The 16 Best Galleries In Chicago
By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 19, 2014 10:30PM
You don't have to go to a museum to enjoy art. Chicago is a thriving gallery town, with districts all over the city dedicated to showcasing art of all kinds and art walks every week.
Following are 16 of our favorite galleries you must visit that will have you staring at photos, paintings and sculptures like Ferris Bueller stared at the paintings on the Art Institute's walls.
Photo via Ed Paschke Art Center's Facebook page.
Ed Paschke Art Center
The eccentric and intensely colorful work and belongings that exude the fascinating personality of a quintessential Chicago artist, the late Ed Paschke, now have a permanent and beautiful home in Jefferson Park. Opened on June 22 on what would have been the artist’s 75th birthday, the bright and large space houses many works by Paschke along with a recreation of his studio that includes source material and other ephemera. Owners Vesna K. Stelcer and Lionel B. Rabb have created an incredible testament to one of the most well-known artists and teachers in the city. In addition to the impressive collection of Paschke on display, the back gallery exhibits other artists along with an artist-in-residence program. Currently on view is “Warhol, Reed, and Bowie,” photographs by the Chicago-based photojournalist, Steve Schapiro through Jan. 15. —Carrie McGath
Ed Paschke Art Center is located at 5415 W. Higgins Ave.
Ed Marszewski has a mini-empire of businesses in Bridgeport. The King Cholo and public face of Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar and Marz Community Brewing has been a gallery owner dating back to his days at the late bUDDY in Wicker Park. The Co-Prosperity Sphere, located a couple blocks south of Maria’s, is an expansion of the “experimental cultural center” philosophy Marszewski originally implemented at bUDDY. The “Co-Pro” hosts several rotating exhibits throughout the year but its reach moves far beyond art into hosting theatrical productions, Story Club South Side, is the home for the annual Version Festival and MDW Fair and other events. The art exhibits focus on new and emerging artists, many of whom have worked with Marszewski in his various publishing endeavors including Lumpen, Mash Tun Journal, and Proximity — Chuck Sudo
The Co-Prosperity Sphere is located at 3219-21 S. Morgan St.
Ann Nathan Gallery
Back in January I attended a packed opening of Art Shay’s photography at this River North gallery and returned a couple weeks later to enjoy some of the other exhibits on display. Ann Nathan has seen it all in over 30 years running her gallery, including the infamous River North gallery district fire of 1989, and she’s persevered with a keen eye for amazing art and earned a reputation as one of the most respected gallery owners in Chicago. Nathan and her staff curate exhibits that run the gamut of contemporary art, from photography and paintings to sculpture and furniture. All of it showcased in a roomy, inviting space that takes most of the pretense out of visiting a gallery. — Chuck Sudo
Ann Nathan Gallery is located at 212 W. Superior St.
Carl Hammer Gallery
Carl Hammer Gallery is a deeply-rooted institution in the city’s art scene as well as an absolute must-visit space when in the River North Arts District. Focusing on Outsider, emerging and African art, the permanent collection is impressive. The exhibitions here are consistently engrossing and the openings are warm and intimate. Mr. Hammer recently received an honorary Visionary Award from Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, only adding to him being a central figure in the arts community in Chicago and beyond. Just some of the artists the gallery represents include: C.J. Pyle, Henry Darger, Mr. Imagination / Gregory Warmac, Lee Godie and Mary Lou Zelazny. Currently on view through Dec. 31 is “Truppe Fledermaus and the Carnival at the End of the World” with work by Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick. —Carrie McGath
Carl Hammer Gallery is located at 740 N. Wells St.
Photo credit: Catherine Edelman Gallery's Facebook page.
Catherine Edelman Gallery
River North has one of the highest concentrations of galleries in Chicago so how does one stand out among the rest? If you’re Catherine Edelman, you focus on damn fine photography, which she and her staff have done with a laser focus for 27 years. Edelman’s below street level space has earned a reputation as one of the best contemporary photography galleries in the Midwest, with a mix of exhibits from new and established photographers. Currently, Edelman is host to Sandro Miller’s “Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich” exhibit where Miller and John Malkovich pay homage to iconic American photography. That exhibit is arguably second to the MCA’s “Bowie Is” exhibit as the hottest pop art exhibit in Chicago. Visit Catherine Edelman for Miller and Malkovich, stay for the equally arresting Unsoiled exhibit from Chicago-based photographer Allison Grant. Grant takes original photographs from Flickr, Wikipedia, and other public/Creative Commons sources and reinterprets them through the use of found materials. — Chuck Sudo
Catherine Edelman Gallery is located at 300 W. Superior St.
DePaul Art Museum
Part of DePaul University, the DePaul Art Museum has free admission and features pieces that pack a punch. In keeping with the mission of the school, much of the art seeks to create social awareness and engagement. Though it does feature some historical exhibitions, much of the work that is on display at any given time is contemporary, and speaks to our current cultural and social reality. There is constant rotation of exhibitions, which means that you can go back again and again and see new things. They also have a sizable collection of work that is not on display for the public that can be searched in its entirety online and is available by appointment through their website. — Sophie Day
DePaul Art Museum is located at 935 W. Fullerton.
This apartment gallery in Pilsen off 18th Street is a space that always has emerging artists doing groundbreaking work. A lot of technology-based artists exhibit here, but Antena is hardly narrow in scope. Curator and founder, Miguel Cortez, has created a place for artists who are primarily new to exhibiting a place to show their work. He finds many of his artists by his own acute radar, but also utilizes Acre Projects, a residency in Wisconsin, to find much of the work he displays. The openings most always include artists who are always happy to talk to visitors in a casual, unpretentious atmosphere. Since it isn’t a typical, “art world” gallery, it is all that much more meaningful and enjoyable. As a bonus, enjoy a beer in exchange for a donation while you peruse. The gallery is on hiatus till Spring, so be sure to check this space out after the thaw. — Carrie McGath
Antena is located at 1765 S. Laflin St.
If you’ve ever noticed the strange sign for the “Fulton Vortex” in an alley in the West Loop, you might be curious to know what it is. It’s supposedly a vortex of energy fields and much of them are concentrated in Mars Gallery. I will admit this place does feel warmly spooky to me and it’s a great place to discover the West Loop’s artistic history and present.— Melissa McEwen
Mars Gallery is located at 1139 W. Fulton Market.
Photo viaFirecat Project's Facebook page.
Firecat Projects is one of those rare and wonderful spaces where art and the artists who create it are the absolute priority. The former studio of Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick, it was converted to a gallery space in 2010 with Stan Klein. This space is a joy to visit regularly with its laid-back air and consistently strong exhibitions. A true art space in every way, the artists at Firecat have complete license on how to use their time in conjunction with the space and no commissions from sold work is taken by the gallery, but instead goes directly to the artists. I am always inspired when I visit Firecat since the work is so sincere and solid. And as a bonus, it is always a pleasure to chat with Stan Klein himself who is often present. Through Nov. 22, Jessica Joslin’s “Immortal Zoo” is on view and on Nov. 28, the cannot-miss exhibition, “Nelson Algren’s Chicago” will open with photographs by the great Art Shay. — Carrie McGath
Firecat Projects is located at 2124 N. Damen Ave.
Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art
Located near the Blue Line Chicago stop, there is a particularly unique art experience at Intuit. The work exhibited is by artists who were never formally trained and instead began to create art from an innate drive within them, in essence, an intuitive drive. The appeal of Outsider Art is constantly growing and becoming a serious genre for collectors and museum acquisitions. On permanent display is a recreation of the small apartment of Chicago’s own custodian / artist, Henry Darger. One of the most well-known of Outsider artists, this room is a major draw to anyone interested in this movement. Additionally, their extensive research collection is a draw for both scholars and the curious alike. Events are always happening in the space including music, lectures, and art programs. Currently on view is “Found: Page Me Later” and “Collective Soul: Outsider Art from Chicago Collections,” both through Dec. 27. — Carrie McGath
Intuit is located at 756 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Carrie Secrist Gallery in the West Loop consistently delivers edgy, thought-provoking, well-curated exhibitions and should be in any contemporary art-lover’s sights. Showing and representing emerging artists, it is a great place to get a handle on the pulse of what is happening in art right now. From 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 22, there will be an opening reception for a group show called, “Dogs Chase Balls.” This is an exhibit curated by NO SPACE, an artist-run project space based primarily online and in Mexico City. A portion of the proceeds of this exhibition will go to PAWS Chicago and is yet another reason to love this gallery. — Carrie McGath
Carrie Secrist Gallery is located at 835 W. Washington Blvd.
A part of Roosevelt University, this Loop gallery is home to intimate and well-conceived exhibitions and is a great way to end a day after the large, encyclopedic experience that is the Art Institute of Chicago just across Michigan Avenue. The Gage Gallery often shows photography and, most recently, is hosting rotating exhibitions celebrating ten decades of Chicago photojournalism that continues through next summer. Check out the moving documentary photography of John H. White called, “Faith, Focus, Flight,” through Dec. 20. — Carrie McGath
Gage Gallery is located at at 18 S. Michigan Ave.
Photo via Sideshow Gallery's Facebook page.
Come one, come all to Chicago’s purveyors of the curious, the odd and the monstrously grotesque! A stuffed bat suspended in a glove perched atop an urn, a vintage saw with carnival text that reads “Tattoo Removal”, a realistically detailed monster ferociously leaping out of the wall—all of these artful curiosities are on display and for sale at the Sideshow Gallery. The shop is the witchy art gallery sibling to Revolution Tattoo next door, owned and operated by husband and wife team Cheri Basak and Omar Gutierrez. While expert artist Omar produces some of the most exquisite ink in town, Cheri Basak cultivates a richly colored, occult-inspired environment with her mystical interior design skills. Her shop features some of the most affordable and beautiful taxidermy in the city and host shows that featuring local artists, art classes and tarot readings. If you’re waiting to get inked at Revolution Tattoo next door, why not browse here for an hour or three? There is always a spectacular find waiting to fulfill your morbid curiosity. — Erika Kubick
Sideshow Gallery is located at 2219 N. Western Ave.
Smart Museum of Art
If you want to find a place that has stunning pieces of art from all across history and all over the world, but without the price tag that typically goes along with such things, the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago is just what you need. Admission is free and the size is just right. Whether you want to spend only an hour or the better part of an afternoon, the exhibits can be perused quickly or pondered for much longer. Because it’s a small museum on campus you often get the chance to be alone with the artwork and engage in a way you may not get the chance to in a bigger museum. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the museum draws on a gigantic and mind-blowing collection of works from the likes of Degas and Matisse, as well as more contemporary artists. The museum often collaborates with professors to create unique and educational experiences to be enjoyed by all. — Sophie Day
Smart Museum of Art is located at 5550 S. Greenwood Ave.
Carlos & Dominguez Fine Arts Gallery
If you are visiting the Pilsen neighborhood to go to a restaurant or concert, or you moved here and you want to know the history, this gallery is a great field trip. Many of the exhibitions focus on the neighborhood’s history and the gallery owners are themselves longtime residents and wellsprings of history.— Melissa McEwen
Carlos & Dominguez Fine Arts Gallery is located at 1538 W Cullerton St.
Hyde Park Art Center
From its humble beginnings in a former saloon in 1939, Hyde Park Art Center has maintained a hippy, trippy vibe that still runs deep and strong as it celebrates its diamond anniversary in 2014. The center’s mission, then and now, remains the same—that everyone should have the opportunity to participate in the visual arts. Hyde Park Art Center was most notably the incubator for the artist collectives The Monster Roster, The Hairy Who, and The Chicago Imagists, and current exhibits include The Chicago Effect: Redefining the Middle, an exploration where artists explore the spaces, in-betweens and other conditions of the middle, both abstract and definite. —Chuck Sudo
Hyde Park Art Center is located at 5020 S. Cornell Ave.