Many folks prefer to be outdoors come summer. But on those sweltering days or on those stormy days that make outside activities impossible, you might want to check out the myriad options at Chicago-area museums. Survey fantastical folklore-inspired creatures or tribal treasures from Indigenous people, get up close and personal with Beluga whales, view a major retrospective of a post-Impressionist master or see the world’s largest display of Lego sculptures.
Those are just a few of the entertaining and illuminating options listed below. Check with individual museums and venues about admission policies and COVID-19 precautions.
This fantastical fish by Alejandro Camacho Barrera is among the works that are a part of Cantigny Park’s exhibition “Alebrijes: Creatures of a Dream World.” – Courtesy of Dave Blake, Cantigny Suburban exhibitions
• “Alebrijes: Creatures of a Dream World,” June 1 to Oct. 31, at Cantigny Park, 1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton. The outdoor exhibition showcases 48 eye-catching works of art consisting of mythical creatures inspired by Mexican folklore. Alebrijes refers to the fantastical creatures Mexican artist Pedro Linares created during the 1930s. (630) 668-5161 or cantigny.org.
• “Hooking Up: Meet the Collection,” June 4 to Aug. 7, at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art (CCMA), College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn. The exhibition features works by masters Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Rembrandt van Rign with works by Chicago artists Theaster Gates, Riva Lehrer, Britni Mara, Audrey Niffenegger and others. (630) 942-2321 or theccma.org.
The Cleve Carney Museum of Art’s exhibition “Hooking Up: Meet the Collection” includes “Man in an Arbor” (1642), by Rembrandt van Rijn. – Courtesy of the Cleve Carney Museum of Art, College of DuPage
• “Nature’s Blueprints: Biomimicry in Art and Design,” June 17 to Aug. 14, at the Elmhurst Art Museum, 150 Cottage Hill Ave., Elmhurst. This family-friendly, hands-on exhibition explores the inspiration that nature provides. For example: How bird and bat wings inspired flight and forest burrs inspired Velcro. (630) 834-0202 or elmhurstartmuseum.org.
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• “Unsettled Ground: Art and Environment From the Smart Museum Collection,” through June 26, at the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave., Chicago. Incorporating works from the museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition poses a conversation between art and the environment, which imagines artists as observers of local, regional and global ecologies. (773) 702-0200 or smartmuseum.uchicago.edu.
• “Frida Kahlo, Her Photos,” through Aug. 7, and “Surrounding Kahlo: Works From the Permanent Collection,” through Jan. 15, 2023, at The National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St., Chicago. Comprised of photographs from Kahlo’s personal collection, “Her Photos” is not chronological. Rather it’s meant to reveal Kahlo’s personal history and that of the era. “Surrounding Kahlo” consists of works inspired by Frida Kahlo; works of her students, known as “Los Fridos”; along with familiar items Kahlo surrounded herself with such as Mexican crafts and folk art, Mesoamerican artifacts and traditional clothing from Mexico. See nationalmuseumofmexicanart.org.
Paul Cezanne’s painting “Still Life with Apples” (1893-1894) is among the works on display as part of the Art Institute of Chicago’s exhibition “Cezanne.” – Courtesy of The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
• “Cezanne,” through Sept. 5, at the Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. This marks the first major retrospective of post-Impressionist painter Paul Cezanne’s work in the U.S. in 25 years and the first organized by the Art Institute in more than 70 years. Produced with London’s Tate Modern, the exhibition examines the breadth of the pioneering artist’s career through 90 oil paintings, 40 watercolors and drawings and two sketchbooks. Also at the Art Institute, “Mel Bochner Drawings: A Retrospective,” through Aug. 22. This marks the first exhibition of the American conceptual artist organized around his drawings. The nearly 90 works span 60 years and include works from his personal collection never seen before. Featured are works on paper in ink, pencil and charcoal; oil paint on newspaper; wall drawings in powder pigment; and stones arranged on the floor, many of which are subversive, humorous and which helped redefine traditional boundaries of drawing. See artic.edu.
• “Nick Cave: Forothermore,” through Oct. 2, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago. The Chicago artist’s first career-spanning retrospective includes never-before-seen works like the site-specific “Spinner Forest,” which consists of thousands of kinetic spinners hanging in the two-story atrium and fourth-floor lobby. The exhibition includes immersive installations, textural sculptures, fashion, videos and performances. (312) 397-4010 or mcachicago.org.
• “Frida: Immersive Dream,” through May 28, at Lighthouse Artspace at the Germania Club, 108 W. Germania Place, Chicago. The digital exhibition includes images of Frida Kahlo’s signature works along with drawings and photographs of the artists and the people who inspired her. See immersive-frida.com.
• “Immersive Monet and the Impressionists,” June 17 through Sept. 25, at Lighthouse Artspace at the Germania Club, 108 W. Germania Place, Chicago. The exhibition features works by Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt and others. See immersivemonet.com.
• “Prince: The Immersive Experience,” opens June 9, at The Shops at North Bridge, 540 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago. The 60-minute, multisensory exhibition is described as a virtual trip through the performer’s life and music. See princetheexperience.com.
• Museum of Illusions Chicago, 25 W. Washington St., Chicago. The museum consists of more than 80 visual and educational exhibits featuring holograms, stereograms, optical illusions and immersive rooms. (312) 722-6780 or moichicago.com.
The Art Institute of Chicago’s “Cezanne” exhibition includes the artist’s self-portrait “Portrait of the Artist with Pink Background from about 1875.” – Courtesy of Musée d’Orsay, photo by Adrien Didierjean Other exhibitions
• “Reclaiming Cultural Treasures,” Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, 3001 Central St., Evanston. Produced in collaboration with the Chinese American Museum of Chicago and the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago, this exhibition examines the efforts of tribal communities and other global groups to reclaim culturally significant works — many of them stolen from Indigenous people — that are held in private and public collections around the world. (847) 475-1030 or mitchellmuseum.org.
• “Beluga Encounters,” select days through June, at the John G. Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. Visitors have a chance to get up close and personal with the Shedd’s beluga whales. (312) 939-2438 or sheddaquarium.org.
• “Shanghai: Safe, Haven During the Holocaust,” through Sept. 5 at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie. This exhibition examines a little-known moment in history through Arthur Rothstein’s photographs taken in 1946 of European Jews who found refuge from the Nazis in Shanghai, China. (847) 967-4800 or ilholocaustmuseum.org.
• “Jurassic Oceans: Monsters of the Deep,” through Sept. 5, at The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. The exhibition introduces visitors to the prehistoric marine animals that called the oceans home millions of years ago. (312) 922-9410 or fieldmuseum.org.
• “The Art of the Brick,” through Sept. 5, at the Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. Reportedly the world’s largest display of Lego art, this exhibition by artist Nathan Sawaya consists of more than 100 sculptures including his originals as well as re-creations of masterworks including Michaelangelo’s David, Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” See msichicago.org.
• “Imagine the Moon” at the Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. The planetarium’s newest sky show examines how the moon has inspired artists, educators and explorers. See adlerplanetarium.org.