Chicago’s Art Institute Re-Opens Chagall "Windows"

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Emily Heye, associate conservator of objects, uncovers the restored Chagall stained glass windows at their new location in the Art Institute Wednesday. The windows, which were removed five years ago for the construction of the Modern Wing, will open to the public on Nov. 1. (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune)

After five years out of sight, one of the Art Institute of Chicago’s most popular works is back.

Artist Marc Chagall’s “America Windows,” dismantled in 2005 for safe keeping during the lengthy, construction of the Art Institute of Chicago’s new Modern Wing, reopens to the public Monday.

Chagall created the stained glass panel wall as a result of the city’s and the Art Institute’s response and support for his mosaic “Four Seasons.” He presented the work to the museum in 1977 and dedicated it to Mayor Richard J. Daley for supporting public art.

The artist called his piece America Windows to recogize a country on its bicentennial that valued and supported the arts.

Bueller…Bueller?

The glass wall was also featured in the classic John Hughes film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off“.

After nearly 30 years on view overlooking the Art Institute’s McKinlock Court, the glass windows, subject to slight condensation, had attracted atmospheric deposits of oil and calcium carbonate, which appeared as a sheer white film dulling their filtered, colored light, muting the brilliance of colors. Seizing on the opportunity provided by the 36-paneled windows’ removal during the lengthy construction, the museum’s conservation staff investigated various methods of cleaning, and, beginning about two years ago, the restorative work began.

Detail of one of the Chagall windows.

Associate Conservator Emily Heye commented: “Imagine large Q-tips and lots of time spent carefully rinsing after the fact.” Simultaneous to Heye’s immaculate restorative work, a new exhibition space was designed and constructed for the windows in the east end of the museum’s Arthur Rubloff building.

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