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Art Institute of Chicago

On the western edge of Grant Park is the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the premier art museums and schools in the country. The Art Institute first opened as the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in 1879 at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Van Buren Street. In 1891, the Interstate Industrial Building, a Victorian Convention and Exhibition Hall, was razed to make way for the new home of the Art Institute, renamed in 1882. The new building was finished in time for the World Columbian Exposition. The Art Institute is most well known for its collection of impressionist art, which includes such masterpieces as Georges Seurat's "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte-1884" as well as such twentieth century American masterpieces as Grant Wood's "American Gothic" and Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks." However, the institute has much more than paintings. In the basement you can see the Thorne Rooms, exact miniatures demonstrating American and European architectural and furniture styles. On the main floor is the George F. Harding collection of arms and armor reflecting armaments throughout the Medieval period.

The Art Institute's famous western entrance on Michigan Avenue is guarded by two bronze lions created by Edward L. Kemeys. When a Chicago sports team makes the playoffs, the lions are frequently dressed in that team's uniform. Just inside the eastern doors is a reconstruction of the trading room of the old Chicago Stock Exchange. Designed by Louis Sullivan in 1894, the Exchange was torn down in 1972. Salvaged portions of the original room were brought to the Art Institute and reconstructed. Leaving the Art Institute through the east doors at the end of the driveway is the Stock Exchange entrance, the only other piece of this Chicago landmark salvaged by preservationists.