Chicago’s River North Gallery District offers art aficionados what is said to be the second-largest concentration of art galleries to be found anywhere across the United States.
In the 1970s, artists and art dealers alike flocked to Chicago’s River North neighborhood, attracted by the many affordable spaces to be found here at the time, and it soon became known for its combination of art galleries and raw urban grittiness. In the years since, the district, with its location near the tourist hub of Magnificent Mile, has become one of Chicago’s most fashionable, with interesting shops, restaurants and hotels dotted throughout. Still, the art galleries remain, and it’s not uncommon to see art aficionado perusing the streets in search of their next purchase, as well as groups of travellers taking guided tours from gallery to gallery.
If you’d like to see a handful of River North’s best galleries for yourself — with no tour required — then we’ve picked out some of our favourites..
Melanee Cooper Gallery
Previous a Chicago mainstay, the River North Melanee Cooper Gallery only recently reopened a few years ago. Now, visitors can find a mix of contemporary artwork in the space, including paintings, photography, ceramics and fibre art. If you’ve visited a Cooper-run gallery in the past, you’ll know what type of work to expect. In a VoyageChicago interview, Cooper noted that her goal for the current gallery is to create a place of discovery, allowing for visitors to enjoy open dialogue in an environment filled with works that transport and uplift them. You can find information on current and upcoming exhibits on the gallery’s website.
740 North Franklin Street
Jean Albano Gallery
Another long-established name on the River North art gallery scene, Jean Albano Gallery has delighted art fans since 1986. Now, you can find a huge array of art mediums on the gallery’s walls, with pieces from both established and emerging artists. Expect a diverse swathe of works, from paintings to sculptures, collages and mixed media to photography. Everything, though, regardless of what you happen to be perusing, is on the inventive and boundary-pushing side. If you’re planning to visit the gallery this winter, you can expect to see work from John Torreano through 17 January, including his “The Big Picture — Painting from the Universe” series.
215 West Superior Street
Stephen Daiter Gallery
If it’s photography you prefer, then head on over to the Stephen Daiter Gallery, where you’ll find a range of photographic art pieces, but all within the artist’s area of specialty — 1900s American and European photography. From there, anything’s game. You’ll see photojournalism and avant-garde pieces in the same space, as well as documentary-style photography and experimental work — though don’t expect anything to be, well, conventional. Black-and-white photography abounds, as befitting the timeline of artwork represented. A mixture of photographers are represented as well, both new and established, as well as works from the Chicago School of Design, the Photo League, the Bauhaus and the André Kertész Estate.
230 West Superior Street, 4th Floor
Andrew Bae Gallery
The Andrew Bae Gallery is similarly interesting in that it also focuses on a singular type of art, though it really breaks the boundaries of what type of pieces can fit within that singular art focus. Here, the theme is Asian artwork, and you’ll find a range of mediums that reflect countries all across the region, from China to Japan to South Korea. Whether or not you’re particularly an art enthusiast, if you appreciate history and/or Asian culture at all, you’ll still enjoy a stop at this gallery, with its quiet and reflective mood.
300 West Superior Street, Suite 101
For something a little more unusual, you can find wax paintings and mixed media at Addington Gallery. The contemporary space may seem on the edge of the new and exciting — and it certainly is — but it’s actually been around for more than two decades. Contemporary paintings range from the abstract to the representational, with many artists falling somewhere in between the two modes. In addition to the gallery, Addington also offers a handful of services, including consultation, restoration and conservation, for those serious art collectors who may be visiting.
704 North Wells Street
By Paul Joseph