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Experiments in Wreathing

This Friday marks the 24th annual Wreathing of the Lions, the day that our beloved lions get decked out with their evergreen wreaths. This event is a family favorite, with generations of Chicagoans coming back year after year for this festive kick-off to the holidays. But event regulars might recall that we haven’t always used the traditional evergreen to make the wreaths. . .  

When the Modern Wing opened in 2009, we were in the midst of a yearlong celebration of all things modern and decided to try something a little different. We tapped contemporary artist/industrial designer Yves Behar, who has

a number of objects in the museum’s collection, to create wreaths that approached the holidays with a modern twist, echoing the addition of the Modern Wing to the Art Institute. He designed brightly-hued wreaths made of abstracted aluminum leaves that would create a vibrant burst of color against the winter landscape. 

The following year, we partnered with local design firm Materious to create the wreaths. They found inspiration in the aesthetic of North American cranberry wreaths and the hopeful spirit of Buddhist and Taoist wishing trees. Each wreath was composed of approximately 2,011 red spheres and each sphere contained “a wish for the world in 2011” written by Chicago schoolchildren. Aided by solar power, the wreaths glowed at night, bringing the festive and optimistic feel into the evening hours.


This year, we are currently hard at work prepping our evergreen wreaths for their big unveiling this Friday morning at 10:00a.m. We hope to see you at Wreathing and throughout the holiday season!