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2000–2012: The Era of Greatest Growth

Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, the Art Institute would embark on the largest expansion in its history, the Modern Wing. Designed by Renzo Piano, this addition, at 264,000 square feet, rivaled only the original Allerton Building of 1893 in size.

Spurred by the ever-growing permanent collection, the Art Institute began planning another major expansion at the turn of the 20th century. Originally intended as an addition to Gunsaulus Hall sitting over the railroad tracks on the south side of the museum, those plans were abandoned as construction began on Millennium Park, Chicago's great urban centerpiece to the north of the museum. Working with the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, the museum broke ground on the site of the Goodman Theater in 2005 to build the Modern Wing, directly facing Millennium Park. This addition holds the museum's collections of 20th- and 21st-century art, architecture, design, and photography as well as the Ryan Education Center, two restaurants, the Bluhm Family Terrace for commissioned installations of contemporary sculpture, and the Nichols Bridgeway, which links the third floor of the Modern Wing to Millennium Park.

In concert with the Modern Wing, many interior spaces throughout the rest of the museum were reconceptualized in multiple phases. New galleries were created for prints and drawings, European decorative arts, and Greek, Roman, and Byzantine art. The former home of the museum's collection of arms and armor was transformed into a sculpture court for Indian and Southeast Asian art, also designed by Renzo Piano. The collections of African art and Indian Art of the Americas were moved to galleries formerly devoted to contemporary art.

Charles Ray. Hinoki, 2007. Through prior gifts of Mary and Leigh Block, Mr. and Mrs. Joel Starrels, Mrs. Gilbert W. Chapman, and Mr. and Mrs. Roy J. Friedman; restricted gift of Howard and Donna Stone, 2007.771.


Kazemir Malevich. Painterly Realism of a Football Player--Color Masses in the 4th Dimension, 1915. Through prior gift of Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection, Art Institute of Chicago Acquisition Funds, 2011.1.

Facade of the Modern Wing seen from the Nichols Bridgeway; photo by Paul Warchol.