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West Loop Dot Gallery
Photograph: Courtesy West Loop Dot Gallery

Find your new favorite artist at Chicago’s best art galleries

Located throughout the city, Chicago art galleries offer a chance to see work from emerging artists in intimate spaces.

Zach Long
Erin Yarnall
Written by
Zach Long
&
Erin Yarnall
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Chicago is known for its art scene, and while you can of course visit the Art Institute,  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 and broaden your creative perspective.

The best 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 exhibiting work by the Chicago Imagists.

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Vertical Gallery
  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Ukrainian Village

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, but in the past few years 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 Warehouse in West Town (2044 W Carroll Ave), which hosts exhibitions.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • West Loop

West Loop Dot Gallery opened up in late 2019 showcasing works by both regional and international artists. The gallery’s works represent everything that its namesake neighborhood has come to represent: trendy, eclectic and full of eye-catching color. The gallery is also home for many muralists, and connects them with local organizations like the Chinatown Chicago Public Library branch that is now home to a mural by CJ Hungerman.

  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

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  • 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 Linda Gleitz and poet and staff member Nina Corwin.

  • 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.

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  • 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.

Graham Foundation
  • Art
  • Arts centers
  • Gold Coast

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.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Bridgeport

After being operated strictly as a gallery space for more than a decade, 4Art Space recently transitioned into an artist-run gallery and workspace. The gallery, which is owned and operated as a collective, displays a variety of works from eight artists, from photography to glass art.

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

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
  • Lower West Side

It be tricky to find a time to see the art at East Pilsen’s House of the Apocalypse, as the gallery is only open for four hours each month—from 6-10pm on every second Friday, as well as by appointment—but it’s well worth the visit. The gallery bears a name fitting of a haunted house and features paintings and sculptures. Its standout pieces are the painted sci-fi inspired mannequin sculptures that form the “Warriors of the Apocalypse” series by Brian Sperry.

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  • 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.

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

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.

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

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.

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • East Garfield Park

Founded in 2007 as a curatorial effort, devening projects + editions 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.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Lincoln Square

Hofheimer Gallery represents an eclectic array of painters, from the bright, geometric canvases of Betty Cleeland to the subtle, textured work of Charles Gniech. The exhibitions you'll find here are equally varied, including paintings, drawings and sculpture from artists in various stages of their careers.

  • 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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Aspect/Ratio
  • Art
  • Galleries
  • East Village

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.

Stephen Daiter Gallery
  • Art
  • Galleries
  • River North

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.

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