Art Institute of Chicago: Temporary Exhibitions

Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Deepal Kanti Das

For over four decades, VHA has worked closely with the Art Institute of Chicago on the design of special exhibitions.  While the content and scale of the shows varies, in each we strive to present the objects so that their essential characteristics are readily understood, and their relationship to the exhibition’s themes are clear.

Gauguin: Artist as Alchemist

Temporary Exhibition Design, 2017

Paul Gauguin, an artist who spent much of his life travelling the world, not only produced paintings, but also created objects in a variety of different media. Gauguin’s interest in craft, decorative arts, and the versatility of his work is reflected in this exhibition through the careful display of a selection of his paintings, woodcarvings, prints, ceramics, and pieces of furniture.

VHA worked closely with the Art Institute's curatorial team to design the layout of the show, the placement of the objects within the gallery spaces, and the selection of an appropriate color scheme.

After returning to Paris from Tahiti, Gauguin rented a studio space in which he painted all walls and windows yellow. Gauguin’s window was reconstructed (left) with lighting behind a painted yellow glass panel, creating a warm evocative glow. Similarly, a reconstruction of the Maison du Jouir (right), Gauguin’s final residence modeled after Maori raised huts, was included in the exhibition.


Van Gogh's Bedrooms

Temporary Exhibition Design, 2016

Vincent Van Gogh’s bedroom in Arles held special significance for the artist, who created three distinct paintings of this intimate space. This exhibition brought together all three versions of The Bedroom for the first time in North America, offering a pioneering and in-depth study of their making and meaning to Van Gogh in his relentless quest for home.

The exhibition included 33 works by Van Gogh plus dozens of related objects, books, paintings and works on paper. These objects were arranged in a series of traditional galleries, appropriately scaled to the work and organized to support the show’s curatorial intent. Interspersed among these more traditional settings were several digital interventions, designed in collaboration with Blue Cadet, a Philadelphia-based design studio.

Photo courtesy of the Art Institute
Photo courtesy of the Art Institute

Most notable of the digital experiences was a full size replica of the bedroom at Arles. With period appropriate furnishings and scrim-like walls that form a canvas for rich digital projections, the bedroom reconstruction provides the visitor with an immersive and intimate look at the bedroom and the artist’s motivations for creating the paintings.

Photo courtesy of the Art Institute

VHA provided complete exhibition design services, working closely with numerous departments within the museum as well as outside digital designers and furniture vendors.


Other Selected Exhibitions

Ireland: Crossroads of Art and Design, 1690-1840

The Radiance of Jade and the Crystal Clarity of Water

Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Van Gogh & Gauguin: The Studio of the South

Worlds Seen and Imagined: Japanese Screens from the Idemitsu Museum of Arts

Songs on Stone: James McNeill Whistler and the Art of Lithography

The Art of the Sepik River

Renoir's Portraits: Impressions of an Age

Claude Monet: 1840-1926


Photographer: Gauguin: Artist as Alchemist. Installation view, 2017. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Bob Thall (Van Gogh and Gauguin)