A lion for every house / Art Institute of Chicago / June 11 - October 17 2022 /

Photography courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute’s lion statues are beloved by many as icons welcoming them to a place that feels like a second home, but to others they represent gatekeepers who silently exclude. For this exhibition, the four members of Chicago-based art collective Floating Museum took these statues as a jumping-off point to consider questions of access, inequality, and the totemic power of art objects. The project results from interconnected collaborations that took place during the first two years of the pandemic. Curators in Photography and Media invited Floating Museum to explore the department’s collections. In response, Floating Museum invited ten community organizers and cultural hosts in Chicago, as well as ten local photographers, to help create new works based on the collection.

Hosts, photographers, Floating Museum, and the Art Institute curators learned more about one another in ten hour-long Zoom calls; excerpts play at the end of this show. In follow-up conversations, also conducted online, each host selected one of three photographs that Floating Museum offered from the museum’s collection (all of the images are on view in the next two galleries). The museum delivered reproductions of the selected works to the location each host designated as their home, after which the photographers produced new images in these settings, featuring the hosts and the works they selected. Finally, Floating Museum closed the circle by incorporating these commissioned pictures into the photo-sculptures on view in this gallery.

This project formed the basis of a new collaborative, community-based network, with art as the medium of communicatio. It encourages us to consider the potential of the Art Institute’s holding to act as a collective resource for all Chicagoans.
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Exhibit Information

More to Read:
“With No Fear or Fence”: An Experiment in Collective Exhibition Making

by Matthew S Witkovsky

“If They Won’t Come to the Museum, Then the Museum Must Go to Them”
by Lori Waxman for HYPERALLERGIC

“Emergent Institutions: The Floating Museum’s 'A Lion for Every House' Makes New Connections”
by Pia Singh for NewCityArt

“An Exercise in Empathy and Trust: Collaborating with Lions”
by Joann Podkul-Murphy and Kirsten Leenaars for the Art Institute of Chicago

“A Lion For Every House: Interrogating How Art Exists In Space”
by Ayana Contreras for Vocalo

Sulyiman Stokes
Jonathan Castillo
Kirsten Leenaars
Nicole Harrison
Vidura Bahadur
Monica Boutwell
Tonika Johnson
Darryl DeAngelo Terrell
Guanyu Xu
Leonard Suryajaya

Serge JC Pierre-Louis
Maria & Roman Villarreal
Joann Podkul Murphy
Levette Haynes
Shireen & Afzal Ahmad
Heather Miller
Erika Allen
Curtis J. Tarver II
Alaka Wali
Stephanie Harris

Supporting Organizations:

Black Dog Fund
The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation

Floating Museum acknowledges support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.