The Art Institute Reopens July 30, and It's Free for One Week for Locals

Thomas Struth, Art Institute of Chicago II, Chicago, 1990, German, born 1954


I heard from a friend a few weeks ago that what she has missed so much during this long shutdown is wandering the galleries of the Art Institute of Chicago. The luxury of devoting an afternoon to a stroll through a world-class museum is something many Chicagoans probably took for granted. Millions travel from around the world to see this museum, and here it is in our backyard. And its expansive collection of thousands of the world's most famous works of art has been physically inaccessible for nearly five months. 

The Art Institute reopens on July 30, and it will be operating at 25% capacity to ensure physical distancing requirements can be met.

The museum itself has also been operating at a reduced capacity in a sign of the times. “It’s been a difficult time for all of us, but we are really looking forward to be able to reopen,” said Kati Murphy of the Art Institute. In April Murphy shared with NBC 5 that 51 staff members (8% of AIC's workforce, was laid off amid the pandemic.

“This difficult decision was made in response to a reduction in museum visitors and changes to our internal structure that reflect the evolving needs of our institution and our community moving forward,” Murphy said in a statement.

Now that visitors can come back, the museum has put plans in place to make sure everyone can safely engage with its artistic treasures once again. 

While visitors may not be able to wander or linger quite as freely as in the past, much of the museum's collection may tell new stories, as our world has changed so much since early March. I see images of crowds and vibrant nightlife in a new light now, and I can relate more to solitary images of people and interiors. History has been taking place around us, and it's always been on view at the Art Institute. A handful of images that may be reconsidered through an of-the-times lens are shown below. Hindsight, they say, is 2020.


El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos), The Adoration of the Shepherds, 1612–14. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, P02988. © Photographic Archive Museo Nacional del Prado

In Case You Missed It

As for special exhibitions, El Greco: Ambition and Defiance, which opened March 7 before the shutdown, is still on view until September. This major exhibition charts the career of the artist known simply as El Greco. Over 57 works from across the world trace not only the development of his distinctive style but also the astounding ambition that drove him to relentlessly pursue success.

Hours and Ticket Reservations

There are new hours, plus a week of free admission for Illinois residents and updated safety policies (all guests over the age of 2 are required to wear face coverings, unless you are unable to wear one due to a disability or medical condition, and then you must contact prior to arriving at the museum)

Advance ticket purchase is required for the public, you can get them here. Members do not need to reserve tickets, and special members only hours will be held each day the museum is open one hour prior to opening to the public. The museum is closed now on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Normally Chicago residents pay $20 and Illinois residents pay $22. Children are always free, as well as Chicago teens (14-17)

It's also worth perusing the entire collection online as well, since even pre-COVID it was of course not possible to display most of the extensive collection at once. Online you don't have to worry about seeing it all before closing time.


A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884. Georges Seurat
French, 1859-1891
Nightlife, 1943. Archibald John Motley Jr.
American, 1891–1981
Human Nature/Life Death, 1983. Bruce Nauman
American, born 1941
Frederick Douglass, 1847/52. Daguerreotype. Samuel J. Miller
American, 1822–1888
The Girl by the Window, 1893. Edvard Munch
Norwegian, 1863-1944
Woman before an Aquarium, 1921–23. Henri Matisse
French, 1869–1954


A lion sculpture in front of the Art Institute wears a mask with a depiction of the Chicago flag on April 30, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)