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Route 66

6 artworks from 6 artists across 5 galleries
The tour is ordered to begin from the Michigan Avenue entrance. If you are starting in the Modern Wing, simply do your tour in reverse order.

Take a journey down America's iconic Route 66 highway, stretching 2,400 miles across two-thirds of the continent, with these artworks representing many of the states along the way.


  • A34: New Mexico Dining Room, c. 1940

    Narcissa Niblack Thorne

    This Thorne miniature dining room simulates the white-washed and mud-plastered adobe brick homes of New Mexico. The room's lighting suggests an afternoon sun illuminating the stark walls and casting moody shadows where it meets the darker wood accents. The open windows imply that Thorne imagined a rare desert breeze wafting through the kitchen; the darkened stairwell through the doorway provides another respite from the heat.

    "New Mexico's part of Route 66 meanders through rugged landscapes and historic towns—a journey of Southwest charm. The road is lined with adobe architecture, scenic vistas, and the rich heritage of Native American and Hispanic cultures."

  • Polychrome Jar

    Priscilla Namingha Nampeyo

    The Nampeyo family continues to invent variations on longstanding decorative patterns featured in traditional Hopi pottery. A kaleidoscopic array of motifs—many of ancient origin—present a lively “fractured” design, an approach seen earlier in Hopi Sikyatki ceramics created from 1400 through 1625.

    "Once in Arizona, Route 66 traverses iconic sights like the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert, and the Grand Canyon. Along the way you'll see saguaro cacti, red rock formations, and other glimpses of Arizona's diverse landscapes and history."

  • War Shirt


    Equipped with powerful symbols and emblems, war shirts expressed the wearer's authority and status, and also served as his protective spiritual armor in battle.

    "Cutting diagonally across Missouri, Route 66 runs through St. Louis and Springfield. The "Show Me State" segment of the Mother Road, featuring nostalgic diners and quirky roadside attractions, epitomizes small-town hospitality and Midwestern charm."

  • Steer Horn Armchair

    Artist unknown

    Although furniture made from the horns of steer, elk, and deer is rooted in European tradition, it reached the height of popularity in America in the 1880s. Not only did chairs like this one evoke the romanticism and pioneering spirit of the American West, they also employed innovative, exotic materials that were prized during the Aesthetic movement. Lavishly upholstered, this diminutive example was most likely intended for a parlor.

    "Crossing the Lone Start State, Route 66 in Texas begins with the Panhandle's ghostly landscapes and passes through Amarillo's quirky attractions, like the Cadillac Ranch, before reaching Dallas."

  • "Illinois" Plate

    Joseph Potter

    When Potter was a diplomat and United States Consul in Germany, he began the hobby of china painting after he saw women in the consulate taking lessons. This Illinois plate—part of a series of “states” plates—is decorated in polychromatic minerals, gold, and silver. Inside the gold, filigree-patterned cartouche, “Illinois” is depicted as a bald eagle against rays of sunshine, with the state motto, “State Sovereignty, National Union.”

    "Route 66, "The Mother Road," begins just steps from the Art Institute's front doors on Michigan Avenue. Marked by the iconic Route 66 sign, this classic American artery offers a glimpse into America's road trip culture and nostalgia for a bygone era."

  • American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman)

    David Hockney

    One of England’s most inventive artists of the postwar era, David Hockney settled in Los Angeles in 1964 and for many years captured, with wit and incision, the sun-washed flatness of Southern California. This painting depicts art collectors Fred and Marcia Weisman in the sculpture garden of their Los Angeles home. The Weismans did not appreciate Hockney’s harsh portrayal and did not keep the painting.

    "Route 66 ends at the Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles. In 1955, the highway was full of leisure travelers headed west to see the Grand Canyon, Disneyland, and the beaches of southern California."

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