The Art Institute’s Big Reveal

Longstanding admirers of the Art Institute of Chicago can decidedly attest to the Modern Wing entrance being one of museum’s many distinguishing features, a location that had been under major structural renovation for the majority of 2015 in preparation for its exciting unveiling of The New Contemporary exhibit in December.

Art enthusiasts would undoubtedly agree that the renovations were well worth the wait.

The structural modifications to the museum’s wing was designed by the internationally acclaimed Pritzker Prize winning architect, Renzo Piano. TIME magazine credited Piano as one of the 100 most influential people in 2006, ranking 10th among artists and entertainers whose work was appraised as influential and transformative in “Arts and Entertainment.” Piano has also been recognized by his is commissions, such as the Morgan Library in New York the NEMO Science Center in Amsterdam.

Andy Warhol. Liz #3 [Early Colored Liz], 1963

Piano’s design aesthetic created for The New Contemporary exhibit revealed a breathtaking, spacious, light-filled space. The wing was designed to be flexible for incorporating galleries to showcase various 20th and 21st century art, including installments of photographs, sculptures, architecture or paintings. The exhibit’s anticipated debut revealed an outstanding collection of 42 post-war pieces ranging from the late 1950s through the early 2000s.

For example, characterizing Pop Art of the 1970s and 1980s are paintings from Roy Lichtenstein as well as sculptures by Jeff Koons. Adding to the Art Institute’s already impressive paintings of Gerhard Richter are two new pieces from the 1960s, Hunting Party and Stadtbild, along with two paintings from the 1980s, Davos and Venedig. In addition, the work of Jasper Johns is represented through his three paintings Target, Figure 4, and Alphabet. Lastly, filling its own room in the exhibit is an outstanding collection of nine Andy Warhol prints, including two of his self-portraits and Twelve Jackies.

A sizable contribution to the Modern Wing’s advancement was a donation from Stefan T. Edlis and his wife, Gael Neeson. The couple shares a deep passion and devotion to the arts, especially Chicago’s art community. Edlis has been on the board of trustees at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago for decades now, and has donated a plethora of works of art and named the Edlis Neeson Theater, which pushes the boundaries of performance through dance, theater and music.

Edlis has voiced his frustration for museums’ tendency to receive incredible donations that end up in storage until an undisclosed time. “I have donated works of art to museums for years, but have been frustrated by their lack of exposure,” Stefan Edlis said.

The Art Institute responded to Edlis’ frustration by arranging for all 42 art pieces to be permanently displayed for the next 50 years, allowing them to be viewed and enjoyed for decades, an offer that was the deciding factor for Edlis and Neeson’s donation.

“A gift of art of this importance and scope is incredibly rare, occurring perhaps once every 40 or 50 years,” Robert Levy, Chairman of the Art Institute’s Board of Trustees, said. “The fact that the gift is composed of contemporary art, as the Impressionist collection also was when first assembled, demonstrates that Chicago’s collectors and institutions have always been progressive and forward looking.”

Take in the beautiful changes made to The Art Institute yourself, located at 111 South Michigan Ave., open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays until 8 p.m. For Illinois residents, admission is free every Thursday.