The Chagall Windows Are Back!

Immortalized in pop culture as the windows Ferris Bueller visits on his famous day off, The America Windows by Chagall are back on public view after a five year absence. They were removed during construction of the new Modern Wing, to protect them from potential damage from building vibration.

Because of their former placement in an external window overlooking the courtyard, the stained glass was found to be in need of a thorough, two-year-long clean up. Now, the windows look gorgeous, the colors vibrant in their restored glory.

As glad as I was to see the Chagall windows again, I'm not crazy with where they've placed them in the museum. Their former location, while perhaps not the artist's intention, was a dramatic setting, at the end of the main gallery that most everyone passes through on their visit to the Art Institute. From a distance you could see the windows and they were really set off. No matter where you were going in the museum, you were pretty sure to view the windows in their prime location. Now, it's no surprise this spot is occupied by a gift shop.

The windows are now tucked at the end of a gallery that's not on the way to anything, stuck off in a back corner where the new wing and the old building meet. You really have to seek them out and when you do, the impact is diminished by the surrounding. They're framed by two walls and a low ceiling, which was apparently Chagall's initial intention. I found it a tad claustrophobic as opposed to soaring. There's also no way to step back and view all the windows from a bit of a distance, since there's a pillar in the way. Talk about your obstructed view.

Obviously, this is no art critique. Simply the opinion of a frequent visitor to the Art Institute. While I understand the need to protect the windows from the elements, I was disappointed by their choice of location and overall presentation of the windows. I'm guessing their placement near an auditorium and a large space that can be used for special events had something to do with it. It's certainly off the beaten track.


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