Museum Hack Tour at the Art Institute

I was extremely lucky to grow up with parents who have a strong appreciation for the arts, and as such, I’ve not only been to the Art Institute numerous time, but I’ve been on many (audio) tours at the Art Institute. But the museum is vast and the collections sometimes change, so there is a ton in the Art Institute I don’t know or haven’t seen.

Enter Museum Hack! New to Chicago, they approached the Windy City Blogger Collective offering up tours in exchange for a blog post, and here we are. A couple weeks ago, Robert and I headed over to the Art Institute after work on Thursday (free admission night!) and enjoyed an “Un-Highlights” tour with Museum Hack tour guide Sarah.

From their website: The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the best museums in the world. It has art & objects from around the globe and throughout history. Even the building itself is a work of art! (Note: I knew that! I was designed for the 1893 World’s Fair!) This museum is f***ing awesome. So we hacked it. We offer a high-energy, group-oriented tour experience certain to keep you entertained and teach you a bit along the way. 

The tour was definitely high-energy! It was 2 hours long, and we saw a lot in those 2 hours! Wear comfortable shoes (I was wearing Nikes) and your FitBit.


Our first stop was American Folk Art. Have you ever been in that room? I don’t know that I have. But we learned about whirligigs. They have a much vaster history than I expected.


This is a tray of a porcelain monkey marching band. Yeah, look closer. It’s from pre-revolutionary war France. Which should provide more insight into why France had a revolution.


Super-unflattering shot of our tour guide, Sarah. Sorry about that!! But this painting is from the same time as Monet. While Monet was painting haystacks and water lilies, this guy painted himself (the dark figure is thought to be a self-portrait) with some sirens and other water creatures. Who would you rather party with? Sorry, Claude.


We were lucky to have such a small group, which made it easier for us to dart around the museum and see more art. I’m still not sure which person from A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte Robert is impersonating, though.

We each had to pick one piece from the Sculpture Garden to interact with and tour guide Sarah took a photo. These are my favorites, but I did not pick one of these! Which one did I pick????? Ooohhhh, a mystery.


Sarah pointed out that Van Gogh used a lot of green in his paintings, and back in the day, green paint was made with arsenic, so maybe he wasn’t actually crazy, just poisoning himself? Food for thought.


Georgia O’Keeffe may be known as the vagina-flower painter, but she painted a lot of other really cool paintings, like this one. She was also kind of a badass herself.


There was a story about this statue of Venus, and basically the plot line was people are outwardly prudes.

And that is just a snippet of what we saw during our tour. Sarah also made the art very interactive with some games and challenges and questions, which was a lot of fun.

And since Robert joined me on the tour, here is his review:
Me: Did you enjoy that tour we did at the Art Institute? 
Robert: Yes
Me: Do you think it’s worth the ticket price ($39)? 
Robert: Yeah, it was a good tour and the guide seemed like she did her homework. I liked that she pointed out stuff that I wouldn’t have given a second look to had I gone on my own.  

I agree, I realized on the tour there are SO many things in the Art Institute that I bypass on my way to my favorite works. And also so much history that you can’t fit onto the little placards. Did you know Caravaggio was an asshole? And that there are tons of copycats and the copycats changed their last names to Caravaggio? Beautiful art, though.

If you love art and especially if you love the Art Institute, I highly recommend checking out the Museum Hack Un-Highlights Tour. Even if you’ve been to the Art Institute “tons” of times, I’m pretty sure you will learn new things.

They also do private tours for groups and corporate team building tours(which I have already suggested to my team).


And that’s the statue I interacted with. Don’t worry, I didn’t actually touch it.

What’s your favorite painting? I like to visit this painting of Mary Magdalene every time I stop by the Art Institute. But our tour was so jam-packed, I didn’t get a chance to visit. 

What’s your favorite museum? Your favorite exhibit? I love religious art from the Renaissance (hence my favorite painting), and the AIC has a lot of it. 

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