The Year in Art: A 2018 Visual Snapshot


As we settle into a new year, we are looking forward to all that is quickly filling a busy and varied arts calendar. There are already many new events and exhibitions opening, and there are more celebrations to attend and galleries and museums to visit each week.  We are especially grateful for the spotlight this year on artists connected to Chicago, as you will see in the list below, and we are eager to explore new areas of focus, such as design and new media. Other exhibitions of note celebrate the dynamism of the art world – the City's Year of Creative Youth aims to inspire and engage a whole new community and generation of artists. Art Design Chicago brings together 50 partner organizations to mount dozens of exhibitions and special programs. 

We noted a few months ago that Chicago was having a major cultural moment, but now we see that the moment is not fleeting – it is continuing and building. CGN will cover each of these events more in depth as they open, but for now, we hope you are making your own art 'wish-lists' like we are and that you look forward to a year filled with art and creativity. This list is just the beginning.

Happy new year! 


Art Design Chicago

Art Design Chicago is a spirited celebration of the unique and vital role Chicago plays as America’s crossroads of creativity and commerce. Led by the Terra Foundation for American Art, this citywide partnership of cultural organizations explores Chicago’s art and design legacy with more than 25 exhibitions and hundreds of events throughout 2018. The program even offers an interactive, user-friendly website with a search tool for easily matching your interests with Art Design Chicago exhibitions and events around the city and beyond. Explore the site to see the growing list of opportunities offered throughout 2018. Read CGN's summary of the January 2018 ADC kickoff here


Mies van der Rohe at Elmhurst Art Museum

Elmhurst Art Museum, the home of Mies van der Rohe’s McCormick House (1952), is organizing Mies in Chicago, a new long-term exhibition that will be the first to focus exclusively on Mies’ career-making work in Chicago, where he completed 18 of his 24 US projects.


City of Chicago's Year of Creative Youth

Hot on the heels of the Year of Public Art, the focal point of the City of Chicago’s Year of Creative Youth will be a Creative Youth Festival, held in Millennium Park on September 22 and showcasing teen artists in dance, theatre, music, spoken word, and the visual arts. The program offers teens performance opportunities at many Chicago festivals and partner events.


The Field Museum Turns 125

On October 26, 1893 Marshall Field donated $1 million for the establishment of a museum to house the Columbian Exposition. 125 years, and three name changes, later, the Field Museum of Natural History remains a premier natural history museum, attracting two million visitors a year.  

The Field Museum is celebrating their 125th anniversary by revamping SUE the T. Rex and moving the cast up to the The Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet, the museum’s most popular exhibit. 

More info on 2018 events at


Gertrude Abercrombie: Portrait of the Artist as a Landscape at Elmhurst Art Museum

Gertrude Abercrombie: Portrait of the Artist as a Landscape at Elmhurst Art Museum is organized by Jenny Gibbs and coordinated at the museum by Lal Bahcecioglu. Abercrombie (1909-1977) was a painter based in Chicago who created surreal and dream-like imagery. She developed her own unique style and color palette, and explained the images of her work with “It is always myself that I paint.” The exhibition will include 40 of the artist’s enigmatic paintings of spare interiors and illusionary landscapes—which have been referred to as “psychic self-portraits.”

Idiosyncratic, charming and irascible, Gertrude was presciently contemporary. Referred to as “the queen of the bohemian artists,” Abercrombie entertained many jazz musicians at her home at parties on Saturday evenings and jam sessions on Sunday afternoons, including friends Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins.

January 20 – March 4, 2018

More info here


Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush at the Chicago Cultural Center    

Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush is the first solo exhibition in a museum for the Chicago-born artist. The exhibition is a 10-year survey of approximately 30 of the artist’s paintings, watercolors and collages. Abney, born in 1982, is at the forefront of a generation of artists that is unapologetically revitalizing narrative figurative painting, and as a skillful storyteller, she visually articulates the complex social dynamics of contemporary urban life. The exhibition is organized by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts to the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

February 10 – May 6


Richard Hull at Western Exhibitions

School of the Art Institute Chicago graduate Richard Hull will exhibit new work at Western Exhibitions this spring. Hull calls his recent paintings and drawings “stolen portraits.” His crayon drawings, which respond to the paintings, in particular, are portraits in the form of hairdos, each one expressing a distinct visual personality rather than a representation of a particular individual. This quasi-figurative direction started with, of all things, drawing a horse’s tail for an exquisite corpse in a performative collaboration with MacArthur award-winning saxophonist and composer Ken Vandermark and the illustrator and printmaker Dan Grzeca. In Hull’s portraits, horsetails now resemble looping flower petal forms – building blocks for portrait-like structures. The bulbous loops are accentuated by minute, repetitive, often concentric curves within the large masses.

Apr 14 - May 26 at Western Exhibitions


Hank Willis Thomas: Unbranded at the Block

Hank Willis Thomas (American, b. 1976) has consistently explored the representation of stereotypes within American popular culture, particularly as it relates to African-American subjects. Hank Willis Thomas: Unbranded, on view at the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University in Evanston, will consist of a tightly focused selection of approximately 40 photographs from two related bodies of works—the 2005-08 series Unbranded: Reflections in Black By Corporate America and the 2015 series Unbranded: A Century of White Women 1915-2015.

Apr 14 - Aug 12

More info


Howard Finster: MAN OF VISIONS at Carl Hammer Gallery

The Reverend Howard Finster achieved "super-star" status for his exuberant paintings, or "sermon art", and his impressive "Paradise Garden" environment was an ongoing expression of his religious conviction.  Having been a frequent feature interview on the Johnny Carson "Tonight Show", the artist achieved international recognition creating art from "other people's junk".  Sought after by museums and important collections, Finster became an Outsider art superstar and celebrity. 

May 4 - Jun 30 at Carl Hammer 


I Was Raised on the Internet at the Museum of Contemporary Art

Yes, this exhibition will make everyone over 30 feel really old. Future generations will not know life in a pre-digital world. This summer, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents the landmark exhibition I Was Raised on the Internet, an immersive and participatory show examining the impact of the internet and how it has changed the way we experience the world. With nearly 100 interactive artworks from 1998 to the present, I Was Raised on the Internet spans photography, painting, sculpture, film and video, as well as emerging technologies, interactive computer works, and virtual reality. I Was Raised on the Internet presents a global range of artists working in new media such as Oculus Rift and platforms like Facebook and Snapchat, looking at culture and 'trending' content and how interacting with the world has shifted through constant exchange on the internet. Taking 1998 as a starting point, the exhibition decodes a generation of artists and viewers who have come to speak a unique vocabulary that has emerged with the new millennium. In addition to the idea of a millennial, the exhibition explores terms such as 'post-internet' and 'post-digital,' used by artists to imply a new, instant culture. Throughout the exhibition, the viewer becomes an active agent, engaging in new forms of technology and participating with the works both in the galleries and the digital works hosted online.

June 23 – October 14

More info


Hairy Who? At the Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago presents the first major survey exhibition dedicated solely to the groundbreaking group of six Chicago-based artists – James Falconer, Art Green, Suellen Rocca, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt and Karl Wirsum – known as the Hairy Who. 

Sept 1, 2018–Jan 6, 2019



We always look forward to EXPO CHICAGO in September, but a highlight that is already on our radar is Creative Chicago: An Interview Marathon featuring one of the world's leading curators, critics, and art historians Hans Ulrich Obrist. Alongside partners the Chicago Humanities Festival, Navy Pier, and the Terra Foundation for American Art, EXPO will present a four-hour interview marathon in the Aon Grand Ballroom on Saturday, September 29, as part of the Terra Foundation for American Art's Art Design Chicago initiative.

Obrist’s marathons are part of his life-long Interview Project, for which he has logged thousands of hours in discussion with some of the leading thinkers of our time. These conversations examine notions of art and creativity, painting a verbal portrait of our ever-changing cultural moment. Artistic Director of the Serpentine Gallery in London, Obrist hosted his first interview marathon—a 24-hour conversational exploration of art, ideas and creativity in 2005. The marathon format has become a central part of his practice ever since.

September 27 – 30


Chicago New Media 1973-1992 at Video Game Art Gallery

Chicago New Media 1973–1992 seeks to illuminate the largely untold story of Chicago's role in the history of new media. Consisting of an exhibition, public program, and scholarly catalog, the project yields a new art historical understanding of the artists and organizations that contributed to digital art and technology in the latter half of the twentieth century.  The exhibition is curated by Jon Cates, Associate Professor of Film, Video, New Media and Animation, Art History, Theory and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and organized with curatorial assistance by Chaz Evans and Jonathan Kinkley. 
In partnership with Gallery 400.

Nov 1 - Dec 15

More info 


Top image: Gertrude Abercrombie, from exhibition at Elmhurst Art Museum