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May 11, 2009

Chicago: Hot Town, Art in the City

A rendering of the new Renzo Piano-designed wing at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Photo: The Art Institute of Chicago

by Ondine Cohane

I love Chicago. I started traveling there for work a few years ago, and I immediately became a fan, particularly after discovering some of the city's great hotels and restaurants. Among my favorite stops? The Peninsula for its luxurious rooms and perfect location; the newly refurbished Ritz-Carlton Chicago (which, confusingly, is actually a Four Seasons) for its impeccable but friendly service; Avec restaurant for its encyclopedic wine list and simple but excellent food (it was just nominated for a James Beard Award); and Ikram boutique, which Michelle Obama recently brought into the spotlight. Of course, the fact that the Obamas made their home in Chicago for so many years has given the city a little extra luster.

This month, there's another reason to book a ticket to the Windy City: On May 16, the Art Institute of Chicago will unveil its new Modern Wing, designed by Renzo Piano. Like Piano's lovely addition to New York's Morgan Library (see the New York Times's rave review), this one looks to be a beautifully understated addition, with the quintessential Piano light-filled entrance hall. The 264,000 square feet of new space will increase the Art Institute's size by a third, and museum-goers will enjoy iconic views of Millennium Park and Chicago's skyline (look at the reflection of the buildings on the museum's windows). The inaugural exhibition will feature the most recent work of superstar artist Cy Twombly--and don't miss architectural photographer Judith Turner's abstracts of the new wing.

There are plenty of other exhibits and museums opening around the country to get you in the traveling mood this spring and summer:

* A fascinating exhibit on Pompeii opened on May 3 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

* Fashionistas will enjoy "Model as Muse," which opened May 6 at New York's Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum. While you're there, you might want to pick your favorite model of all time. (I have to go with Veruschka, Christy Turlington, and Daria Werbowy. See, I can't choose!)

* Also in Manhattan, starting May 15, is the Frank Lloyd Wright blockbuster at the Guggenheim.

* Santa Fe debuts its New Mexico History Museum on May 24.

* You can take a look at early-twentieth-century skyscrapers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art starting June 6.

* An exhibition on Georgia O' Keefe and the influence of modernist Arthur Dove on her work opens on June 7 at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Anything I should add to the list? Let me know!


The new Modern Wing of the Chicago Art Institute got a great review today for its architecture and a mostly good one for the art collection today in the New York Times. Check out and

The official surf museum of California moved last month from it's humble beginnings into a new facility in Oceanside, CA. (30 minutes north of San Diego)

The new California Surf Museum web site ( has not been launched yet. For now, you can read more details and see some pictures here:

You'll learn about the whole history of surfing, the surfers, evolution of the surf board, and movies that made California synonymous with surfing.

Just a few blocks away at Pier Beach, you can watch surfers attempt first-of-its-kind stunts and occasional surf competitions.

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