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Renaissance Society

Renaissance Society

The Renaissance Society, a noncollecting museum founded in 1915 at the University of Chicago, is Chicago's oldest contemporary art museum. Named for the spirit of rebirth, the society sought to provide university students with a well-rounded education in the arts. Although located on the university campus, the museum has remained an independent institution.

Despite the controversies surrounding modern art following the Armory Show of 1913, the society, from its inception, was quick to embrace modernism. Under director Eva Watson-Schutze (1929–1935), the society presented groundbreaking exhibitions of early modernists such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Marc Chagall, Jean Arp, Joan Miró, Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Henri Matisse, and Constantin Brancusi, as well as pivotal one-person shows of Isamu Noguchi, Alexander Calder, Fernand Léger, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Since the appointment of Susanne Ghez as director in 1974, the society has increased its international reputation and scope, exhibiting conceptual, minimal, postminimal, and installation artists, who, in keeping with the original mission, question, redefine and expand the aesthetic boundaries of the visual arts.

The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago records, 1917–1981. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
Scanlan, Joseph, ed. A History of the Renaissance Society: The First Seventy-five Years. 1993.