29th November 2005
Chicago, Illinois

We head back into the city for a day at the museums and art galleries of Chicago. We luck out in that it is a 'Ford Tuesday' - every Tuesday all the museums and art galleries are completely free of charge. I am however stopped at the door of the Chicago Art Gallery as bags and bottles of water are not allowed. I'm a little wary of checking in my bag as it has the laptop in it. But I take the risk and one dollar lighter of pocket we enter the museum.

It is a fabulous gallery / museum. Walking to the right after entering leads you into a maze of softly lit corridors filled with an incredible array of asian sculptures in stone, jade and ceramic. Further round the ground floor there are a lot of modern art installations.

I am always in two minds about modern art - I think that's partly the point of it, but here I find a lot of installations that I really like. Two that stand out are a work of art consisting of a large rectangle on the floor made up of shiny wrappered sweets akin to Quality Street or Roses. It's a pleasing sight in its own right - a bright rectangle of colour glittering away differently depending on the angle you are standing at. Reading the plaque on the wall reveals another dimension. The artist who created this piece is suffering from aids. Guests are invited to take away a sweet with them and the diminishing presence of the artwork represents the diminishing health of the artist. Both Pip and I take a sweet, much to the horror of several other patrons near us who think we are destroying the art. We smile knowingly and direct them to the information panel.

The second interesting work is made up of three lines of plates hung on the wall. At first glimpse you think they are marked with some kind of ancient hieroglyphics or similar. But instead, they turn out to be floor plans from museums around the world.

After lunch at the café we move upstairs into the American art section. It is all very good stuff and there are a few famous works hung on the walls. The most notable one I spot is 'Nighthawks'. Sadly 'American Gothic' - the pitchfork wielding man and wife picture that is currently famous by its presence in the opening titles of 'Desperate Housewives', is on loan at the moment, a tiny print hangs in its place. Although I'm only mentioning a couple of works here - the museum is filled with fabulous works and would probably warrant several days of wandering. It's up there with the Louvre in my opinion.

Whilst attempting to take a photo of an interesting sculpture I manage to set off a proximity alarm, much to the amusement of the security officer in the room.

The last section of the museum is the classical section. The most interesting is the pointillist painting that was featured in Ferris Beullers' Day Off (There's that movie again). We stop at starbucks to warm up and make our way over to the Hard Rock Café to have some dinner. It's an impressive restaurant, even for a Hard Rock. The circular bar has a core made up from a tower of plasma screens all blasting out music videos.

We spend the evening at 'Blues Chicago' - one of two bars of that name that display the best of Chicago Blues. The bar is moody and lit with blue lights. We see a guy called Charlie Love - a great singer and performer. Every now and again a burly doorman takes the mic and reminds us to tip the waiting staff if we want to leave with our teeth in tact. It's all quite well spirited though. A great night out. A great day for that matter.

Chris Cottam

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