Art Institute of Chicago to re-create 1893 photo for 125th anniversary
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The Art Institute of Chicago on Saturday plans to re-create a photo taken on Dec. 8, 1893, when the landmark building on Michigan Avenue first opened its doors as a museum.
The idea for re-creating the photo came from the museum’s membership team, which brainstormed ways to commemorate the 125th anniversary. Plans for the photo were made for July but had to be rescheduled because of inclement weather.
The Art Institute settled on the building’s actual 125th anniversary as the perfect time to re-create the shot. The photo will be taken at 10 a.m. Saturday. Museum officials said anyone who wants to be in the photo is welcome to come.
In 1893, the Art Institute had a “limited collection,” said Kati Murphy, the museum’s executive director of public affairs. Murphy said the most celebrated collection at the time was a selection of plaster cast reproductions of sculpture and architectural statuary. The building had been used for the World’s Columbian Exhibition the previous summer.
The catalog for opening day, Dec. 8, 1893, listed two floors of exhibition space (some galleries were not yet open to the public so works are noted in “hallways” and “corridors”), covering everything from Old Dutch Masters and oil paintings to Egyptian and Assyrian sculpture and Greek and Egyptian antiquities.
The Art Institute’s collection has grown to 300,000 works of art, Murphy said, one of the largest collections in the country.
A special lecture hosted by the Art Institute’s James Allan, executive director of planned giving and special gifts, about the building’s history is being held at noon Saturday for museum members only. Information is available artic.edu.
Here are some key moments in the museum’s 125-year history:
— 1913: The International Exhibition of Modern Art (aka the Armory Show) arrived at the museum and introduced Chicagoans to the works of Picasso, Brancusi Gaugin and Matisse via works and plaster copies of sculpture. It marked the first time the work of Picasso was exhibited in the U.S.
— 1954: The 68 world-famous Thorne Miniature Rooms go on permanent display. Each meticulously re-created room captures a slice of European and American life and furnishings from the 13th century to the 1930s. The rooms were designed on a scale of one inch to one foot by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago “and constructed between 1932 and 1940 by master craftsmen according to her specifications,” according to the museum.
— 2009: The museum’s Modern Wing building, designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano, opens to the public. A decade in the making, this 264,000 square-foot building makes the Art Institute the second-largest art museum in the United States.
— 2014: Acquired by the museum in 1964, Gustave Caillebotte’s “Paris Street; Rainy Day” returned to its gallery after a seven-month restoration/conservation.
— 2016: The museum hosted “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms,” three distinct portraits of his bedroom in Arles – the city in the Provence region of southern France where he lived for one year. The exhibit, for the first time in North America, brought together all three distinct versions of the iconic work, in addition to nearly 40 other works of art, letters and drawings by the artist.
— 2017: James McNeill Whistler’s “Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (Portrait of the Artist’s Mother)” most famously nicknamed “Whistler’s Mother” and painted in 1878, returned to the Art Institute for the first time in 60 years. The painting, on loan for the 2017 exhibition, first visited the city in 1933 for the Chicago World’s Fair.