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Reflections on Chicago

August 21, 2009

Last Wednesday night, I had the good fortune to drive to Chicago to spend an excellent extended weekend with my good friend Aaron.  Due to a coworker’s maternity leave, Aaron was not able to miss work which meant that I would get to entertain myself in America’s third largest city for the better part of two days.  I figured that the city had enough to offer that I would not grow bored (I didn’t) or tired (I most certainly did–but that was due to driving through the night then not sleeping before I tried to tackle the city, full on).

In a few hours on my first day there (I rolled in at about 7 CST Thursday morning) I was able to get through most of the essential touristy things a visitor must see: Sears Tower, Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain, etc.  Having seen those sites, I was free to spend most of Thursday at the Art Institute of Chicago.  My only regret in going there was that I was a bit too exhausted from the drive to fully enjoy its offerings.  What struck me most about this museum was its modern and contemporary art collections.  With a few oversights, they present a nice overview of the 20th into the 21st century of art.  Off topic a bit, but if I hear the phrase, “And why is this art? I could do that!” one more time, I may harm someone.  In addition to their 20th century collection, the Art Institute has a great selection of Impressionists, including Seurat’s beautiful “Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte.”

To ease my fatigue, I found that the parks on either side of the Art Institute are wonderfully shaded and peaceful–a little sanctuary right off of Michigan Ave.  In the evening, we grabbed some wonderful Chicago-style pizza off Broadway and not much else.

Friday I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art and was a little less than blown away.  It seemed as if much of their collection is not displayed and only carted out if it fits the theme at any particular time.  I suppose this is desirable from a curator’s standpoint, but for the average visitor, it is disappointing.  Despite my disappointment, the museum has some incredible works.  The current main exhibition is Take Your Time: Olafur Eliasson and features some incredible conceptual pieces by the Danish-Icelandic artist.  Eliasson is best known for the installation of a waterfall under the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.

Beyond the museums and tourist attractions, I got a very good feel from Chicago.  It’s much cleaner than Philadelphia (sorry Philly), less hectic than New York, and we had great weather while there. I’ll hold off complete judgment until I’ve been in Chicago for the winter.

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