Art Institute Chicago
I might know a painting that I studied as a graduate student because it was an Expressionist picture. Today, I might appreciate it because it is a painting by Franz Marc and I love Franz Marc’s work. I also enjoy it now because it’s got a blue horse in it and my daughter likes a blue horse. So, it’s fun to see how the life of the museum reflects all of us also as we return to it and our lives continue to unfold.” —Stephanie D’Alessandro, Gary C. & Frances Comer Curator of Modern Art
The Comer Family Foundation helped fund the Modern Wing at the Art Institute Chicago and endowed the Gary C. & Frances Comer Curator of Modern Art at the Art Institute Chicago, which was held by Stephanie D’Alessandro, who organized Matisse and Methods of Modern Construction and Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary. D’Alessandro’s recent study of Belgian artist Rene Magritte’s painting Time Transfixed revealed an abandoned composition beneath the surface. The foundation has also supports the Art Institute’s Photography Department with acquisitions, exhibition development and a renovation study. Recent and proposed acquisitions include major bodies of work by Ed Ruscha, James Welling and Shomei Tomatsu, among others.
Learning by Seeing
The Comer Family Foundation also supports organizations using art as an educational tool. The Gary C. Comer Family Gallery, which opened at the Field Museum of Natural History in 2011, is devoted to exhibitions that explore environmental issues and innovative sustainability solutions.
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Preserving Our Past, Present & Future
Our focus on photography and its technological evolution led to our support of the Smithsonian Photography Initiative and projects such as Chicago in the Year 2000 (CITY 2000). The Smithsonian Photography Initiative made more than 13 million negatives available as part of the Smithsonian Institution Archives. In addition, click! Photography Changes Everything features a collection of original essays, stories and images commissioned during the photography initiative. Read more about the archive on its blog, The Bigger Picture.
CITY 2000 was a yearlong project documenting everyday life in Chicago. At the turn of the millennium, more than 200 photographers captured each Chicago neighborhood, producing half a million images using processes dating from the 19th century to the present day. Richard Cahan, an author and former picture editor at the Chicago Sun Times, directed the project and led a dedicated staff of photographers, writers and editors. Multiple exhibitions were mounted throughout the year, including a residency in the City Gallery in the historic Water Tower. The project culminated in a book and a cold-storage archive housed at University of Illinois at Chicago Richard M. Daley Library. The aim is to preserve the archive for 1,000 years, offering our progenitors a glimpse into everyday life from the year 2000.
When Comer first considered his project, it was because he’d been struck by the vast physical changes here, but in the end, what he captured was a people—a people evolving, a people shifting and changing, a people finding their way. I asked Comer why he thought the photographs of Chicago had become such an attraction abroad. “Because,” he replied simply, “the place is real.”
—Alex Kotlowitz, Never a City So Real: A Walk in Chicago, Crown Publishers, 2004.