Marc Chagall’s America Windows at Art Institute of Chicago (USA)

Marc ChagallAfter a five-year absence, the Art Institute of Chicago will reinstall one of the most beloved treasures in the museum’s collection, Marc Chagall’s America Windows. Following an intensive period of research and conservation treatment, the America Windows return to public view on November 1, 2010 , as the stunning centerpiece of a new presentation of public art in Chicago on the east side of the museum’s Arthur Rubloff building (Gallery 144).

The monumental panels of stained glass, which commemorate the American Bicentennial and were created by Chagall especially for the Art Institute in honor of Chicago’s Mayor Richard J. Daley (1902-1976), have been enjoyed by millions of museum visitors since their original dedication on May 15, 1977. The windows were removed in May 2005 to protect them during the construction of the museum’s Modern Wing, which opened in 2009. Curators and conservators were able to work extensively on the windows during these years to clean, examine, restore, and research Chagall’s masterpiece. This reinstallation of the America Windows will be a cause for celebration among Chicagoans as well as museum visitors from around the world.

Marc Chagall (French; b. Byelorussia, present-day Belarus, 1887-1985) first conceived of the idea for the America Windows in 1974 when he visited Chicago for the unveiling of his mosaic in the First National Bank Plaza. At that time, Chagall learned that a gallery in his honor was being planned as part of the Art Institute’s 1970’s expansion program and offered to create the windows for the gallery. After working on the windows’ design, Chagall announced that the theme for the windows would be the American Bicentennial, and, when he learned of Mayor Richard J. Daley’s death in 1976, he decided that the windows would also serve as a memorial to the late mayor.

Chagall designed the America Windows expressly for the Art Institute and created them in collaboration with the French stained-glass artist Charles Marq. Marq fabricated 36 colored glass panels to Chagall’s specifications, and Chagall himself painted his design onto the glass using metallic oxide paints that were permanently fused to the glass through a subsequent heating process. The windows, measuring more than eight feet in height and more than 30 feet in width, are each made up of three parts, each with 12 separate sections. The images on the panels are unmistakably from the hand of Chagall, who infused his landscape of familiar American icons, references to Chicago, and symbols of the fine arts with an ethereality that suggests the creative expansiveness made possible by American freedom and liberty. After the America Windows were created, Marq installed the artwork in the Art Institute’s Gallery 150, or the Marc Chagall Gallery, overlooking McKinlock Court. The gallery space was donated by the Auxiliary Board of the Art Institute.

Accompanying the reinstallation of the America Windows is a celebratory presentation that gathers models and maquettes from the earliest moment of the modern cultural renaissance in the city’s center–works by such artists as Jean Dubuffet, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso–which are in the collection of the Art Institute, and are connected to the historical inception of Chagall’s gift. Augmenting the installation is the model for Alexander Calder’s Flamingo (c. 1975), on loan from the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration.

Major funding for the America Windows was originally provided by The City of Chicago, with a substantial supplementary sum also given by the Auxiliary Board of the Art Institute. Acquisition of the windows was a project of The City of Chicago and the Auxiliary Board of the Art Institute. The reinstallation of Marc Chagall’s America Windows is generously sponsored by a grant from the Walter E. Heller Foundation in memory of Alyce DeCosta.