The Art Institute of Chicago, founded in 1879 and located in Chicago's Grant Park, is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. Recognized for its curatorial efforts and popularity among visitors, the museum hosts 1.5 million people annually. Its collection, stewarded by 11 curatorial departments, is encyclopedic, includes iconic works such as Georges Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Pablo Picasso's The Old Guitarist, Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, Grant Wood's American Gothic, its permanent collection of nearly 300,000 works of art is augmented by more than 30 special exhibitions mounted yearly that illuminate aspects of the collection and present cutting-edge curatorial and scientific research. As a research institution, the Art Institute has a conservation and conservation science department, five conservation laboratories, one of the largest art history and architecture libraries in the country—the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries; the growth of the collection has warranted several additions to the museum's original 1893 building, constructed for the World's Columbian Exposition of the same year.
The most recent expansion, the Modern Wing designed by Renzo Piano, opened in 2009 and increased the museum's footprint to nearly one million square feet, making it the second-largest art museum in the United States, after the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Art Institute is associated with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a leading art school, making it one of the few remaining unified arts institutions in the United States. In 1866, a group of 35 artists founded the Chicago Academy of Design in a studio on Dearborn Street, with the intent to run a free school with its own art gallery; the organization was modeled after European art academies, such as the Royal Academy, with Academicians and Associate Academicians. The Academy's charter was granted in March 1867. Classes started in 1868; the Academy's success enabled it to build a new home for the school, a five-story stone building on 66 West Adams Street, which opened on November 22, 1870. When the Great Chicago Fire destroyed the building in 1871 the Academy was thrown into debt.
Attempts to continue despite the loss by using rented facilities failed. By 1878, the Academy was $10,000 in debt. Members tried to rescue the ailing institution by making deals with local businessmen, before some abandoned it in 1879 to found a new organization, named the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts; when the Chicago Academy of Design went bankrupt the same year, the new Chicago Academy of Fine Arts bought its assets at auction. In 1882, the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts changed its name to the current Art Institute of Chicago and elected as its first president the banker and philanthropist Charles L. Hutchinson, who "is arguably the single most important individual to have shaped the direction and fortunes of the Art Institute of Chicago". Hutchinson was a director of many prominent Chicago organizations, including the University of Chicago, would transform the Art Institute into a world-class museum during his presidency, which he held until his death in 1924. In 1882, the organization purchased a lot on the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Van Buren Street for $45,000.
The existing commercial building on that property was used for the organization's headquarters, a new addition was constructed behind it to provide gallery space and to house the school's facilities. By January 1885 the trustees recognized the need to provide additional space for the organization's growing collection, to this end purchased the vacant lot directly south on Michigan Avenue; the commercial building was demolished, the noted architect John Wellborn Root was hired by Hutchinson to design a building that would create an "impressive presence" on Michigan Avenue, these facilities opened to great fanfare in 1887. With the announcement of the World's Columbian Exposition to be held in 1892–93, the Art Institute pressed for a building on the lakefront to be constructed for the fair, but to be used by the Institute afterwards; the city agreed, the building was completed in time for the second year of the fair. Construction costs were met by selling the Michigan/Van Buren property. On October 31, 1893, the Institute moved into the new building.
For the opening reception on December 8, 1893, Theodore Thomas and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed. From the 1900s to the 1960s the school offered with the Logan Family the Logan Medal of the Arts, an award which became one of the most distinguished awards presented to artists in the US. Between 1959 and 1970, the Institute was a key site in the battle to gain art and documentary photography a place in galleries, under curator Hugh Edwards and his assistants; as Director of the museum starting in the early 1980s, James N. Wood conducted a major expansion of its collection and oversaw a major renovation and expansion project for its facilities; as "one of the most respected museum leaders in the country", as described by The New York Times, Wood created major exhibitions of works by Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh that set records for attendance at the museum. He retired from the museum in 2004. Institute began construction of "The Modern Wing", an addition situated on the southwest corner of Columbus and Monroe.
The project, designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Renzo Piano, was completed and opened to the public on May 16, 2009. The 264,000-square-foot building addition made the Art Institute the second-largest art museum in the United States; the building houses the museum's world-renowned collections of 20th and 21st century art modern European painting and sculpture, contemporary art, a