The Sun Never Sets on Magritte

POSTED BY , ON June 12, 2014, Comments Off

The Banquet

When Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938 opens in less than two weeks, it will include some of the Art Institute’s best known works by Magritte—like Time Transfixed—but it won’t include many others—like The Banquet, pictured above—painted in the decades after 1938.

Magritte developed his artistic vocabulary in the 1920s and 30s, but even 20 years later, you can still see some of the artistic hallmarks that he carried forward to his later career. Similar to much of his early work, this was painted in a straightforward, realist style. You can recognize all of the elements of the painting—an architectural balustrade, a dense forest, and a sun—but in typical Magritte fashion, everything isn’t where you might expect it to be. If you were in fact standing on this terrace, this looming red sun would be hidden behind all of the trees. This is a twist on a Surrealist idea called displacement, or moving something from its proper place.

This painting was part of a larger series in which Magritte experimented with varying qualities of light at different times of day. In one painting, a crescent moon fills the sky and in another, the sky is gray-blue. In this version, the orange-red sky and the strong glow of the setting sun contrasting with the landscape combine to create what Magritte himself referred to as a “charge of strangeness.”

We invite you to the museum for this exciting exhibition, but then we hope you’ll take a walk through the rest of our Modern galleries to see The Banquet and continue the dialogue on Magritte and surrealism.

Image Credits: René Magritte. The Banquet, 1958. Lindy and Edwin Bergman Collection. © 2014 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.


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Hearing from the Horse’s Mouth

POSTED BY , ON June 06, 2014, Comments Off


It’s always a treat to hear directly from an artist. But the experience is even better when the artist—in this case, Josef Koudelka—is so remarkably candid about his process, inspirations, and what makes good art.

Last night, Czech-born French artist Josef Koudelka—with Matthew S. Witkovsky, the Richard and Ellen Sandor Chair and Curator, Department of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago and Amanda Maddox, assistant curator at the Getty Museum—spoke to a packed house in the Art Institute’s Fullerton Hall. Visitors were welcomed by lively Romani music, in direct reference to Koudelka’s early photographic series Gypsies (example above), for which he visited Roma populations for weeks at a time in his home country and later abroad over the course of years. Koudelka said that he’s often asked why he chose to photograph gypsies and that he hoped that the entrance music provided the answer to that question.


He also spoke extensively about what makes a good photograph—one that gets into your head and speaks to different people for different reasons—and his process for determining good photographs. He is an incredibly discerning editor of his own work, evaluating each image on a contact sheet and circling images that are the best or images that might have potential. He only publishes and puts his full name on his best images—the ones he eventually wants to be remembered for. In his words, there are “no great photographers, only great photographs.”

And for all of you aspiring photographers, he offered some great final advice: discover what you love, photograph it, and buy good shoes. Now those are words to live by.

Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful opens tomorrow to the public and runs through September 14.

Image Credits:

Josef Koudelka. Romania, from the series Gypsies, 1968, printed 1980s. Promised gift of Robin and Sandy Stuart. © Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos. Courtesy of Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York.

Josef Koudelka. (Student on tank, eyes crossed out), from the series Invasion, August 21/27, 1968. © Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos. Courtesy of Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York.

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For Serious Art Addicts

POSTED BY , ON May 28, 2014, Comments Off


Has anyone told you not to play with your food? How about with your art? For all of us tactile learners, the Art Institute has cooked up a treat! We aren’t suggesting a hands-on policy in the galleries (though some fake news sites have!). Instead, we’re debuting a new game for anyone who has ever visited the Art Institute of Chicago, is planning to visit, or would like to do so someday! We’ve arranged some of our greatest treasures as the pieces in a sliding tile game built like the 2048 game that recently proved so hard to stop playing.


If you’re going to spend excessive amounts of time on your computer or phone merging tiles, why not look at some amazing art while you’re at it? Check out our game here. Let us know on this blog, or on our Facebook page if you can figure out each of the pictures. There are eleven different artworks standing for each of the doubled numbers from 2 to 2048 in the original game.

And did we mention it’s addictive? Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

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Acquiring Nighthawks

POSTED BY , ON May 23, 2014, Comments Off

Hopper, Nighthawks

The Art Institute has always collected the art of its time. Which means that since the museum opened in the late 1800s, it has always put a priority on acquiring art that was recently created. Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, one of the museum’s most well known paintings, takes that to another level, as it joined the museum’s collection in 1942, the very year that it was painted.

In May of that year, Hopper himself wrote to Art Institute director Daniel Catton Rich that he was “very much pleased that you like my Nighthawks well enough to acquire it for the Art Institute. It is, I believe, one of the very best things I have painted. I seem to have come nearer to saying what I want to say in my work, this past winter, than I ever have before.”

This pared down painting—notice the lack of trash in the street, as well as the empty counters in the diner—has a timeless, universal quality that transcends its particular locale. Fluorescent lights had just come into use in the early 1940s, and the all-night diner emits an eerie glow, like a beacon on the dark street corner. Hopper eliminated any reference to an entrance, and the viewer, drawn to the light, is shut out from the scene by a seamless wedge of glass. The four anonymous and uncommunicative night owls seem as separate and remote from the viewer as they are from one another. (The red-haired woman was actually modeled by the artist’s wife, Jo.)

Fun fact: What other famous—and often parodied—painting was acquired by the museum the year it was painted? None other than Grant Wood’s American Gothic.

Image Credit: Edward Hopper. Nighthawks, 1942. Friends of American Art Collection

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Happy Birthday, Modern Wing!

POSTED BY , ON May 16, 2014, 3 COMMENTS

Where does the time go? Today is the Modern Wing’s fifth birthday. Happy birthday, Modern Wing! (It’s a date that holds an extra-special place in my heart, because it’s also MY birthday.) I thought this might be a good opportunity to pause, reflect, take a breath, light some votives, consider where we were, where we are, and where we’re going—live, laugh, love, learn. Here are some highlights from the Modern Wing’s first five years.

Note II

Cy Twombly: The Natural World
Opening day: May 16, 2009
Weather in Chicago: 54ºF, overcast
#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Boom Boom Pow by the Black Eyed Peas

We kicked things off with a boom boom pow indeed. Occupying the Abbott Galleries on the first floor of the Modern Wing, The Natural World memorably featured series’ of Twombly’s expansive, lush canvases. Along with other recent work in sculpture and photography, the exhibition explored the artist’s late-career fascination with travel and the natural beauty of the world.


Opening day: December 10, 2010
Weather in Chicago: 30ºF, light rain
#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Raise Your Glass by P!nk

Raise a glass to contemporary architecture and design. Hyperlinks featured recent projects (in some cases, so recent they were still in concept stages) from over 30 cutting-edge architects and designers. The exhibition contained nearly all media (from conceptual architectural models, urban interventionism, takeaway print design, interactive virtual spaces, and much more) to emphasize the extreme connectedness and fading boundaries between different realms of design and interaction. The show both questioned and answered how we perceive, and create, the world around us.

Restless Raindow 2

Pae White: Restless Rainbow
Opening day: May 21, 2011
Weather in Chicago: 63ºF, mostly cloudy
#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Rolling in the Deep by Adele

Out on the Bluhm Terrace in the summer of 2011, Pae White had us rolling deep—in color. Using the Modern Wing less as a container for her art than a surface for it, White covered the outdoor space in colorful, immersive, disorganized rainbow patterns. While the Modern Wing is a beautiful building, its surroundings—the Chicago Skyline, Lake Michigan, Millennium Park—definitely competes for attention. Restless Rainbow brought our attention back in from those vistas and asked us to consider a newly restless and engaging space.


Allen Ruppersberg: No Time Left to Start Again/The B and D of R ‘n’ R
Opening Day: September 21, 2012
Weather in Chicago: 54ºF, moderate to heavy rain
#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together by Taylor Swift

I’d get back together with this exhibition. Allen Ruppersberg, the conceptual artist known for hopping boundaries both artistic and political, constructed No Time Left to Start Again/The B and D of R ‘n’ R as a survey of American vernacular music. Filling the Modern Wing’s first floor with records, posters, and other laminated musical paraphernalia, Ruppersberg created the sort of spectacle so rife with detail and minutiae that one needs to consider it at a distance before approaching it. By including his own snapshots and a soundtrack of songs dating back to the early 20th century, we considering not just the music itself, but how it enhances and structures our experience of it.

Here’s what we’ve learned: Chicago never gets above 70ºF, Americans love pop music, and the Modern Wing accomplished more than I did in its first five years. Now for some candles to blow out, courtesy of Gerhard Richter!

Zwei Kerzen

Image Credits:

Cy Twombly. Note II, 2005-2007. The Steven and Alexandra Cohen Collection © Cy Twombly. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.
Installation view of Hyperlinks: Architecture and Design
Installation view of Pae White: Restless Rainbow
Installation view of Allen Ruppersberg: No Time Left to Start Again/The B and D of R ‘n’ R
Gerhard Richter. Two Candles, 1982. Twentieth-Century Discretionary Fund. © Gerhard Richter.


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