Monday, 29 September 2014

A WHIRLWIND IN THE WINDY CITY

MUSEUM MONDAY

BY CADY MOYER

Millennium Park, Chicago, with the Art Institute of Chicago visible at the far right. Photo taken by author. 
Happy Museum Monday from the Windy City; my name is Cady, and this is my first post for Musings.

Coincidentally, I actually HAVE something exciting to share. This weekend I was fortunate enough to be in Chicago for work. It was my first time to that stunning city, and if you are into museums you can have a literal field day on Museum Campus.

My plan originally, was to go to the Field Museum; however, I was swayed by my colleagues and locals that I had to see the Art Institute of Chicago. So off I went on a hot sunny Saturday morning. It took me half an hour to walk there from my hotel, leaving me an hour and a half before my next meeting. This meant that I only had 60 minutes to see the Art Institute.

I knew I would have to be fast in order to see it all in that time. Now, I’m of the school of thought that believes luck is good planning carefully executed (I’m not sure why I still prescribe to this belief; ironically more often than not, this is the opposite of my reality).

With the help of an information staff person, I planned out a route on the museum's map:





Photo taken by Cady Moyer, September 27, 2014
My map. Here on the `first floor, you can see my route drawn out.

FIRST FLOOR
1. Chagall's America Windows
2. Byzantine Special Exhibition , Of Heaven and Earth
3. Greek Art
4. Roman Art
5. Etruscan Art
6. Byzantine Art
7. American Art before 1900
8. American Decorative Arts
9. Indian, South Asian, and Himalayan Art
10. Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Art
11. Indian Art of the Americas
12. African Art

SECOND FLOOR
13. Chicago Architecture
14. European Art before 1900
15. Prints and Drawings
16. American Folk Art
17. Renaissance Jewelry
18. Arms and Armor
19. European Decorative Arts
20. And finally…Impressionism (saving the best for last)

If you read all through that list, 1-20, you're amazing.
If you didn't, because numbers 3-19 all blended into the word art then, you are amazingly normal, like me.

I completely gave up on seeing other special exhibitions galleries, and the sections on Modern American Art, Contemporary Art after 1960, as well as the entire lower level of miniature houses.

So little old me, colour coded map in hand, set off thinking, yeah, I got this--Art Institute of Chicago in one hour--I can totally do that. I am practiced in getting through a museum quickly (my fiancé has about an hour internal time limit for such activities). Confident, I started my stopwatch and off I went.


TIME - GALLERY
0:00.59 - Greek Art
Not even a minute in and I deviated from my plan. In retrospect that should have been my first warning, but I felt great at the time. The Chagall Windows were just behind me, I'd go there next. Change of plans, not a problem. 

In the Greek Art Gallery, I found this object particularly intriguing. I don’t know exactly what it is. Anyone else know?

Photo taken by Cady Moyer, September 27, 2014.
Object from the Greek Art gallery at the Art Institute of Chicago. Comment below if you know what it is! Photo taken by author.
0:03:47 -  Hellenistic and Roman Art
Okay still not Chagall Windows, but it was right next to the Greek Art gallery, so if I could get it done now, why not? 

Photo taken by Cady Moyer. September 27, 2014.
Roman Art Gallery, Art Institute of Chicago. Photo taken by author.

0:04:03 – Chagall’s America Windows
The space exhibiting these windows was quiet and contemplative, bathed in a beautiful blue light. I loved it. I was only four minutes into my hour and already accomplished 3 galleries, so I decided I had time to spare, and stayed with the windows a little longer than I should have.

Photo taken by Cady Moyer, September 27, 2014.
Chagall's America Windows, Art Institute of Chicago. Photo taken by author.

0:07:44 - Etruscan Art
In this gallery I was excited to find a polished bronze mirror that I remembered admiring in one of my textbooks when I took a course on Etruscan Art and Architecture. Here in the museum, it also came along with an interactive iPad. With the iPad I could explore the object from multiple angles, as well as select related objects that together with the mirror offered different narratives. What a great idea!

Photo taken by Cady Moyer.
Playing with the interactive program on the display for discovering an Etruscan bronze mirror.  Photo taken by author. 

0:11:45 - Byzantine Art and Special Exhibition Heaven and Earth 
A little behind schedule at this point, but as long as I had no hiccups, my timing would be fine. Byzantines were champions of the mosaic, and this is the closest I ever got to one. I've seen the finest examples of Byzantine mosaic in Ravenna and Istanbul, but I never got to be so close to them as I did in Chicago. 

Photo taken by Cady Moyer, September 27, 2014.
Mosaic Icon of the Virgin Episkepis, late 13th century, from present day Istanbul, currently at the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo taken by Author.

0:19:07 - Lost.
Despite my best efforts to stay on track, I managed to get lost. While my route looked good on paper, in reality it wasn't a natural flow between the galleries I had selected.


0:20:40 - and Found! American Decorative Arts and American Art before 1900
Due to my time delay getting lost, I should have really rushed through both the American Decorative Arts and American Art before 1900. Yet, there were so many unique objects and intriguing romantic paintings, that I just had to stop and share.

 The Art Institute of Chicago. Photo taken by Cady Moyer.
From the American Art before 1900 gallery. Alvan Fisher painted this scene out of author JamesFenimore Copper's 1827 book Prairie. Photo taken by author. 

0:33:32 - The American West 
The paintings in this gallery were quite narrative, and the sculpture very emotive. This piece stood out to me as the rest of the paintings in the gallery had to do with overt depictions of confrontation. This one though, made me think both about the subjects, and the artist. Considering the painter’s vantage point, was he really there? What was he trying to show? What does the painting’s title Historians of the Tribe mean?

Photo taken by Cady Moyer.
Historians of the Tribe, Frederic Remington, 1890. 

0:39:59 - Indian, South Asian, and Himalayan Art
While this was not a walk through gallery, the space was at least easy to navigate as it was a single large room instead of a series of small rooms to move through (and get lost in…). This gallery had lots of natural light, and vibrant wall paint in shades of red, orange, and yellow. Also...half way through my hour, and nowhere near half way through the museum.

Photo taken by Cady Moyer, September 27, 2014.
Statue in the Indian, South Asian, and Himalayan Art exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo taken by author.

0:45:25 - Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Art
In all honesty, I wasn't going to go in to this set of galleries because I only had fifteen minutes left and had not even finished the first floor...but it looked so good! I couldn't pass it up.

Photo  taken by Cady Moyer, September 27, 2014.
Collection item from Japanese Gallery, Art Institute of Chicago. Photo taken by author.

0:52:39 - African Art and Indian Art of the Americas
The African Art collection on display was much more extensive than that of the Americas. I was really interested to see how the museum displayed their African art collection as I was in a class last week where we visited the Art Gallery of Ontario and learned about the development and display of its African Art collection. There are two very different sets of aesthetics and ideas about display between the AIC and the AGO...

Photo taken by Cady Moyer, September 27, 2014.
Beaded mask from African Art Gallery, Art Institute of Chicago. Photo taken by author. 

0:59:38 - 22 SECONDS LEFT!!!

Time for a quick impression of Impressionism!

Photo taken by Cady Moyer, September 27, 2014.
 A museum goer admiring Monet`s work up close. 

And there you go, the Art Institute of Chicago in 60 minutes. If you want, you can see more of my visit by watching the video, THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO IN 60 SECONDS, below.


This blog post may leave you spinning a little, like I was after my visit. I've intentionally left a lot of my comments on what I saw open, in hopes that you'll have something you want to add or respond to.

Do I recommend trying to see it all in an hour? Absolutely not.
Did I have fun trying to do that? Yes, BUT I did miss getting to know a few pieces really well, or developing any good ideas or thoughts.

My method of taking on the museum in such an ordered fashion didn't go to plan, and in my rush to stick to my route I ended up spending a lot of time trying to figure out if I was where I was supposed to be instead of seeing more of what the museum had to offer in the time I had. I did, however, stay longer in the Impressionism gallery than 22 seconds. I had to, they had 2 rooms full of Monet's work, and he is my favourite painter.

The list of things I missed in an hour is as long as the list of things I saw, but did I ever see a lot. In one hour, I was so fortunate to see a richness of the most beautiful and incredible things that humanity has ever made. Whether the art was created for love, for war, for pride, for passion, for faith, and for reasons unknown, what came into focus during my whirlwind tour in the Windy City, was simply that humans, across time and space, medium and method, are capable of such greatness.

I hope you feel energized, inspired, and full of ideas. You are part of the human race, whose art demonstrates and reminds us that we are all oh-so capable of ingenuity and beauty. So what great thing will you do today, or this week? Perhaps it will start with your comment at the end of this post. Like me stumbling across two rooms full of my favourite painter's works at the end of my marathon of a museum visit, you just don't know when or where you're going to come across your life's greatest wonders--until it just happens.

Happy Museum Monday everyone!

5 comments:

  1. This is truly a whirlwind! But I enjoyed being along for the ride, so to speak. I loved how within the first minute you had already diverted from your careful planning -- it is refreshing to remember that a museum and its art can inspire curiosity that will overrule any itinerary. Of course, you did manage to keep it to one action-packed hour, so kudos to you (and not succumbing to temptation to skip your business meeting!).

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  2. Ha, ha, great post! Love the video with your music selection and speed-walking feet! I personally would have spent 15 mins with the Chagall Windows, 15 mins with Japanese art and 30 min with Impressionism. I now challenge you to do 60 mins at another museum!

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    1. Thanks Jordan-na! Hmm...it could be interesting to go to do 60 minutes in a museum of a different size and see how that impacts my experience!

      - Cady

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    2. I actually really like that idea! and you could have 60 sec vids for all of them - a very cool idea.

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