Picasso and Chicago: An Art Tour

By: Katie Manning

June 13, 2013

Pablo Picasso and Chicago have a somewhat special relationship. The Art Institute, Chicago’s top art museum, was the first in the United States to recognise the potential and collect the work of the young Spanish artist. Despite the fact that Picasso never actually visited Chicago in his lifetime (or, in fact, anywhere in the United States), the city played an essential role in kicking off his young career. So it’s no surprise that you can jump on a flight to Chicago and still see some of his best works today. We recommend visiting these four spots”¦

The Art Institute of Chicago

The titan of Chicago’s art scene, The Art Institute honoured the 100th anniversary of its relationship with Picasso with the new exhibit “˜Picasso and Chicago’ earlier this year. Picasso first made a splash at the 1913 Chicago Armory Show, and the museum brought together over 200 of his works in commemoration of that event. The Art Institute also has many of his pieces in its permanent collection, which can be enjoyed by viewers all year long.

The Art Institute of Chicago | Seansie

The Art Institute © Sean Hayford O’Leary

The Chicago Picasso Sculpture at Daley Plaza

Chicago’s most accessible piece by Picasso is on view for all at Daley Plaza in the Loop area of downtown. The striking sculpture, often known simply as The Picasso, measures 50 feet high and weighs a whopping 162 tonnes. It’s famous for being Chicago’s very first public art sculpture (now, of course, Chicago has dozens of impressive public pieces), and was gifted to the city by the artist himself. Installed in 1967, it depicts a woman’s face in Picasso’s typical cubist style. You couldn’t be criticised for thinking it more closely resembles a baboon, though.

Chicago Picasso Skyline | John Picken

The Chicago Picasso Skyline © John Picken

The Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago

The University of Chicago’s on-campus art museum, The Smart Museum has been around since 1974 and since then has built up an impressive collection spanning 5,000 years of visual arts around the globe. In its permanent collection are nine works by Picasso, including the lithograph print Head of a Young Woman and an etching, Trois Nu Debout. 


Picasso and Chicago | Smart Museum
Smart Museum © Smart Museum

Arts Club of Chicago

Founded in 1916 after the success of the Chicago Armory Show, Arts Club of Chicago presented the first solo Picasso show in the US and has been an important voice in modern art ever since. Pieces like Picasso’s Head of a Woman are now in its permanent collection, and lovers of modern art can also find work by his contemporaries like Georges Braque, Francis Picabia, Paul Klee, and Joan Miró.

Header photo © The Chicago Picasso © Lindsey Davis/Flickr


Virgin Atlantic operates a seasonal daily flight to Chicago from London Heathrow.

Ever seen Picasso’s work in person? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Katie Manning

Katie is an author for the Virgin Atlantic blog. Despite her urban London residency, Katie can often be found exploring far-flung corners of the globe in search of exciting new experiences and stories. A self-confessed night-owl, she makes it her mission to search out the best cocktail bars and live music venues on each and every expedition. Follow Katie @kt_saramanning

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