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8 design exhibits to check out this fall

From midcentury modern furniture to stained-glass and historic maps

A scale model of a rectangular building with a multilevel roof and cut-outs, creating interior courtyards.
An architectural model of Tadao Ando’s Pulitzer Arts Foundation in which will be on display at Wrightwood 659.
Courtesy Wrightwood 659

Chicago is a city that thrives off great architecture and design. You may have taken a boat tour to learn the basics, but if you are looking to get a deeper dive into the built environment and the world of design, you are in for a busy fall—especially with the Chicago Architecture Biennial in full swing.

There are plenty of design-focused museum exhibits opening up this season for you to peruse, ranging from a midcentury exhibition in Mies van der Rohe’s restored McCormick House to an exhibit exploring the true meaning of the Midwest.

Elmhurst Art Museum

The McCormick House – Past, Present, Future

September 14, 2019 – January 12, 2020

The Elmhurst Art Museum is also home to Mies van der Rohe’s McCormick House—one of only three residences the famous architect designed and built in the United States. This fall, the home will host a new exhibition, curated by interior architect Robert Kleinschmidt, focused on classic mid-Century furniture. Visitors can also expect to see historic images of the home’s residents, along with information about recent restoration efforts.

Museum of Contemporary Art

The Shape of the Future

October 19, 2019 – April 5, 2020

This exhibit, featuring work from the MCA’s permanent collection, coincides with the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Visitors can expect to think about global modernism, “as a framework for utopia and speculative world making, marked by traces of labor, political fantasy, and cultural turmoil.” The art will focuses on the built environment’s histories and ideologies.

Routes and Territories

November 2, 2019 – April 19, 2020

Focusing on human migration in Latin America, Routes and Territories looks at colonialism and how communities are affected when forced to move. In the exhibit, you can see deeply personal accounts of how physical land can retain memory and history.

Driehaus Museum

Eternal Light: The Sacred Stained-Glass Windows of Louis Comfort Tiffany

September 7, 2019 – March 8, 2020

Drawing Louis Comfort Tiffany’s ecclesiastical window work from collections around the country, the Driehaus Museum is featuring a wide breadth of his stained glass. The collection is focused on windows from 1880 to 1925 and is meant to show his signature styles in the context of the time period. One of the sections on display is about Tiffany’s contributions to Chicago’s World Fair.

DePaul Art Museum

Architectural Annotations

September 12, 2019 – February 23, 2020

Artist Julia Fish curated this exhibition looking at architectural works in Chicago and Rome by the Burnham Brothers, Douglas Garofalo, and Giovanni Battista Piranesi. She focuses on “the visual and conceptual function of ‘annotation’ shared among the three: overt or subtle forms of text and notes integral to, or embedded within, the visual representation of architectural images.”

Julia Fish: bound by spectrum

September 12, 2019 – February 23, 2020

In conjunction with the above, Julia Fish’s artwork from the last decade will be on display. Fish has used her house to do drawings on paper, creating a “a subjective response to objective information.”

Remember Where You Are

September 12, 2019 – February 23, 2020

Looking at heritage and place, this exhibition showcases four emerging artists based in San Antonio and Chicago. Their work includes performances, sculptures, and textiles.

Field Museum

State of Water: Our Most Valuable Resource

September 13, 2019 – January 12, 2020

This exhibit will feature photos of often-hidden architecture and infrastructure highlighted in Brad Temkin’s book, State of Water: Our Most Valuable Resource. “These pictures address the importance of water and celebrate ideas in design, showing the inventiveness in infrastructure and architecture that no one ever thinks about, supporting our need for accommodating nature,” said Temkin in a statement.

Wrightwood 659

Ando: Museums & Galleries

October 3, 2019 – December 14, 2019

Known for his command of concrete, light, and shadow, architect Tadao Ando is the topic of this exhibit highlighting his work designing museums and galleries—including Lincoln Park’s Wrightwood 659. There will be both photos and prints, along with a detailed scale model of Naoshima Island.

Art Institute of Chicago

In a Cloud, in a Wall, in a Chair: Six Modernists in Mexico at Midcentury,

September 6, 2019 – January 12, 2020

The works of Clara Porset, Lola Álvarez Bravo, Anni Albers, Ruth Asawa, Cynthia Sargent, and Sheila Hicks have never been shown together before, as they are all from different generations. In this exhibition, you will be able to see a range of their work from furniture and interior design to sculpture, textiles, photography, and prints — all of which represent Mexico.

The Newberry

What Is the Midwest?

September 20, 2019 – Tuesday, December 31, 2019

This exhibit in the Newberry Library’s recently renovated public gallery, features maps, art, archival photos, and more to challenge “the assumptions, stereotypes, and persistent narratives about the Midwest.” Incorporating 400 years of history and diverse collections of narratives, What Is the Midwest? shows that the area is much more than homogeneous barren space between the coasts.