There’s nothing like an afternoon at the Art Institute, visiting old favorites like Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.” Or feeling inspiration spark at the MCA, where you’ll likely learn of an artist you’ve never heard of before. But getting your art fix at the mall? Or a Chicago Park District field house? It can happen in Chicago. In a city packed with museums, galleries, and public art, there’s much to see where you least expect it.
1. AT AN OUTLET MALL
THE COLLECTION: Where Art Meets Fashion at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago (above) — Arguably the last place you’d expect to see engaging art is a mall, but this Rosemont spot offers more than Sbarro and Skechers. Since its inception in 2013, this shopping mecca has commissioned site-specific installations — including Daniel Arsham’s “Falling Figure” relief in a parking garage and Jen Stark’s psychedelic mural under an escalator (above) — and mounted a series of rotating exhibitions, such as a trio of sculptural garments by Keysook Geum that were featured in the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Tell yourself: Cinnabon can wait. 5220 Fashion Outlets Way, Rosemont; 847-957-4600; fashionoutletsofchicago.com
2. AT A FIELDHOUSE
John H. Vanderpoel Memorial Art Gallery — What springs to mind when you think of a Chicago Park District field house? Educational and athletic programs, naturally. But make your way to Ridge Park Fieldhouse in Beverly and find more than a swimming pool and fitness center. Much more. We’re talking drawings, etchings, paintings, and sculptures by the likes of Grant Wood, Mary Cassatt, Maxfield Parrish, Daniel Chester French, and Lorado Taft. This unique collection was assembled to honor Chicago artist and teacher John H. Vanderpoel, who passed away in 1911. There’s a lot to see in this little gallery — and you won’t have to dodge selfie sticks to enjoy it. 9625 S. Longwood; 312-747-6640; chicagoparkdistrict.com
3. AT A HOTEL
Langham Hotel — There was a time when the only art you’d encounter in a hotel was a mass-produced landscape over the bed. Today, it’s hard to find a property that doesn’t make an effort to shine. And the Langham — housed in the former IBM Building designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe — sets a standard. Its restaurant, Travelle, has even started art tours combined with inspired dinners. Step inside the building and see “Anna,” an alabaster head by Jaume Plensa. Pop into the Pavilion Lounge for work by Los Angeles artist Monique Prieto and Chicago’s Judy Ledgerwood. Even the restrooms offer eye candy: a simple, mesmerizing brushstroke by James Nares. 330 N. Wabash; 312.923-9988; langhamhotels.com