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Chicago, Illinois

The Renaissance Society

An avant garde art museum at the University of Chicago. 

You’ve probably never heard of the Renaissance Society. Though its name sounds antiquated, the name comes from the broad meaning of renaissance, “rebirth”. Rather than concentrate on the past, the Society maintains “bold and early commitments to this country’s most challenging and provocative art.” The Renaissance Society was one of the first museums to focus on “modern art.” Unlike most museums that measure their worth by the value of their permanent collection, the Renaissance Society is a non-collecting museum, so it devotes its energy to unique shows, much like a gallery.

Opened it 1915, it predated the Museum of Modern Art in New York by 13 years. Under the direction of Eva Watson-Schütze from 1929-1925, the Renaissance Society brought the works of Picasso, Chagall, Miro, Arp and other moderns to Chicagoans. In 1934, the Society hosted Alexander Calder’s first solo show. Throughout the 20th century, they continued to lead, exhibiting Julian Schnabel, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman and others, before their work was bought by art collectors and museums. Who’s on show now?