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A Tour of Renzo Piano’s New Modern Wing, Part Three

Our final and most photo-heavy stop on our tour last night of Renzo Piano‘s soon-to-open Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago, started by walking through the cafe and the upstairs bookstore, which overlooks the main entryway and was just lovely, what with the sun setting outside, the skylights up above turning a nice shade of dark blue, and Piano’s modern-ness putting us at great ease (we’d also had a couple drinks by this point, but we’re crediting it to the building). Here’s a shot facing outward, toward the entrance:

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And a shot in the other direction of the very sleek, not-yet-manned cafe:

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Once we moved on from there, we hit the mother lode, the architecture and design collection, which made us as giddy as could be.

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If you’re like us, it’s maybe the first place you’ll want to come after first admiring the building. It’s a terrific collection, much, much better than the Art Institute’s previous setup in their original building.

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Almost immediately, you’ll find yourself among Mies van der Rohe sketches:

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Some wonderfully-large Paul Rudolph:

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You’ll also see other great pieces, like a drawing for Robert A.M. Stern‘s pitch for a new Tribune Tower, Frank Gehry‘s incoherent scribbles, and lots, lots more, all very well displayed. But perhaps the best of the architecture collection on display is also the most self-referential: Renzo Piano’s sketches for the Modern Wing, the building you’re standing in:

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Past that, you get into the print and product design exhibits. We spotted thing like Abbott Miller‘s On/Off:

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Our pal Yves Behar makes an appearance first with his XO Laptop:

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And then again with his light installation for Samsung:

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Zaha Hadid prepped for her next entrance into Chicago with <a href="http://www.mediabistro.com/unbeige/exhibitions/first_looks_at_unstudio_and_zaha_hadids_burnham_pavilions_114401.asp".this summer's pavilion by having some of her futuristic silverware displayed:

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A whole collection of Emigre issues sit safely encased in glass, right next to Abbott Miller popping up again with his work for 2wice magazine:

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And a great selection of chairs and lighting round out the exhibit:

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The time was ticking dangerously close toward the end of the party, so we headed out, wishing we could have stayed a few more hours to check everything else out. So we took one last look and headed out the door…

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…but not before we could take a quick shot of the yet-to-open gift shop, which also looks way cool (and the last one we’ve been impressed with since wandering around the one in Daniel Libeskind‘s Denver Art Museum):

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And then it was time to hit the road:

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Verdict in the end? It’s a beautiful building with stellar collections. We feel like it was worth the wait over these past couple of years during planning and construction. Though we’re anxious to see what it looks like once they open and it’s swamped with people and all the final touches are in place. That’s the only true was to test the mettle of a museum. From what we saw last night, the crowds aren’t likely to be disappointed.

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