St. Patrick’s Day may be long gone, but Ireland has always been more integrated into this country and this city than just a one-day celebration. It is extremely evident in the Art Institute of Chicago’s (AIC) newest exhibit “Ireland: Crossroads of Art and Design, 1690–1840.”
If you want to know how ingrained Ireland culture is than look no further than the 10,000 – 15,000 sq. feet exhibit filled with more than 300 Irish objects lent to AIC explicitly from North American private and public collectors. The exhibit is divided into 10 galleries that showcase Irish portraits, musical instruments, silver, guns, furniture, and more. Having this collection of fine and decorative arts from the 18th century not only paints a complete picture of the European island during that time period, but it is the first time it has been done anywhere in the world.
The exhibit is expansive enough to where someone can spend a couple of days just exploring, but for those who don’t have enough time there are some must-see pieces. Viewers will be greeted by giant 10,000-year-old Irish elk antlers that were actually hanging in the offices of the American College of Surgeons here in Chicago. There are also some firsts featured in the exhibit such as an upright piano, which was invented in Ireland, and work from Henrietta de Beaulieu Dering Johnston, who is both Ireland and America’s first known female painter. In many instances the viewer will realize that the exhibit focuses as much on art and aesthetics as well as history making it a great draw for people infatuated with both subjects.
“Ireland: Crossroads of Art and Design, 1690–1840” will be on view through June 7 at the Art Institute of Chicago located at 111 S. Michigan Ave. For more information visit artic.edu/ireland-crossroads-art-and-design-1690-1840.