The Renaissance Society was founded in 1915 by a group of University of Chicago faculty, and our name refers to their intention to create a space in which to foster engagement with new ideas in arts and culture.
In the early 20th century the Renaissance Society played a key role in bringing European and other avant-garde practices to Chicago through presentations of Henri Matisse, Alexander Calder, Fernand Léger, Mies Van Der Rohe, Käthe Kollwitz, and Joseph Cornell, among others.
“The Ren” – as we are known by many – is an independent, non-collecting museum driven by an uncompromising commitment to artists and their ideas. All exhibitions and events are free and open to the public.
We offer artists the time, space, resources, and freedom that are vital for ambitious experimentation and risk-taking. Our work with artists frequently results in newly commissioned art, and their presentations in our 3,000 square feet gallery spur further scholarly and creative reflections in our publications and public programs.
Visitors to the Ren find a uniquely intimate platform for encountering artistic expressions that give form to, challenge, and complicate currents in contemporary thought. Events – including artist talks, lectures, screenings, concerts, readings, and more – offer further opportunities for discovery and discussion. We maintain robust archives, which are frequently accessed by art historians, students, and other institutions.