//In Situ with the Art Institute of Chicago

In Situ with the Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago suffers from the same embarrassment of riches as other large metropolitan museums: a collection so large that only a small portion can be displayed at any one time. Visitors, especially returning visitors and members, want to see more of the collection and want to see “new” objects or exhibitions at a rate befitting today’s fast-paced, ever changing world. How does a large metropolitan art museum meet that challenge?

The Art Institute reorganized its galleries and added more paintings and sculptures. The popularity of decorative arts exhibitions at nearby museums seems to have inspired the Art Institute to re-think its decorative arts galleries.

In previous years, the decorative arts galleries featured tables, chairs, other furniture, and some art objects lined up for their mug shots on white or gray risers. The objects were isolated – a very unwelcoming presentation. Perhaps inspired by historic house museums’ ability to create in situ vignettes for their decorative arts objects, the Art Institute now creates little scenes on its risers. You might see Frank Lloyd Wright chairs and table with a period lamp on the table. John Singer Sargent landscapes now hang above Herter Brothers desks. Tiffany lamps now contain bulbs, are lit from within and are displayed on other Herter Brothers pieces.

The next step would be adding period wall coverings and floor coverings to differentiate further the vignettes. With a textiles department in the lower level, the Art Institute could take that next step.

2018-01-08T15:41:31+00:00December 29th, 2017|Museums|

About the Author:

Samantha Chmelik, principal of Preston Argus, uses her background in operations management, benchmarking, and strategic planning to help cultural and history organizations implement their missions. She has worked and volunteered at libraries, museums, and non-profit organizations for two decades. She is also the author of Museum and Historic Site Management: A Case Study Approach, Rowman & Littlefield, 2015 and Museum Operations: A Handbook of Tools, Templates, and Models, Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.