Best Museum Exhibits This Spring In Chicago

February 24, 2014 7:00 AM

(credit: Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images)

Even though Chicagoans know their city has world-class museums, it sometimes takes a head’s up about a special exhibit to move busy people away from their routines. Part of the problem is remembering to go instead of merely thinking about it. A good way to avoid an oops after an exhibit leaves is to jot the show on the calendar with a star. The following exhibits that range from photography and painting to science and history are worthy of calendar space and stars.

(credit: Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images)

(credit: Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images)

“Christopher Wool”
“Magritte: The Mystery Of The Ordinary”

Art Institute of Chicago
111 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 443-3600

Dates: “Christopher Wool” through May 11, 2014 and “Magritte” June 24-Oct. 13, 2014

Although known for his configurations of block-letter messages, artist Christopher Wool has explored a wide range of styles. His great variety and long history as an influential abstract artist is covered in “Christopher Wool,” a formidable retrospective of about 90 photographs, paintings and works on paper mounted mid-February at the Art Institute of Chicago. The museum then goes from the abstract to the surreal with “Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary.” Arguably the institution’s 2014 blockbuster, the exhibit spotlights Renee Margritte’s innovative images from 1926 to 1938 with more than 100 drawings, paintings, photographs and other works. Both exhibits are in Regenstein Hall, the museum’s major temporary exhibit section.

Field Museum photographed by John Weinstein (Credit: The Field Museum's facebook)

Field Museum photographed by John Weinstein (Credit: The Field Museum’s facebook)

“The Machine Inside: Biometrics”
The Field Museum
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 922-9410

Date: March 12, 2014-Jan. 4, 2015

After seeing “The Machine Inside: Biometrics,” visitors will arguably look at animals with a different perspective. Unlike The Field’s usual exhibits that showcase the surface workings of cultural, historic and environmental activities, “The Machine Inside” answers those “how” questions typical of youngsters, but not so much from adults. Among the displays and interactive answers are how blood from a giraffe’s heart gets all the way up to its head and how some animals can leap as far as they do.

“Arnold Newman: Luminaries Of The Twentieth Century in Art, Politics and Culture”
Lake County Discovery Museum
27277 N. Forest Preserve Road
Lakewood Forest Preserve
Wauconda, IL 60084
(847) 968-3400

Date: March 15-Aug. 17, 2014

Worth a trip anytime, the Lake County Discovery Museum in Chicago’s northwestern suburb of Wauconda takes visitors on a roller-coaster ride through the area’s history and houses the country’s largest permanent display of postcard history. However, the museum also hosts outstanding art exhibits. Such is “Luminaries of the Twentieth Century in Art, Politics and Culture,” a show of extraordinary black and white shots of John F. Kennedy, Georgia O’Keeffe, Eleanor Roosevelt, Leonard Bernstein and several other bright lights of the past century. Known as “the father of environmental portraiture,” Newman captures his famed subjects in hallmark settings.

Related: Best Chicago Business With Art Galleries

“Railroaders: Jack Delano’s Homefront Photography”
Chicago History Museum
1601N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 642-4600

Date: Apr. 5, 2014 – Aug. 10, 2015

Given Chicago’s Midwest location, it is no surprise that the city has historically been a railroad center where passengers and freight meet from across the United States. But the rails and their workers also played an important part during World War II. “Railroaders: Jack Delano’s Homefront Photography” documents the role of the city’s railroad industry and its workers during wartime. The photographs are the result of Delano being asked by the Office of War Information’s Farm Security Administration to record railroad industry activities.

“Legend And Legacy: Jean Baptiste Point”
Du Sable Museum of African American History
740 E. 56th Place
Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 947-0600

Date: June 1, 2014

An interactive exhibit, “Legend and Legacy: Jean Baptiste Pointe” (Du Sable) features the sights and sounds the Afro-French trader-explorer would have experienced in the late 1700s when he camped in the Indian-named “Exchikcago” area. Often considered the founder of Chicago, Du Sable considered the area a good site for a trading post and settlement. An excellent resource for African American culture and history, the museum features the achievements and fascinating stories of people of African descent.

Best Permanent Exhibits In Chicago

Jodie Jacobs is a veteran journalist who loves writing about Chicago, art, theater, museums and travel. Her work can be found on

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