Join the Gibbes Museum and see the World, or at least Chicago!

This June, I had the pleasure of traveling with a group of about thirty Gibbes Fellows to the great city of Chicago. Because the trip was planned by the Gibbes, the visual experiences were unparalleled. Many people who actually live in Chicago were involved in the planning process, so we visited the typical tourist destinations but also private homes, collections, and clubs. Even when we visited a public venue, we had a customized experience with a tour given by a museum curator or private collection owner.

The Cloud Gate, aka "The Bean," by Anish Kapoor (British (born India) 1954)

The Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean,” by Anish Kapoor in Millennium Park, Chicago.

So where did we go? On the first night we had dinner at an exquisite Art-Deco style private club in River North. The next day was a picture-perfect clear day and we strolled through Millennium Park to see “The Bean” and Frank Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion and watched the children frolicking in the “Crown Fountain” with the changing faces on our way to our private tour of the Art Institute of Chicago with its new Renzo Piano-designed modern building. We felt at home at the museum because we had lunch at the Terzo Piano restaurant.

Chicago's spectacular skyline, seen from a guided cruise on the Chicago River.

Chicago’s spectacular skyline, seen from a guided cruise on the Chicago River.

People always talk about the Chicago river cruises and there is a reason for that—we went on one and it was amazing—the knowledgeable guide (who is a volunteer docent) gave the background and description of about 50 world-class high-rise buildings that have made Chicago famous. But the day was not over for us, off we went to an elegant private home that housed a collection that rivaled the best of the Museum of Contemporary Art, all described by the knowledgeable owners. Already, we knew, this was not going to be a cookie-cutter, boring trip!

A view of Lake Michigan from a rooftop garden of a private residence.

A view of Lake Michigan from a rooftop garden of a private residence.

A mirrored sculpture installed on a private rooftop garden in downtown Chicago.

A mirrored sculpture installed on a private rooftop garden in downtown Chicago.

On Friday morning, we visited the Museum of Contemporary Art which exhibits thought-provoking art created since 1945—very cutting edge—but then we visited a private home with a rooftop garden featuring a mind-blowing array of art. Needing refreshment, we went to the Arts Club of Chicago for lunch. Although this club is private, there are works by the likes of Picasso, Klee, Matisse, Noguchi, and Braque hung casually on the wall so it is a very special place. Our next visit was a real change of pace—the Driehaus Museum which is a huge late-19th century Victorian mansion, darkly decorated with heavy wood paneling, Tiffany lamps, and highly polished stone. Later that afternoon, we went to the high-end, commercial interior-decorating studio of Suzanne Lovell so that we could learn how to live with all this fabulous art. The day came to a perfect end with cocktails in the home of a member of our group, a beautiful Art-Deco apartment in the Palmolive Building looking out over Lake Michigan and Lake Shore Drive.

The stained glass dome in the Driehaus Museum, attributed to Giannini & Hilgart.

The stained glass dome in the Driehaus Museum, attributed to Giannini & Hilgart.

On the last day, we headed out to the North Shore for house and garden tours. When we started out, it was pouring rain and we imagined that we would view those gardens with our noses pressed up against the windows of the bus. But fortunately, the rain became a mist and we toured a house and garden in Lake Bluff, right on Lake Michigan that housed a museum-quality collection of 17th and 18th century antiques, oriental carpets, oil paintings, and decorative arts—with another section housing Stickley furniture and decorative arts—talk about variety!

whimsical sculpture towers among the tree trunks

A whimsical sculpture towers among the tree trunks in a garden along the tour.

A sculpture bust peeks out from behind a hedge.

A sculpture bust peeks out from behind a hedge.

By this time, we were on top of the world, but there were more delights to come—two more world class gardens and private collections including the Chicago Botanic Garden and a visit to the Lenhardt Library, a horticultural rare book library housing million dollar editions. We ended the day with the best part—a stroll in the garden and a dinner in the handsome Winnetka home belonging to a couple in our group.

Take my advice, if the Gibbes Museum offers another trip—go for it!

Eleanor Hale, Gibbes Board Member, Adventure-seeker, and Guest Blogger

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