Today's post is the first in a weekly series featuring a cultural experience that I would recommend should you find yourself in Chicago.
TUCKED AWAY in the middle of the University of Chicago, the Smart Museum wasn't one of my usual stops on a campus visit. In fact, I hadn't even heard of it until last week. That's when I received a postcard inviting me to the opening reception for an exhibition titled There Was a Whole Collection Made. I didn't realize then how appropriate that title is.
I'm not stepping into hyperbole when I tell you that this new collection, curated from the estate of Lester & Betty Gutman, literally creates an encyclopedic experience that takes the viewer through the entirety of photographic history. You don't have to have any experience studying photography to appreciate everything the exhibition has to offer. In fact, you should allow yourself to get lost. I put down my exhibition catalog in the first five minutes and took one long, slow pass through the galleries before picking it back up and going through a second time.
Don't expect depth, of course. There Was a Whole Collection Made is all about breadth. Most photographers, even those as celebrated as Henri Cartier-Bresson or Dorothea Lange, only have one print on display. And in this case, that's a good thing. The goal is not to celebrate any particular photographer over another; it's to give the viewer the chance to watch over 150 years of photography pass before their eyes. No matter what styles of photography you appreciate, you'll come away with a better understanding of how and why that style came to exist.
Did I mention that admission is free? Yup. You'll spend more on your Starbucks coffee than you will to view hundreds of works by some of the most important and innovative creative minds that the world has produced. So if you're looking for a cultural experience that's as informative as it is breathtaking, I highly recommend you set aside a couple of hours to take in all that this phenomenal exhibition has to offer.
PS: If you visit, make sure to leave a comment or email me so we can freak out about it together!
There Was a Whole Collection Made is on view now through December 30, 2016. Admission is always free. The Smart Museum of Art is located at 5550 S. Greenwood Avenue on the campus of the University of Chicago. Hours and Directions are available here.