The Art Institute of Chicago collects, preserves, and interprets works of art of the highest quality, representing the world’s diverse artistic traditions, for the inspiration and education of the public and in accordance with our profession’s highest ethical standards and practices.
The Art Institute of Chicago was founded as both a museum and school for the fine arts in 1879, a critical era in the history of Chicago as civic energies were devoted to rebuilding the metropolis that had been destroyed by the Great Fire of 1871. Its first collections consisting primarily of plaster casts, the Art Institute found its permanent home in 1893, when it moved into a building, constructed jointly with the city of Chicago for the World’s Columbian Exposition, at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street. That building, its entry flanked by the two famous bronze lions, remains the “front door” of the museum even today. In keeping with the academic origins of the institution, a research library was constructed in 1901; eight major expansions for gallery and administrative space have followed, with the latest being the Modern Wing. The permanent collection has grown from plaster casts to nearly 300,000 works of art. Together, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the museum are now internationally recognized as two of the leading fine arts institutions in the United States.
Designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Renzo Piano and opened in 2009, the Modern Wing is the new home for the museum’s collection of 20th and 21st century art. A decade in the making, this 264,000 square-foot building makes the Art Institute the second largest art museum in the United States. The Modern Wing allows the Art Institute to take its rightful place as one of the world’s great collections of modern and contemporary art.