Renaissance Society

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The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago
Renaissance Society.jpg
Established 1915
Location 5811 S. Ellis Ave. Chicago, IL 60637
Coordinates 41°47′21″N 87°36′04″W / 41.7892°N 87.6010°W / 41.7892; -87.6010
Type Art museum
Director Solveig Øvstebø

The Renaissance Society is a non-collecting contemporary art museum in Chicago, Illinois. It is located on the campus of the University of Chicago, although it is a fully independent entity.


The Renaissance Society is a non-collecting museum founded in 1915 to encourage the growth and understanding of contemporary art. The museum usually presents four exhibitions each year, featuring both internationally and locally renowned artists, with a focus on the commissioning and production of new work. The museum also sponsors concerts, performances, film and video screenings, poetry and fiction readings, and lectures by artists, critics and scholars.


From 1929 to 1935, the Society was led by important photographer and artist Eva Watson-Schütze, who helped create groundbreaking exhibitions of modernists including Braque, Arp, Brâncuși, Miró, and Picasso. Important one-person exhibitions organized by the Society included Henri Matisse (1930); Alexander Calder (1934); Fernand Léger (1936); László Moholy-Nagy (1939); John Sloan (1942); Käthe Kollwitz, Paul Klee (1946), Mies van der Rohe (1947); Diego Rivera (1949); José Clemente Orozco (1951); Marc Chagall (1958); Réné Magritte (1964) and Henry Moore (1967). A distinguished history of educational programs featured luminaries such as Sergei Prokofiev, Alfred Barr, Leonard Bernstein, Gertrude Stein, Zora Neale Hurston, and Paul Tillich.

From 1974 through mid-2013, curator Susanne Ghez led the Renaissance Society. During her tenure, Ghez exhibited artists such as Robert Smithson, Louise Bourgeois, Anselm Kiefer, Georg Baselitz, Daniel Buren, On Kawara, Gunther Forg, Juan Muñoz, Hanne Darboven, Jean-Marc Bustamante, Thomas Struth, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Kara Walker, Arturo Herrera, Darren Almond, Thomas Hirschhorn, and Mark Manders.[1]

In July 2013, Ghez stepped down, and was replaced by Solveig Øvstebø as Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Renaissance Society.[2] For more than a decade prior, Øvstebø had been director of Bergen Kunsthall in her native Norway[3], where she curated exhibitions with artists such as Tauba Auerbach, Richard Tuttle, Runa Islam, Elmgreen & Dragset, and Nairy Baghramian.[4] At the Renaissance Society, Øvstebø has worked with artists including Nora Schultz, Irena Haiduk, Mathias Poledna, Paul McCarthy, Sadie Benning, and Jennifer Packer.[5]

Hamza Walker was Associate Curator and Director of Education from 1994 to 2016.[6] He has been called by The New York Times one of the "seven most influential curators in the country", as well as "one of the museum world's most talented essayists."[7] Walker won the Ordway Prize in 2010, in recognition of his innovative curatorial work and his wide-ranging thinking and writing about contemporary art.[8]


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