I rarely go to Chicago without visiting the Art Institute of Chicago. Usually the priority is some big blockbuster of a show, but recently I popped into the grand old institution on Michigan Avenue to meander the familiar favorites and to view a modest but lovely exhibit on the textile Velvet.
Before I take you there let me share something I love about the Art Institute of Chicago. The contrast between the old building, built in 1893 and the Modern Wing, added in 2009 is like traveling through design time. See what I mean?
I also love a leisurely lunch in the restaurant on the top of the Modern Wing with its dramatic city view.
But let’s take a look at the Modern Velvet exhibit, tucked in a far corner of the lower level. It is a pleasant look at the collection of velvet fabrics representing a diverse range of ornamental themes. Gorgeous. If you like textiles and design I think you will enjoy.
Velvet is a marvelous fabric, made with a looming and cutting method regardless of the fiber–silk, wool, cotton, rayon or animal fiber. It’s history goes back to the 1200s in Baghdad and continued with refinements in France and Italy, both countries known for luxury textiles.
In Europe in the 14th century, silk weavers guilds controlled the production. Sumptuary laws dictated who could wear velvet, even imposing a fee for the option, adding to the association with luxury.
You may think about velvet more recently as striped coverings on sofas in the 70s or the backgrounds of Elvis paintings sold along the roadways. Mostly though velvet is associated with wealth, splendor and proclaiming one’s status.
The elegant exhibit shows a wide variety of design approaches to velvet over the last two hundred years. Here are a few examples.
I’m also including some photos here of some of my favorite museum pieces of art, a small exhibit on post-modern design and a handful of people enjoying their time at the museum.
Before I sign off on this mostly visual blog post, I hope you enjoy some random Chicago scenes.
And lastly, a self portrait of sorts, looking out the hotel window.