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Photograph: Courtesy of The Martin

The best art galleries in Chicago

Chicago's many art galleries offer a chance to see works from emerging and established artists in intimate spaces.

Written by: Xiao Faria daCunha
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Chicago is known for its art scene, and while you can of course visit the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art and more of the best museums in Chicago, you're only getting part of the picture if you stop there. Chicago is also home to an exorbitant amount of galleries filled with everything an art-lover or an art first-timer could want to see. The majority of the city's 77 neighborhoods contain at least one exciting gallery exposing some of the city's finest works in all genres of art. From perspective-shifting performance art to beautifully-crafted oil paintings, Chicago's galleries cover it all. Here’s where to find some of the most innovative and unique art galleries in Chicago to broaden your creative perspective.

The top art galleries in Chicago

  • Art
  • Contemporary art
  • East Garfield Park

A contemporary gallery in East Garfield Park, Goldfinch presents show in a stark 880-square-foot space that is surrounded by artist studios. Local artists like Damon Locks, Mari Eastman and Sherwin Ovid have presented shows in the gallery, which also regularly hosts talks, salons and discussions. Those looking to start an art collection on a budget should check out the gallery’s Flatfiles program, which offers a selection of works from artists like Edra Soto and Anne Harris for relatively affordable prices (usually no more than $1,500, but sometimes as low as $130).

  • Art
  • Arts centers
  • Kenwood

With a mission of making contemporary art more approachable, the Hyde Park Art Center offers engaging exhibitions, as well as community programming of all varieties: artist talks, a residency program, studio classes and more. Established in 1939, it's among the oldest alternative exhibition spaces in Chicago, best known for showcasing work by the Chicago Imagists.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Ukrainian Village
Vertical Gallery
Vertical Gallery

Bringing street art, graffiti, pop-culture–influenced art and graphic design to the walls of a small Ukranian Village storefront, Vertical Gallery is one of the best places to view (and buy) art by some of the most cutting-edge names in Chicago's scene. Hebru Brantley and JC Rivera have exhibited work here—the person who painted the mural on your block might be next.

  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Hyde Park

As far as this gallery of the University of Chicago’s campus is concerned, the avantest of the avant-garde is the only one that matters. As for the name, well, the university wants to broaden the definition of renaissance. (Think less Michelangelo, more the Next Michelangelo, in other words.) The white walls and high ceiling create a hyper-resonant environment. Many European avant-garde stars get their only Chicago exposure here, and the shows are free.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • River West/West Town

Rhona Hoffman Gallery, founded as Young Hoffman Gallery in 1976, moved from its longtime home in the West Loop to a burgeoning strip of galleries in West Town. Specializing in international contemporary art in all media, particularly of the socio-political variety, Rhona Hoffman exhibits young and emerging artists alongside established ones. Early on, it was one of the first galleries to offer exhibitions to women artists such as Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Sylvia Plimack Mangold and Cindy Sherman. Other notable artists who have shown here include Sol LeWitt, Gordon Matta-Clark, Fred Sandback, Lorna Simpson, Nancy Spero and Richard Tuttle (among many others).

  • Museums
  • Special interest
  • South Shore

After purchasing it from the city for $1, local artist and philanthropist Theaster Gates turned this long-vacant bank into a cultural institution. Inside the Stony Island Arts Bank, visitors can browse the archives of Johnson Publishing, flip through house music legend Frankie Knuckle record collection or view art on display in the venue's ground floor gallery.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • River West/West Town

With exhibitions rotating every five weeks, you'll nearly always find something fresh hanging on the walls of Truborn Chicago, a small gallery in West Town. Artists are usually asked to paint site-specific murals that complement the works on display and prices are generally affordable, playing into the gallery's unofficial motto: "become a collector."

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • West Loop

Kavi Gupta Gallery exhibits international emerging and mid-career artists in all media, including global art star Theaster Gates, whose practice encompasses installation, performance and urban interventions; multimedia artist Tony Tasset; Puerto Rican–born painter Angel Otero; folk art–style painter Clare Rojas and more. It's part of the network of galleries that includes Kavi Gupta Elizabeth Street (219 N Elizabeth Street).

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • United Center

Founded by John Corbett and Jim Dempsey in 2004, Corbett vs. Dempsey reflects its owners diverse interests: jazz, film, American modernist traditions, middle-American approaches to abstraction and contemporary art. The art gallery places an emphasis on digging up undiscovered talent, often featuring great regional art (and the occasional live performance from a notable musician).

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Logan Square

Built in the early 1900s, this small building in Logan Square used to be a place where trolley riders could stop to rest during their journey. Logan Square Preservation took the building over in 2010, turning it into a community art space. Comfort Station regularly hosts art exhibitions, live music and film screenings while providing a public meeting place for neighborhood residents of all ages.

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  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • River West/West Town

Intuit is the only nonprofit organization in the U.S. devoted to the exclusive presentation of outsider and contemporary self-taught art. More than a gallery, Intuit is a vital resource for students, scholars and the art enthusiasts, featuring a permanent collection containing 1,100-plus works of art, the Henry Darger Room Collection, the Robert A. Roth Study Center, educational programs and more.

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Streeterville

Nestled in the building formerly known as the Hancock Center is the Richard Gray Gallery, which hosts rotating exhibitions by artists primarily working with paint and sculpture. The space is named for its late founder, local art dealer Richard Gray, who is best known for his role in helping the Field Museum secure Sue the T. rex. Notable artists that have had work exhibited at the gallery include Josef Albers, Roy Lichtenstein, Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg and Pablo Picasso. There's also the affiliated Gray Chicago in West Town (2044 W Carroll Ave), which hosts exhibitions.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Logan Square

Formerly the home of VGA Gallery, Chicago Gamespace is a museum and gallery space that seeks to present a playable collection of video games from various eras as well as exhibitions of artwork from contemporary titles. You'll find vintage arcade cabinets and consoles alongside conceptual artwork from the latest and greatest games.

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Loop

Glass paperweights are the only thing you’ll find on display at LH Selman Glass Gallery, but these creations are likely more interesting than anythng you have on your desk. Each paperweight at the gallery and museum, which has been around for more than 50 years, is uniquely crafted with intricate designs made by both emerging artists and experienced craftspeople. The gallery also sells its paperweights, so most of the pieces can be brought home either by visiting the gallery or by participating in one of its online auctions.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • River West/West Town

A former assistant curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Monique Meloche worked for Rhona Hoffman Gallery and Kavi Gupta Gallery before becoming an art dealer herself, opening a space in Fulton Market in 2001. Monique Meloche Gallery is now located in West Town and has established itself as a destination for consistently intriguing contemporary art in all media.

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Lower West Side

As its name suggests, this Pilsen-based gallery showcases the work made by women-identified and non-binary artists. The gallery, which has been around since 1992, exhibits art of all styles, from paintings to poetry, depicting the world through a feminist lens by featuring works from painter Jeanette Díaz, sculptor Cris Rivas and ceramic artist Marjorie Woodruff.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Wicker Park

For fans of Chicago painter Laura Lee Junge, there’s no better place to view her work than the gallery that she has co-owned in Wicker Park with partner Chris Jackson since 2009. While Junge serves as the gallery’s artist-in-residence with her fantasy-inspired oil paintings, contemporary guest artists also have the opportunity to put on a strong display through guest exhibitions hosted in the gallery regularly throughout the year.

  • Things to do
  • Event spaces
  • Avondale

This Logan Square arts organization sets its sights on providing a home for artists working in all mediums. On any given night, you're likely to find a group of musicians playing improvised music in the space, a display of visual art or a collection of local artists presenting a workshop. You'll often have to experience all these things at once as you visit, but a bit of sensory overload is part of the gallery's appeal.

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  • Art
  • Arts centers
  • Gold Coast
Graham Foundation
Graham Foundation

Operating out of the historic Madlener House in the Gold Coast, the Graham Foundation makes project-based grants to individuals and organizations and produces public art programs. The house also hosts free exhibitions that center around architecture and design as well as a bookstore that sells everything from publications written by grantees to obscure design magazines.

  • Art
  • Arts centers
  • River West/West Town

If you want to see work by one of the next great Chicago artists, Roots & Culture is the place where you're most likely to find it. The contemporary art center focuses on exhibitions by emerging artists, both locally and nationally. Its Double Exposure program invites spontaneous collaboration by pairing visual artists with one another, while its Connect program reaches outside of the city limits, welcoming curators from other art communities.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • West Loop

Established in 2004 as Bucket Rider Gallery, Andrew Rafacz features emerging and mid-career artists working in video, painting, photography, sculpture and other media. The roster includes photographer Jason Lazarus, textile artist Julia Bland, prolific designer Cody Hudson and more.

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • West Loop

Founded in 1983 within the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts at the University of Illinois Chicago, Gallery 400 has established itself as a venue for cutting-edge contemporary art, architecture and design. Featuring local, national and international artists, the university gallery combines intellectual exhibitions with an approachable atmosphere, offering a diverse program of lectures and events for students, professional artists and the general public alike.

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  • Dance
  • Bridgeport

A former storefront performance-art "gallery" that has since moved into the Zhou B Art Center in Bridgeport, DFBRL8R hosts events that range from avant-garde dance to live art creation. Offering a place for performance artists of all stripes, this is one of the only places in Chicago where you can walk into a room and witness someone deconstructing furniture with a chainsaw or traversing a runway in a complex, sculpture-esque costume.

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • East Garfield Park

A small, one-room gallery near Garfield Park, Julius Caesar is an artist-run space that makes the most of its relatively tiny footprint. Most of the exhibitions here are centered around the work of young, emerging artists who are taking their first steps into Chicago's crowded art scene.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • West Loop
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Carrie Secrist Gallery

Carrie Secrist Gallery has focused on established contemporary artists, with a recently renewed interest in adding new, emerging artists to its roster. Among our favorite works the gallery has exhibited are Kim Keever's water tank diorama photography; Megan Greene's recontextualized Audubon prints and Anne Lindberg's intricate colored pencil drawings.

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • River West/West Town

American design takes the spotlight at Volume Gallery, encompassing furniture design, interior design and sculpture. In addition to exhibitions, Volume also releases editions and publications that explore the work of the designers showcased within its walls.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • River West/West Town
ARC Gallery
ARC Gallery

Founded in 1973, ARC Gallery is a woman-run nonprofit art space in Noble Square that showcases experimental work made by women and provides mentors for emerging artists. The gallery also hosts workshops, discussion groups and programs for underserved populations.

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • River West/West Town

Western Exhibitions was founded in 2002 by Scott Speh and moved to West Town in 2017, where it shares a building with galleries like Document and Volume Gallery. Featuring emerging and established contemporary artists, the gallery exhibits work in all media and, via WesternXeditions, demonstrates arguably the strongest commitment of any Chicago gallery to showcase artists books, prints and multiples.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • River North

You'll find sculptures, paintings, photography, collages and other recontextualized works lining the walls of this River North gallery, which has been hosting exhibitions and representing emerging and established artists since 1986.

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • River West/West Town
Document
Document

DOCUMENT, founded and directed by Aron Gent, is an exhibition space featuring contemporary photography and video works, as well as a scanning and printing studio specializing in large-scale photographs for museum and gallery exhibitions.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • East Garfield Park

Founded in 2007 as a curatorial effort, Devening Projects now includes a Garfield Park gallery space showcasing exhibitions by international contemporary artists in every medium. Much of the programming involves site-specific installations, unexpected artist pairings and sales of experimental artists’ editions.

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Magnificent Mile

Situated on the Magnificent Mile, Artspace 8 focuses on contemporary fine art paintings, prints and sculptures by emerging and established artists from around the world. Yes, it's usually a destination for those looking for something to hang on the wall of their Gold Coast penthouse, but it's also a great place to stop in and see an exhibition.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • East Village
Aspect/Ratio
Aspect/Ratio

Another transplant from the West Loop to West Town, Aspect/Ratio is a commercial gallery that showcases an international cast of contemporary artists, including local visual artist Nick Albertson, New York-based videographer Casilda Sánchez and Cuban conceptual artist Alejandro Figueredo Díaz-Perera.

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • East Village
ENGAGE Projects
ENGAGE Projects

Founded as Aspect/Ratio Projects in 2012, ENGAGE Projects is a commercial gallery that showcases an international cast of contemporary artists, including local visual artist Nick Albertson, New York-based videographer Casilda Sánchez and Cuban conceptual artist Alejandro Figueredo Díaz-Perera. It's also home to both mid-career and emerging painters, photographers, sculptors and more.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • River North
Stephen Daiter Gallery
Stephen Daiter Gallery

Stephen Daiter Gallery showcases important American and European photography from the 20th century, including avant-garde, experimental, documentary and photojournalistic work. The adjoining space, Daiter Contemporary, features work by emerging and established contemporary photographers.

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Lincoln Park

Designed to integrate historic architecture with contemporary art, Wrightwood 659 is a rising art gallery highlighting socially engaging art. Envisioned as a new art space and cultural resource, Wrightwood 659 resides in a 1920s building transformed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando. Exhibitions at Wrightwood 659 interrogate the human relationship with news and journalism, social media and technology, showcasing artists exploring ways our society can preserve our humanities while co-existing with technological advancements.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Bridgeport

A salon, a gallery, and an open community forum. Salonlb. has been redefining what an art gallery should look like since day one. Aiming to break down social norms and stimulate necessary conversations, Salonlb. focuses on sculpture, mixed-media and contemporary craft and highlights emerging and mid-career artists. Engaging the digital space as an extension of its physical location, Salonlb. is also one of the few hybrid galleries in Chicago.

  • Museums
  • Special interest
  • Bridgeport

Co-Prosperity is known for its dual identity as an art gallery and headquarters of Public Media Institute, a non-profit organization producing independent media projects to create, incubate and sustain innovative and equitable cultural programming. The gallery showcases a variety of programs, including exhibitions, screenings, installations, performances and gatherings, and hosts 30–40 events annually.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Ukrainian Village

The Martin is a queer-and-woman-owned gallery with two spaces: Its main gallery space and The Robin, a mini gallery transformed from a vintage jewelry display in the bathroom. Proudly calling itself an artist-first gallery, The Martin showcases emerging artists fearlessly embracing new ways of expressing themselves.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Wicker Park
  • price 1 of 4

This non-profit art space never shies away from any medium or discipline and curates one-of-a-kind exhibitions to showcase emerging artists. Transforming the entire space into a dreamlike world and building an intricate narrative with various art forms in a traditional gallery setting, Heaven Gallery has some of Chicago's most innovative, compassionate and soulful exhibitions.

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Lower West Side

As part of the national Tiger Strikes Asteroid organization, TSA Chicago is an artist-run space dedicated to independent programming and artist-initiated exhibitions. With a good mix of national projects and local proposals, TSA Chicago has everything from avant-garde to classic sentiments.

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