it was time to see what else Chicago had to offer. As I walked out through the great stairs I noticed a temporary exhibit that captured the essence of my afternoon at The Art Institute. The piece is considerably more thought provoking than I’ll go into here. But I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Little by little, one travels far.
J. R. R. Tolkien