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“Small but Great”

Smart Museum of Art
Ranked #151 of 647 things to do in Chicago
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Attraction details
Fee: No
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: As the art museum of the University of Chicago, the Smart Museum of Art is home to acclaimed special exhibitions and a permanent collection that spans five thousand years of artistic creation. Free and open to the public.
Irvine, California
Level 4 Contributor
16 reviews
13 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“Small but Great”
Reviewed 5 July 2013

Excellent examples of first half of 20th century European art. Excellent but small collection overall. Free an easy to combine with visit to the Oriental institute and the Robie house. Good interesting architecture on university of Chicago campus. Campus maps do keep one from getting lost and have been very helpful due to the fact that 58th street was closed during my visit for reconstruction.

Visited June 2013
Helpful?
2 Thank antware
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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37 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • Italian first
  • Any
English first
Carmel, Indiana
Level 6 Contributor
115 reviews
47 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 40 helpful votes
“small but delightful”
Reviewed 8 April 2013

Right on the U of Chicago campus, this tiny but delightful museum is a great stop. Within walking distance of the Robie House and the Oriental Museum, you can easily spend a day on the campus looking at both architecture and art. There is no fee to enter and enjoy this little fun spot.

Visited April 2013
Helpful?
2 Thank Patti E
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Connecticut
Level 5 Contributor
90 reviews
12 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 47 helpful votes
“Hyde Park Highlight”
Reviewed 14 November 2012

Wow, we were impressed and surprised with the free museum at Univ. of Chicago. We enjoyed this more than the Robie House, which was our primary reason for taking the Metra down to this part of Chicago. Do not miss this museum if you are in the area! They did a fabulous job on the main exhibit, which was a comparison of French and Japanese block prints. Catch it if you can!

Visited October 2012
Helpful?
Thank CTTravelers
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Silver Spring, Maryland
Level 6 Contributor
828 reviews
316 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 340 helpful votes
“Small Free Art Museum”
Reviewed 12 September 2012

The Smart Museum of Art is a small art museum on the campus of the University of Chicago. It's a short bus ride (#55) from the Garfield CTA stations or the Museum of Science and Industry. There's a small exhibit area with a wide variety of art. When I visited there was a special exhibition of Korean art. It was a real treat to take a guided tour done by the professor who had curated the exhibit and his graduate students. For a short visit to Chicago I'd stick with the Art Institute and the Museum of Contemporary Art, but the Smart Museum is a good choice if you are in south Chicago, particularly if you combine it with a visit to the campus and the nearby Oriental Institute.

Visited September 2012
Helpful?
1 Thank areview28
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Chicago, Illinois
Level 1 Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“The University of Chicago's free art museum”
Reviewed 9 July 2012

The Smart is a nice little free art museum on the campus of the University of Chicago. If you're only in town for a few days, the Smart probably doesn't need to make your itinerary, but if you're on campus or otherwise in or around Hyde Park (maybe at the Museum of Science and Industry, the Robie House, the Du Sable Museum, or the Oriental Institute), it's worth wandering over for an hour or two to look at the art or just to sit in the coffee shop in the lobby.

The Smart has a very varied collection and not a huge amount of space to show it in. This means you will be in a room with American Modernist painters from Arthur Dove to Mark Rothko, then walk through a door and suddenly be standing before a case of ancient Chinese bronzes. I happen to like this, but some might find it a little offputting. A bigger issue is that a third or more of the museum is devoted to the central space for rotating special exhibitions, and several of the smaller galleries also have rotating shows. If you don't like the special exhibitions or if they are between shows then the Smart becomes a lot less interesting. If you're not already in Hyde Park it makes sense to see what's on before making the trip.

One thing I like about the Smart is that there are usually several pieces up by artists with Chicago ties, often pieces by one or more of the Chicago Imagists. There will also usually be selections from the museum's large W.C. Westermann collection out on display. There's not a lot of 1960s-1980s Chicago art on view in the city, so it's good that there is usually some out at the Smart.

The lobby of the museum is devoted to a coffee shop that is one of the better places in the neighborhood to sit and chill, and probably the best place on campus to do so. There's a pleasant courtyard in front of the building with a few sculptures in it and some seating for when the weather is nice. Be warned that one weekend a month they have Family Day, meaning a riot of children drawing or otherwise making stuff in the lobby. Check the calendar on the website!

Visited July 2012
Helpful?
1 Thank nhighmore
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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