10 Chicago art openings to see in September

The city-spanning Chicago Architecture Biennial and a major art show on Navy Pier join a strong month of art openings
Air Houses
Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Architecture Biennial

After a relatively slow summer, the art floodgates open wide in September, unleashing a deluge of notable gallery shows, museum exhibitions and major events. The return of the Chicago Architecture Biennial provides a slew of things to see, with programming throughout the city and exhibits at some of the best museums in town. Likewise, EXPO Chicago will bring more than 100 galleries to Navy Pier, showcasing exciting contemporary art. Of course, you'll also find exhibits opening at museums and galleries throughout the city, just in time for the arrival of fall weather when the prospect of looking at art indoors becomes a bit more appealing. Check out ten Chicago art openings you shouldn't miss in September.

September art openings in Chicago

Senga Nengudi
Photograph: Courtesy the artist
Art, Sculpture

"Senga Nengudi: Improvisational Gestures"

Originally created for avant-garde performance pieces, Nengudi’s stretched pantyhose sculptures provided a web of obstacles for dancers to navigate. In "Improvisational Gestures," you’ll be able to imagine getting tangled up in these found-object creations, including some of her most recent works.

Art, Painting

"pew pew pew: New Works by Scott Listfield"

Boston artist Scott Listfield returns to Rotofugi with another exhibition of his pop culture-influenced paintings. His work is centered around a solitary astronaut, who journeys through landscapes that include references to everything from Super Mario Bros to Hello Kitty. "pew pew pew" kicks off with a reception on September 8 from 7 to 10pm with music from DJ Sean Doe.

Courtesy Kavi Gupta
Art, Contemporary art

"José Lerma: Nunquam Prandium Liberum"

Spanish artist José Lerma uses Post-It notes, ribbon and bold brush strokes to explore the phrase "There is no such thing as a free lunch"—the Latin translation of the economic idiom provides the exhibit's title. Using bright materials and incorporating elements that reference his childhood, the exhibit presents Lerma's interpretation of heaven, as informed by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s 1757 fresco, Allegory of Merit Accompanied by Nobility and Virtue.

Jennifer Packer, "An Exercise in Tenderness"
Courtesy of the artist
Art, Painting

“Jennifer Packer: Tenderheaded”

Best known for her abstract portraits and paintings of funerary bouquets, New York artist Packer takes long periods of time to complete each of her canvases, repeatedly coming to back to modify the image. Her first institutional solo show showcases her distinct, deliberate style through new and recent works.

Expo Chicago at Navy Pier
Photograph: Audia
Art, Fairs

EXPO Chicago

The International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, also known as EXPO Chicago, returns to Navy Pier, hosting 135 galleries from 25 countries. As usual, visitors will be able to see breathtaking installations as they walk through festival hall, including a sneak peak during the annual Vernissage preview on Wednesday, September 13. This year, the DuSable Museum of African American History will host a special exhibition organized by Palais de Tokyo, showcasing works by French and Chicago artists in the museum's roundhouse.

Jaume Plensa, Self Portrait III, 2017
Photograph: Courtesy Richard Gray Gallery
Art, Sculpture

"Jaume Plensa: Secret Garden"

The Spanish artist behind Crown Fountain and the gigantic sculpture of a head (called "Awilda") that previously was displayed in Millennium Park presents some of his latest work at Richard Gray Gallery. "Secret Garden" is made up of wood, stainless steel and bronze sculptures as well as works on paper, presenting a peaceful space for contemplation and self-discovery. The exhibition runs concurrently with "One Thought Fills Immensity," an exhibition of historical works at Richard Gray's Michigan Avenue Gallery.

Chicago, 2014.
Photograph: Iwan Baan
Things to do, Festivals

Chicago Architecture Biennial

Every two years, Chicago becomes the epicenter of the architectural and design world during the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Taking place over the course of nearly four months, the programming encompasses exhibitions, installations, forums and more events that explore the state of modern architecture and urbanism. The home base of the Biennial is the Chicago Cultural Center, where attendees can see a series of exhibits, attend Tuesday evening talks in the Claudia Cassidy Theater or watch a movie screening. You can find additional programming all over the city, centered around community anchor sites such as the Beverly Arts Center, the DePaul Art Museum and the DuSable Museum of African American History. There's a lot to see and do, so check out the Biennial's website for a complete list of happenings.

Michael Rakowitz, May the Arrogant Not Prevail, 2010.
Photograph: courtesy of the artist and Rhona Hoffman Gallery.
Art, Mixed media

"Michael Rakowitz: Backstroke of the West"

Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz celebrates his heritage in a new exhibition, which includes conceptual installations like a food truck that serves Iraqi dishes and a gigantic scale recreation of the Ishtar Gate made with cardboard packaging and newspaper. The exhibit itself takes its name from a mistranslation of the film title Revenge of the Sith, sourced from a Chinese bootleg of the movie and deomnstrating the power of translation that Rakowitz hopes to capture in his work.

Jess, "Untitled" 1959
Courtesy the Jess Collins Trust
Art, Mixed media

“William Blake and the Age of Aquarius”

Though he died in the 1800s, the work of English poet and painter Blake took on new significance when it was embraced by artists associated with the “Summer of Love” in 1967. Blake's espousal of "free love" and his distain for organized religion struck a chord with the hippie movement, inspiring songs by Jimi Hendrix and indirectly coining the name of the Doors. The Block's latest exhibition collects post-World War II works inspired by his prose, as well as a selection of Blake prints and illuminated book.

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