Today I explored galleries on Michigan Avenue, The Loop, & The South Loop. All the galleries I visited were different and unique in their own way. State Street Gallery had an abundance of windows, which allowed for the gallery to be lit with natural light. I prefer this method to windowless galleries. The displays at State Street gallery are rotated every three months.
Next I visited the School of the Art Institute. It brings me displeasure to say that I was actually embarrassed for the first display. I hesitate to say, “drawings” and “collages” were arbitrarily taped on the walls along with random objects, such as cigarette papers, clothing items, and a block of wood. I would hardly call myself a tough art critic. Pretty much anything floats my boat except seashell art and whatever the hell the students displayed in the gallery were trying to achieve. Pathetic.
Another gallery at the School of the Art Institute was better. This was a windowless space. It felt almost like a cold factory with white walls and visible piping on the ceiling, but it somehow still managed to work. Pieces were suspended in the air. Unlike the videos at the Smart Museum, which one could listen to voluntarily through a headset, voice recordings playing on a loop filled the room. The exhibit, Coordinates, succeeded in connecting architecture, sculpture, performance, and costume.
The Oppenheimer Gallery on the corner of MIchigan Avenue and Hubbard can be described as more posh than the others I visited thus far. The walls were grey and a lavish carpet covered the gallery floors. About 99% of the paintings were displayed in ornate, golden frames. The theme of the gallery is natural history, so all the pieces were of wildlife or plants. The theme never changes. The gallery offers custom framing, and has rare books on display and for sale. I could connect with this gallery because I wish to incorporate framing and books in my own gallery, although I would not have the same theme. The books were a special treat for me. I got to see Abraham Ortelius’s Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Alexander Wilson’s American Ornithology, and Audubon’s The Birds of America. The Birds of America is one of the rarest books in the world. The production of this specific edition was halted by the Civil War, and actually bankrupted the Audubon family.
I concluded my adventure for the day at R.S Johnson Fine Art Gallery. I was greeted at the door by R. Stanley Johnson himself. He was a friendly man, I wish I had been less shy and spoken to him more. Perhaps I’ll return one day to interview him. His assistant, Eric was enthusiastic about showing me around. The gallery mostly had original Picasso pieces, along with German expressionists, and contemporary art. It was located on the 9th floor, so I imagine they don’t get many people in who only wish to browse. Erich showed me a secret wall that opened up into a storage nook for more paintings. He told me that their displays change about three times a year. He invited me to an opening at the end of summer. All the art in the gallery was owned by the gallery and they specialize in master prints. The gallery was opened in 1955 and sold to over 65 museums. That figure is larger than any other gallery. The space was quiet. It was surreal taking notes while sitting in a room surrounded by original Picasso paintings.
I have always enjoyed my time spent in museums, but I would much rather achieve the intimacy that galleries, such as the R.S Johnson gallery, provide their viewers.
Patricia Singer, Intern.