This is an amazing place, and even if you aren't an art lover and don't know much about art (Me!), you will almost certainly have a pleasant day here. It is awesome to finally see a work of art with your own eyes that you have previously only seen in books - American Gothic, Nighthawks, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte... the list goes on and on.
My favorite piece is Ivan Albright's "The Door" (That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do). I visit it every time I go to the AI, and am always affected by it. Check it out.
My favorite work in the Modern WIng is Charles Ray's "Hinoki", but for different reasons. The artist was driving along the California coast when he discovered a beautiful fallen tree. The decaying tree fit perfectly into the meadow where it lay. So... he enlisted some friends with chainsaws, and they cut the tree into pieces and took it back to his studio in LA! Desiring to make a wood carving of the tree, he took molds which were sent to Japan so that woodcarvers could re-create his vision in Japanese cypress. The artist came to realize that his artwork, like the original tree, will one day rot and decay. This piece provokes a lot of thought (along with a smile!)
I don't "get" the art films that are shown, but I love to walk through the dark galleries, and perhaps rest my feet and try to figure out what is being shown on the screen. It reminds me of walking through a haunted house, especially since most of the films are really creepy.
Finally, a few tips. 1) There are some free days, but you may wish to call the AI to confirm. We went on the first Wednesday of the month, which according to the website is a free day for Illinois residents. The apologetic man at the ticket booth explained that there was a lot of mis-information on the website, so we ended up paying for the visit. 2)There are two entrances, the main entrance on Michigan Avenue (get your photo taken with the lions!) and the Modern WIng entrance. You may not have to wait as long if you enter via the Modern Wing on Monroe. We used the main entrance the other day, and had a long wait in the cold, even though it was after 11 a.m. when we arrived. At least a Streetwise vendor was there to amuse the crowd with a few jokes. 3) Take one of the short guided tours. On our last two visits, we have joined the free tours and learned a little something or visited a gallery that we didn't know about. Ask about the daily tours at the information desk. 4) Plan out your visit in advance, so you don't miss something that you will regret not seeing. I am kicking myself right now for not seeing the Thorne miniature rooms on our recent visit. 5) Seriously consider eating at Terzo Piano, located in the Modern Wing. It is expensive, but the food is amazing, the views are spectacular, and you won't have to exit the museum to get there. We have reserved through OpenTable and have gotten window seats with views of the Crown Fountain. 6) Grab a map; the layout of the AI can be a little confusing. 7) Make sure to visit the gift shop. It is always wall-to-wall people, but it is fun to look around. If you see a piece of art that you love, stop by the gift shop and buy a postcard for only $1.25 and put it on your refrigerator or send it to a friend. How about Day of the Dead or Mary Cassatt tattoos for $1.50, or Modigliani stickers? There are a lot of reasonably priced non-tacky souvenirs here.
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