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New art installation has transformed the Garfield Park Conservatory

New art installation has transformed the Garfield Park Conservatory
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

A 2011 summer hailstorm brought catastrophic damage to the Garfield Park Conservatory's glass roofs. After four years of repairs, restoration on the West Side greenhouse facility finally came to a close over the summer, and a new art installation called "solarise: a sea of all colors," which opened in September, has ushered in a rebirth of the West Side attraction. 

Back in 2012, officials from the conservatory invited Chicago-based artist duo Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero, who work under the moniker Luftwerk, to design an exhibit for the building’s grand reopening. And they did not disappoint.

Each piece of Luftwerk’s exhibit—from a set of red and blue filters in the Show House to a series of reflective frames in the Palm House, which point to the iconic waterfall in the Fern Room—is designed to evoke the theme of “landscape art under glass.”

“We kept in mind Jens Jensen’s vision when we were designing [the exhibit],” says Bachmaier. “He said the prairie of the Midwest was always like a sea of all colors.”

Jensen, who founded the conservatory in the early 1900s, was among the first to design natural-looking landscapes inside a greenhouse. More than a century later, Bachmaier and Gallero have honored the place’s history while adding features that give it an entirely new vibe.

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