10 Amazing Masterpieces at the Art Institute of Chicago (from a Local)

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Be prepared to be wowed by 10 amazing masterpieces at the Art Institiute of Chicago!

Are you visiting Chicago and want to know the best things to view at this museum?

I have visited the Art Institute of Chicago dozens of times to see amazing artwork and exhibitions and it never disappoints.

This guide was prepared to reveal the most famous masterpieces so that you don’t miss a thing.

The Art Institute of Chicago

Welcome to our travel attraction spotlight on the Chicago Art Institute where you’ll find

  • What to see at the Art Institute of Chicago
  • Free days at the Art Institute of Chicago
  • The hours of operation
  • Where to stay near the museum
  • Things to do near the Art Institute of Chicago
  • Where to park near the museum

There are several famous works of art that you must see because the museum is most famous for these curated works of art.

And if you are looking for places to eat near the Art Institute, we have you covered!

Save on admission fees with a Chicago city pass!

The Thorne Miniature Rooms

Location: Lower Level

The Art Institute of Chicago’s Thorne Miniature Rooms is a collection of model rooms with themed furnishings.

As you gaze into the miniature-themed rooms, you can also imagine what it is like to walk the floors and live inside the home.

Each room is exquisitely detailed from the rugs to the chandeliers. The interior design and architecture of England, France, and America make it difficult to decide on a favorite.

This exhibit features 68 miniature rooms created by a Chicago socialite in the early 1930s. The rooms are built to scale and are an incredible display of her imagination.

Painting and Sculpture of Europe

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, by Georges Seurat

Location: Gallery 240

art institute of chicago A Sunday on La Grande Jatte 1884 1

This famous work depicts a relaxed afternoon walk along the Seine River in Paris. There is also a small oil sketch of “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884″.

Two Sisters (On the Terrace), by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Location: Gallery 240

art institute of chicago two sisters

This is one of the most beloved paintings of impressionism. The colors are vibrant and the facial expressions are a lovely portrayal.

The Basket of Apples, by Paul Cézanne

Location: Regenstein Hall

art institute of chicago - The Basket of Apples

If you haven’t seen the exhibit of Cezanne at the museum, hurry because it ends in September.

The collection is amazing and there is something different to be noticed in everything you view the artwork.

The Bedroom, by Vincent van Gogh

Location: Gallery 241

art institute of chicago The Bedroom 1

At the Moulin Rouge, by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Location: Gallery 242

art institute of chicago at the moulin rouge

Arts of the Americas

Nighthawks, by Edward Hopper

Location: Gallery 262

One wonders if this painting is of a real coffee shop, but it is not. The streets are clean, and the generous space in the art pulls your eyes to the characters.

Did you know the woman is the artist’s wife and was used many times in his works?

American Gothic, by Grant Wood

Location: Gallery 263

The art depicts farmers believed to be married. But did you know the artist meant to show a father and daughter?

Even more interesting is that the characters in the painting are the artist’s sister and his dentist.

The coolest thing is the house is still standing, and you can visit it in Eldon, Iowa.

Modern Art

The Old Guitarist, by Pablo Picasso

Location: Gallery 391

a painting of an old man playing a guitar

At first glance, you can feel sadness, pain, and despair. Pablos had an uncanny way of evoking emotion in this artwork.

It was created to express his sympathy for those who are facing adversity.

Chicago Stock Exchange Arch

Location: Southeast Intersection of Monroe St. and S. Columbus Dr.

art institute chicago 2

Chicago is home to some of the most famous buildings, including this one. It is a remnant of a demolished Chicago Stock Exchange that you can see for free.

Free Admission at the Art Institute of Chicago

The museum offers free days to Illinois residents on select days of the year and proof of residence, like a driver’s license or state ID, is required.

Entry to the Art Institute of Chicago is also free to children under 14, Chicago teens under 18, Link and WIC cardholders, Illinois educators, and active duty military.  

In addition, admission for Illinois residents is on certain days throughout the year. In 2023, free entry is available Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays from January 9th through March 24th but you will still need to reserve the ticket. The following areas are available for viewing:

  • The Ryan Learning Center in the Modern Wing
  • The North and South Gardens (accessible from Michigan Avenue)
  • The Nichols Bridgeway connecting the museum to Millennium Park
  • The Bluhm Family Terrace on the 3rd floor of the west pavilion of the Modern Wing

General admission for out-of-state visitors is $25 (adults) and $19 (seniors, students, teens). Discounts are given to Illinois residents (about $3 per ticket).

However, if you are not a city or state resident, there is an opportunity for you to enter for free!  

Visitors may also enter for free with 1 (or up to 3) additional guests, depending on your place of employment.

Employees of corporate partners, like JPMorgan Chase, BMO Harris, and many others are eligible to visit the museum with no admission fee.  

If you don’t have business cards, take a printout of your directory profile, or bring your corporate credit card.

If your employer is not a partner, you’ll be surprised at the savings with a Chicago city pass.

When is the Art Institute of Chicago Open

art institute chicago 1

Wondering what time does the Art Institute of Chicago open? The museum is open to the public on the following days.

Monday: 11:00 AM –5:00 PM
Tuesday – Wednesday: Closed
Thursday: 11:00 AM –8:00 PM
Friday – Sunday: 11:00 AM –5:00 PM

As a perk to members only, the museum is open from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM for viewing.

The Art Institute of Chicago is closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and certain holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day).

Things to do Near the Art Institute of Chicago

Things to Know Before You Go

foyer with carpet floor and staircase
  • The museum is privately owned and no videos are allowed. Many visitors are not aware of this rule and thus, the unintended does happen. Photographs are allowed, but tripods, selfie sticks, and flash photography are discouraged. And some works of art are not allowed to be photographed.
  • Admission includes entry to the Modern Wing – Renzo Piano
  • Virtual tours and events hosted by the museum can be viewed online. 

Parking

  • Parking at the Palmer House garage is reasonable. They have early morning specials for $17 with tax included. You must enter between 4:00 AM and 8:00 AM and exit by 7:00 PM from Monday through Friday. There is a four-hour minimum stay and the address is 55 E. Monroe St. You can have breakfast in Chicago, take a stroll on Michigan Ave, then circle back to visit the museum!
  • Another good parking option is the Grant Park South garage. Their early bird option is $17. You must enter between 7:00 AM and 10:00 AM and exit by 7:00 PM from Monday through Friday. The address is 325 S. Michigan Ave.

Beyond the Art Institute of Chicago

staircase with twinkling lights

Chicago has an abundance of exciting activities beyond the most popular tourist attractions.

Families can explore Chinatown‘s culture and cuisine, while couples will find plenty of date night options like comedy shows, concerts, and other performing arts events.

For breathtaking views, head up to one of Chicago’s observation decks, like the Skydeck at Willis Tower.

More great ways to experience the city include taking a cruise on the Chicago River or Lake Michigan, catching a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, or spending an afternoon people watching in Millennium Park.

Get your steps in by joining one of the fantastic walking tours that take you to Chicago’s iconic architecture, unique neighborhoods, public art installations, and more.

You can also see the sights from a hop-on hop-off double decker bus and create your own adventure.

With so many choices, use this ultimate Chicago bucket list to make sure you hit all the highlights during your Windy City getaway!

Final Thoughts on The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the most highly regarded art museums in the world.

It is home to an impressive collection of art from many different periods and cultures, as well as European paintings, Impressionism, Japanese art, and sculptures.

If you are planning a trip to Chicago, be sure to include a visit to the Art Institute on your itinerary. You’ll be glad you did!


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8 Comments

  1. Lisa | Waves and Cobblestones says:

    I do love Impressionist art — these are some lovely examples. And I wish I’d had the pizza restaurant recommendation before my last trip to Chicago!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      I am a huge fan of impressionism as well and love visiting the museums. If you have any questions before your next trip, please let me know and I’d be happy to assist!

  2. Love this post. I try to visit Chicago a couple of times per year and the Art Institute is ALWAYS a stop for me. I love all the paintings you recommended. I also would recommend Chagall’s stained glass wall and the sculpture gallery. The AIC’s temporary exhibitions are also always outstanding. Thanks for the awesome restaurant suggestions nearby. I will definitely try Pizano’s Pizza on my next visit.

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      Oh yes, I love Chagall’s windows too, and Paris Street; Rainy Day, by Gustave Caillebotte. Maybe I should change it to top 20 and add a few more 🙂 Thanks for reading. I think you will REALLY like Pizano’s or Cindy’s Rooftop.

  3. I have been to Chicago a few times, but have not yet visited the Art gallery. I do enjoy this time period of artwork and Chagall would be top of the list to see his work.

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      You can get some good deals with the Chicago Pass. Check out this article for your next visit — https://www.travelsandtreasures.com/home/2022/a-guide-to-seeing-chicago-attractions-with-city-passes — Safe travels!

  4. Julia Ali says:

    You’re so awesome! I don’t believe I have read a single thing like that before. So great to find someone with some original thoughts on this topic. Really.. thank you for starting this up. This website is something that is needed on the internet, someone with a little originality!

    1. Tanya (Admin) says:

      Thanks for reading!