Historical museums are flat-out cool. You can witness artifacts you may have only glimpsed upon on television and the big screen. Better yet, you can discover something you never knew existed-discovering is always fun. Unfortunately, besides arrow heads and native American tools, I can’t find many remnants of ancient cultures in Wisconsin. That changes if I take a short three-hour drive to the windy city.
An older building pasted in the middle of the trendy and classy Millennium Park , the Art Institute of Chicago impresses me as an in-depth history Museum. Art maybe in its title, yet, I marvel at the history behind these storied pieces. There is art from many different cultures, from Greek and Roman to Japanese and Chinese.
This is the start of an ideal vacation to Mexico. My flight leaves at 6:05 am tomorrow, so, I’m staying overnight in Chicago. While I’m here, why not check out the sights? It is bitterly cold and I brave the frigid wind chill, as I make my way towards Millennium Park. It’s late afternoon and my companion is debating whether two hours would be worth paying $25 per person, that’s usually out of my price range.
After talking it over, since she has never been there and I only once, we decide to go. We battle the icy gusts and trudge throuh town, with layers of clothing protecting our bodies.
After entering the shrine, we follow a long line of people, both for tickets and coat check- the coat check is only a dollar. After the preliminaries are attended to, we enter the lobby, enjoying the ornate foyer of the old building. It is beautifully adorned with interesting artifacts dating back hundreds of years.
We follow a flight of stairs to the lower level. I’m floored as Japanese pottery, masks, scrolls and statues are on display. These works of art, some thousands of years old, boggle my mind. I mean, once someone from a very different time and place labored over this. It was not intended for me, as I doubt the crafters could have imagined it would end up here. Yet, I feel a connection that stretches far beyond time, different philosophies and an, altogether, different knowledge and perception of the world.
I walk the galleries to the Indian sculptures, amazed for the same reason. Buddhist statues, statues of deities and others that I simply don’t understand allow me to marvel. We follow the halls and find much of the same with the Greek and Roman galleries. For those fans of the movie Gladiator, there is a bust of Marcus Arelius -the entire piece is intact.
We hunt and find the early American art. From sculptures of wild west scenes to portraits of military men in full dress uniform, I love it. I’ve seen many museums covering this period of time, yet, I’m blown away by the amount that is here. Not only are there sculptures and paintings, but very ornate furniture fascinates both myself and my companion. Of course I’m thrilled to view American Gothic, the very print worthy painting, as the original piece is before me.
We meander up the staircase to the European collection, even more amazing. A room is dedicated mostly to Van Gogh here, the prize has to be his self-portrait. Like I said in a previous blog, I’m practically art illiterate. I find Monet’s work and I discover Renoir and Pissarro, both of the latter painted awesome pieces.
Beyond that, many pictures of the Renaissance era dazzle us. Religious pieces, pieces subject to interpretation, and, once again, furniture of the time provide a mystery. How did people, disadvantaged by an age lacking today’s technological advancements, create such perfect pieces?
Of all the galleries, of which there are too many to mention, my favorite has to be the armor and antique weaponry galleries. Here, I discover many full suits of armor, shields, and swords. It depicts an era when warriors looked one another in the eye, even if it was through a visor.
Also, adjoined to the armor and feudal age weaponry, I find antique pistols, flintlocks, crossbows and more in a gallery. They were bragging pieces, like a sports car or the latest cell phone, as they were incredibly ornate and meticulously crafted.
We spend two hours in the Museum, only because they close at five. Seriously, we could have spent all day. Even if we had, it would have not been enough time to peruse every item and placard. I could go back now and take away something different that I would discover..
It really is an amazing attraction. For sure, it’s the best museum in Chicago, not that I’ve investigated them all. Of course its ranking among Chicago’s attractions is subjective, but I’d say its the best. If I had to rate this place I’d give it 10 out of 10. For the amount of security and history that is there, $25 is actually fairly reasonable.
My next blog will be about traveling to Barra de Navidad in Jalisco Mexico. I know, not in the upper midwest. Give me a break, you can’t do anything in sub zero temps!