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The best contemporary art galleries in Chicago

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moniquemeloche is one of the best galleries in Chicago to see contemporary art.

The best art in Chicago isn't found exclusively at the Art Institute, MCA and other Chicago museums, nor are the best art galleries in the city confined to one neighborhood. Whether in Pilsen, River North, West Loop, Wicker Park or elsewhere, Chicago boasts a variety of venues to see original artwork by up-and-coming, emerging and established artists. We've included commercial galleries, nonprofit art centers, university galleries and new contemporary art spaces. As venues come and go and evolve and expand, and new noteworthy galleries pop up, we'll continue to refine our (admittedly incomplete) list. Here's where to go now to see engaging art in a non-museum setting.

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Artspace 8

Situated on the Magnificent Mile, Artspace 8 focuses on contemporary fine art paintings, prints and sculptures by emerging and established artists from around the world.

Read more Aspect Ratio

Located in the West Loop, Aspect Ratio exhibits contemporary video art by emerging and established artists.

Read more Comfort Station

Built in the early 1900s, this small building in Logan Square used to be a place where trolly riders could stop to rest during their journey. Logan Square Preservation took the building over in 2010, turning it into a community art space. Comfort Station regularly hosts art exhibitions, live music and film screenings while providing a public meeting place for neighborhood residents of all ages.

Read more Corbett vs. Dempsey

Founded by John Corbett and Jim Dempsey in 2004, Corbett vs. Dempsey reflects its owners diverse interests: jazz, film, American modernist traditions, middle-American approaches to abstraction and contemporary art. Located on the third floor of the Dusty Groove building, the art gallery (like a fine record shop) places an emphasis on digging up undiscovered talent, often featuring great regional art.

Read more devening projects + editions

Founded in 2005 as a curatorial effort, devening projects + editions now includes a Garfield Park gallery space showcasing site-specific exhibitions by international contemporary artists in every medium. Multiples by exhibiting artists often accompany these shows.

Read more Douglas Dawson Gallery

Douglas Dawson Gallery was established in 1982 and specializes in ancient and historic art from Africa, Asia and the Americas.

Read more Elastic Arts

This Logan Square arts organization sets its sights on providing a home for artists working in all mediums. On any given night, you're likely to find a group of musicians playing improvised music in the space, a display of visual art or a collection of local artists presenting a workshop.

Read more Graham Foundation

This foundation makes project-based grants to individuals and organizations and produces public programs.

Read more Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art

Intuit is the only nonprofit organization in the U.S. devoted to the exclusive presentation of outsider and contemporary self-taught art. More than simply a gallery, Intuit is a vital resource for students, scholars and the art enthusiasts, featuring a permanent collection containing 1,100+ works of art, the Henry Darger Room collection, the Robert A. Roth Study Center, educational programs and more.

Read more The Mission

By presenting provocative exhibitions by emerging, mid-career and established contemporary artists of the Americas, The Mission seeks to challenge stereotypes and present new perceptions of what Latin American art is. The Sub-Mission, below the main gallery, functions as an alternative exhibition space for local emerging artists.

Read more Renaissance Society

As far as this gallery of the University of Chicago’s campus is concerned, the avantest of the avant-garde is the only one that matters. As for the name, well, the university wants to broaden the definition of renaissance. (Think less Michelangelo, more the Next Michelangelo, in other words.) The white walls and high ceiling create a hyper-resonant environment. Many European avant-garde stars get their only Chicago exposure here, and the shows are free.

Read more Richard Gray Gallery

Nestled in the Hancock Center is the Richard Gray Gallery, which hosts rotating exhibitions by artists primarily working with paint and sculpture. Artists Magdalena Abakanowicz and Jaume Plensa have both exhibited photos of their sculptures at the gallery, including their gigantic pieces on display in Chicago. Abakanowicz's 106 headless figures that make up Agora can be found in Grant Park and Plensa's Crown Fountain (the spitting face columns downtown) features prominently in Millennium Park. Other notable artists that have had work exhibited at the gallery include Josef Albers, Roy Lichtenstein, Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg and Pablo Picasso.

Read more Roots & Culture Contemporary Art Center

If you want to see work by one of the next great Chicago artists, Roots & Culture is the place where you're most likely to find it. The contemporary art center focuses on exhibition by emerging artists, both locally and nationally. It's Double Exposure program invites spontaneous collaboration by pairing visual artists with one another, while its CONNECT program reaches outside of the city limits, welcoming curators from other arts communities.

Read more Shane Campbell Gallery

Featuring locations in Lincoln Park, Oak Park and West Town, Shane Campbell Gallery was founded by a former professor at the School of the Art Institute and exhibits emerging and mid-career contemporary artists specializing in painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and abstract and conceptual art. Artists include Paul Cowan, Mark Grotjahn, Michelle Grabner, Joanne Greenbaum, Amanda Ross-Ho and Lisa Williamson, among others.

Read more threewalls

Argurably the most community-focused gallery in Chicago, threewalls' exhibitions and public programs—conversations,

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symposiums, lectures, performances, publications and more—are dedicated to creating a "locus of exchange" among local, national and international contemporary art communities. Some of threewalls' most impactful programs include artist residencies; the biannual Hand-in-Glove conference; and Phonebook, a directory of independent art spaces, programming, and projects across the United States.

Read more Andrew Rafacz Gallery

Established in 2004 as Bucket Rider Gallery, Andrew Rafacz features emerging and mid-career artists working in video, painting, photography, sculpture and other media. The roster includes photographers Jason Lazarus and John Opera, painter Wendy White, prolific designer Cody Hudson and more.

Read more Carrie Secrist Gallery

Carrie Secrist Gallery celebrated its 20th anniversary in early 2013 and over the past two decades has focused on established contemporary artists, with a recently renewed interest in adding new, emerging artists to its roster. Among our favorite works the gallery has exhibited are Kim Keever's water tank diorama photography; Megan Greene's recontextualized Audubon prints and Derek Chan's abstract paintings thoughtfully incorporating Native American symbolism.

Read more Chicago Urban Art Society

Located in the East Pilsen Industrial Corridor, CUAS is an emerging mixed-use art space that facilities "creative juxtapositions." The community cultural institution presents work by contemporary artists and promotes projects and hosts events by creative-sector groups—everything from pop-up dinners to the Pilsen Flea Market to Slow and Low, a community lowrider festival.


Founder and artist Joseph Ravens calls this crucial storefront space a performance-art "gallery," and offers it up for rental for rehearsals. Through partnerships it hosts master classes such as a recent series of Butoh workshops, and evening shows feature everything from high-concept lipsynching to avant-garde dance to chaotic indoor snowball fights.

Read more Document

DOCUMENT, founded and directed by Aron Gent, is an exhibition space featuring contemporary photography and video works, as well as a scanning and printing studio specializing in large-scale photographs for museum and gallery exhibitions.

Read more Gallery 400

Founded in 1983, Gallery 400 has established itself as a venue for cutting-edge contemporary art, architecture and design. Featuring local, national and international artists, the university gallery combines intellectual exhibitions with an approachable atmosphere, offering a diverse program of lectures and events for students, professional artists and the general public alike.

Read more Hyde Park Art Center

With a mission of making contemporary art more approachable, the Hyde Park Art Center offers engaging exhibitions, as well as community programming of all varieties: artist talks, a residency program, studio classes and more. Established in 1939, it's the oldest alternative exhibition in Chicago.

Read more Kavi Gupta Gallery

Kavi Gupta Gallery exhibits international emerging and mid-career artists in all media, including global art star Theaster Gates, whose practice encompasses installation, performance and urban interventions; photographer Ari Marcopoulos, documenter of youth culture; multimedia artist Tony Tassett; Puerto Rican–born painter Angel Otero; folk art–style painter Clare Rojas and more. It's part of network of galleries that includes Kavi Gupta Berlin and Kavi Gupta Elizabeth Street, an 8,000–foot space that is slated to open in September 2013 and will be the largest commercial gallery in Chicago.

Read more moniquemeloche

A former assistant curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Monique Meloche worked for Rhona Hoffman Gallery and Kavi Gupta Gallery before becoming an art dealer herself, opening a space in Fulton Market in 2001. Monique Meloche Gallery is now located in Wicker Park and has established itself as a destination for consistently intriguing contemporary art in all media. Among the artists whose careers Meloche has helped launch is Rashid Johnson, who has become widely known for his conceptual "post-black" art, including photography, sculpture, video and installation.

Read more Rhona Hoffman Gallery

Rhona Hoffman Gallery, founded as Young Hoffman Gallery in 1976, is one of the oldest galleries in the West Loop. Specializing in international contemporary art in all medias, particularly of the socio-political variety, Rhona Hoffman exhibits young and emerging artists alongside established ones. Early on, it was one of the first galleries to offer exhibitions to women artists such as Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Sylvia Plimack Mangold and Cindy Sherman. Other notable artists who have shown here include Sol LeWitt, Gordon Matta-Clark, Fred Sandback, Lorna Simpson, Nancy Spero, Richard Tuttle, Carrie Mae Weems and Kehinde Wiley (among many others).

Read more Stephen Daiter Gallery

Stephen Daiter Gallery showcases important American and European photography from the 20th century, including avant-garde, experimental, documentary and photojournalistic work. The adjoining space, Daiter Contemporary, features work by emerging and established contemporary photographers.

Read more Western Exhibitions

Western Exhibitions was founded in 2002 by Scott Speh and moved to the West Loop in 2008. Featuring emerging and established contemporary artists, the gallery exhibits work in all media and, via WesternXeditions, demonstrates arguably the strongest commitment of any Chicago gallery to showcasing artists books, prints and multiples.

Read more Degenerate Art Gallery‎

This small Edgewater gallery hosts regular themed exhibitions, featuring photography, paintings, drawings and other mixed-media work.

Read more Comfort Station

Built in the early 1900s, this small building in Logan Square used to be a place where trolly riders could stop to rest during their journey. Logan Square Preservation took the building over in 2010, turning it into a community art space. Comfort Station regularly hosts art exhibitions, live music and film screenings while providing a public meeting place for neighborhood residents of all ages.

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