The official Barack and Michelle Obama portraits are currently on tour to five cities, and Chicago had the honor of being the first stop. The portraits were displayed at the Art Institute of Chicago until Aug. 15, so I made a point to visit before they were gone.
On the last day of the special exhibition, I purchased online tickets to the Art Institute. General admission included access to the Obama portrait exhibit. Chicago and Illinois residents can get a discount by submitting their ZIP code when purchasing online. This brought our ticket price to $22 per adult, and our kids’ admission was free (under age 12). I found SpotHero parking for $8 at the Grant Park South underground parking garage, which is right next to the Art Institute.
Upon arrival, you could join the virtual line to the exhibition by scanning a QR code on posted signs. You entered the number in your party and name, as well as your phone number, to receive a text notification when your turn has come up. Our estimated wait time was about 50 minutes, and that was correct.
In the meantime, we explored the Art Institute. Currently masks are required for all visitors, regardless of vaccination status. We first checked out the photographs on the lower level before heading to the upstairs level. I also admired this beautiful Tiffany window next to the staircase. The Hartwell Memorial Window was designed by Agnes F. Northrop more than 100 years ago. It was housed at the Central Baptist Church of Providence, Rhode Island (now Community Church of Providence) before relocating to the Art Institute of Chicago.
While viewing the many works of art on the second floor, including European works before 1900, we received our notification to head to the Modern Wing. At the entrance of the exhibition a museum staff member checked to see that you had received your text and allowed entry. The exhibition featured walls with a timeline of the Obamas’ journey, the process of commissioning the pieces, and quotes and photos of the Obamas. At the end were the two portraits side by side with a security guard to keep visitors from getting too close. Photography for personal use was allowed, as long as no selfie sticks were used.
The portrait tour (via National Portrait Gallery)
- Brooklyn Museum; Brooklyn, New York—Aug. 27, 2021–Oct. 24, 2021
- Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Los Angeles—Nov. 7, 2021–Jan. 2, 2022
- High Museum of Art; Atlanta—Jan. 14, 2022–March 13, 2022
- The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Houston—March 27, 2022–May 30, 2022