This is one of the last places in the city we'd expect to find an alternative art space: off a stately University of Chicago quad accessible via a dingy stairwell or dubious elevator. Preconceptions quickly evaporate upon entering the long, airy exhibition space. The range of work exhibited seemingly has no bounds.
Grand installations like Thomas Hirshhorn's "Airport," a large-scale replica of planes on a tarmac, and Yutaka Sone's "Snow," a synthetic winter wonderland extending to the high gothic ceilings, earn The Renaissance Society considerable press, but it has pushed the envelope through more straightforward, grounded collections like Kerry James Marshall's politically charged work. Renaissance Society exhibits consistently serve to broaden modern art appreciation.
The Society was founded in 1915 to serve as a "spiritual, sensual and intellectual vanguard" in the art world. It's often ahead of the curve: It was the first American institution to exhibit Alexander Calder's mobiles, and among the earliest to champion Mondrian and Mies van der Rohe.
Exhibits continue to draw from virtually every artistic medium and are supplemented by lectures, readings, concerts and artist discussions. Most events are free, as the non-profit organization sustains itself through member contributions. Supporters receive discounts on ticketed events and on gifts for sale, including meticulously compiled, regularly produced texts about the Society's artist friends.
Centerstage Reviewer: Justin Sondak