First Class Addition in Second City: Art Institute of Chicago Opens Modern Wing

BY Arts Desk  May 21, 2009 at 4:47 PM EDT

The city that gave birth to the skyscraper and modern architecture has added a fresh facade to its landscape that is being hailed as a “temple of light.” The Art Institute of Chicago opened up its Modern Wing this week, designed by world-renowned architect Renzo Piano. Using glass, steel, aluminum and limestone, Piano created a museum with expansive windows and an adjustable roof, dubbed “The Flying Carpet,” which opens up the exhibit spaces to natural light and offers visitors majestic views of the city and Millennium Park.

From new acquisitions to works previously kept in storage, the Art Institute’s collection of contemporary and modern art now has the space it deserves. It is the largest addition to the museum since its founding in 1893, taking 10 years to plan and build at a cost of nearly $300 million. The new wing added 264,000 square feet to make the Art Institute the second-largest showcase for art in the country behind the Metropolitan Museum in New York. For Piano, it is the second-largest museum project since he made his name on the international stage in 1977 with the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

View of Modern Wing from Monroe Street; Photo by Charles G. Young.The NewsHour traveled to the opening of the Modern Wing last weekend and will be airing a report for the program very soon. Check here on Art Beat for updates and extended interviews with Piano, Art Institute President James Cuno and Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin.

Meantime, here’s a slide show of the Modern Wing and samples from its collection. You can also find additional reports on the new Modern Wing produced by local PBS station partner WTTW’s Chicago Tonight.