Fantastic exhibitions, major retrospectives on view at suburban Chicago museums this summer

Many people prefer to be outdoors in the summer. But on those sweltering days or those stormy days that make outdoor activities impossible, you might want to check out the myriad options at Chicago-area museums. Observe fantastic creatures inspired by folklore or the tribal treasures of indigenous peoples, get up close to beluga whales, attend a major retrospective of a Post-Impressionist master or admire the largest exhibition of Lego sculptures in the world.

These are just a few of the entertaining and enlightening options listed below. Check with museums and individual venues for admission policies and COVID-19 precautions.

This fantastic fish by Alejandro Camacho Barrera is one of the works that are part of the exhibition “Alebrijes: Creatures from a dream world” in the Parc de Cantigny.
– Courtesy of Dave Blake, Cantigny

Suburban exhibitions

“Alebrijes: Creatures from a Dream World,” From June 1 to October 31, at Cantigny Park, 1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton. The outdoor exhibit features 48 eye-catching works of art made up of mythical creatures inspired by Mexican folklore. Alebrijes refers to the fantastical creatures created by Mexican artist Pedro Linares in the 1930s. (630) 668-5161 or

“Connect: discover the collection” From June 4 to August 7, at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art (CCMA), College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn. The exhibition features works by masters Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Rembrandt van Rign along with works by Chicago artists Theaster Gates, Riva Lehrer, Britni Mara, Audrey Niffenegger and others. (630) 942-2321 or

The exhibition at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art

The Cleve Carney Museum of Art’s “Hooking Up: Meet the Collection” exhibit includes “Man in an Arbor” (1642), by Rembrandt van Rijn.
– Courtesy of Cleve Carney Museum of Art, College of DuPage

• “Nature Blueprints: Biomimicry in Art and Design,” From June 17 to August 14, at the Elmhurst Art Museum, 150 Cottage Hill Ave., Elmhurst. This interactive, family-friendly exhibit explores the inspiration that nature provides. For example: How bird and bat wings inspired flight and forest burrs inspired Velcro. (630) 834-0202 or


Chicago Exhibitions

“Unsettled Ground: Art and Environment From the Smart Museum Collection,” through June 26, at the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave., Chicago. Incorporating works from the museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition offers a conversation between art and the environment, which imagines artists as observers of local, regional and global ecologies. (773) 702-0200 or

“Frida Kahlo, her photos” until August 7, and “Around Kahlo: Works from the Permanent Collection”, through Jan. 15, 2023, at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St., Chicago. Comprised of photographs from Kahlo’s personal collection, “Her Photos” is not chronological. Rather, it is meant to reveal Kahlo’s personal history and that of the times. “Surrounding Kahlo” consists of works inspired by Frida Kahlo; the works of his pupils, known as “Los Fridos”; as well as familiar objects, Kahlo surrounded herself with Mexican crafts and folk art, Mesoamerican artifacts, and traditional clothing from Mexico. See

The painting of Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne’s painting “Still Life with Apples” (1893-1894) is one of the works exhibited as part of the “Cezanne” exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago.
– Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

• “Cézanne”, until September 5, at the Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. This is the first major retrospective of the work of the Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne in the United States in 25 years and the first organized by the Art Institute in more than 70 years. Produced with London’s Tate Modern, the exhibition examines the breadth of the pioneering artist’s career through 90 oil paintings, 40 watercolors and drawings, and two sketchbooks. Still at the Art Institute, “Drawings by Mel Bochner: A Retrospective”, until August 22. This is the first exhibition by the American conceptual artist organized around his drawings. The nearly 90 works span 60 years and include never-before-seen works from his personal collection. Featured are works on paper in ink, pencil and charcoal; oil paint on newsprint; powdered pigment wall designs; and stones laid out on the floor, many of which are subversive, humorous and have helped redefine the traditional boundaries of drawing. See

“Nick Cave: For Something Else”, until October 2, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago. The artist’s first Chicago retrospective includes never-before-seen works like the site-specific “Spinner Forest,” which consists of thousands of kinetic spinners suspended in the two-story atrium and fourth-floor lobby. The exhibition includes immersive installations, textural sculptures, fashion, videos and performances. (312) 397-4010 or

Immersive exhibitions

“Frida: Immersive Dream”, through May 28, at the Germania Club’s Lighthouse Artspace, 108 W. Germania Place, Chicago. The digital exhibit includes images of Frida Kahlo’s iconic works as well as drawings and photographs of the artists and people who inspired her. See

“Immersive Monet and the Impressionists”, From June 17 to September 25, at the Germania Club’s Lighthouse Artspace, 108 W. Germania Place, Chicago. The exhibition features works by Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt and others. See

“Prince: the immersive experience” opens June 9 at The Shops at North Bridge, 540 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago. The 60-minute multi-sensory exhibition is described as a virtual journey through the performer’s life and music. See

Chicago Museum of Illusions, 25 W. Washington St., Chicago. The museum consists of over 80 visual and educational exhibits including holograms, stereograms, optical illusions and immersive rooms. (312) 722-6780 or

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago’s “Cézanne” exhibit includes the artist’s self-portrait “Portrait of the Artist on a Pink Background circa 1875”.
– Courtesy of Musée d’Orsay, photo by Adrien Didierjean

Other exhibitions

“Recovering Cultural Treasures” Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, 3001 Central St., Evanston. Produced in collaboration with the Chinese American Museum of Chicago and the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago, this exhibition examines the efforts of tribal communities and other global groups to recover culturally significant works – many of which have been stolen from the peoples. natives – which are held in private and public collections around the world. (847) 475-1030 or

“Encounters with Belugas”, select days through June at the John G. Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. Visitors have the chance to get up close to the Shedd beluga whales. (312) 939-2438 or

“Shanghai: Safe Refuge During the Holocaust,” until September 5 at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie. This exhibition examines a little-known moment in history through Arthur Rothstein’s 1946 photographs of European Jews who found refuge from the Nazis in Shanghai, China. (847) 967-4800 or

“Jurassic Oceans: Monsters of the Deep”, until September 5, at the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. The exhibit introduces visitors to the prehistoric marine animals that inhabited the oceans millions of years ago. (312) 922-9410 or

“The Art of Brick” until September 5, at the Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. Apparently the largest exhibition of Lego art in the world, this exhibition by artist Nathan Sawaya consists of more than 100 sculptures, including his originals as well as recreations of masterpieces, including Michelangelo’s David , Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”. See

“Imagine the Moon” at the Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. The planetarium’s all-new celestial show examines how the moon has inspired artists, educators and explorers. See

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