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The Floating Museum: A Lion for Every Home

Artists Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford, Faheem Majeed, Andrew Schachman, and a very r. young form the Floating Museum art collective, which employs art to investigate the connections between community, architecture, and public institutions in Chicago. Using the Art Institute’s photography collection as a starting point, this project encouraged the collective to create a new site-specific installation to further connect the Museum to the community it serves and build a new community in the galleries.

The Art Institute of Chicago’s Floating Museum collaborated with Grace Deveney, Elizabeth Siegel, and Matthew Witkovsky, three curators specializing in photography and media, to invite ten photographers and pair them with ten “hosts” from the city, including politicians, activists, and arts supporters. Floating Museum delved into each host’s personal and professional life as part of a series of Zoom chats. Hosts were given a chance to select one of three images from the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection to keep and display in a special area they’d set as their “home.” Each photographer took a picture of their host and subject with their chosen piece of art as a backdrop. After that, each fresh photograph was placed in an illuminated lightbox sculpture, further enhanced by ambient lighting. There are 30 original images from the collection at the Art Institute’s galleries, including ten chosen by each host, new photos taken of the hosts and their selected work, and a sculptural installation based on the entire process.

Does Your House Have Lions? is the exhibition’s name, based on Sonia Sanchez’s epic poem. At the Art Institute of Chicago, the lions guard the entrance to a huge collection of works of art held for the benefit of the public, as portrayed by Sanchez. Through the creation of a circuit in which museum replicas travel to other homes, where they are reproduced and transformed, and then return to the galleries to inspire new work, the exhibition investigates how the walls between institutional, civic, domestic, as well as community spaces can become more permeable. Consider the power of collective and collaborative work, and think about what it means for a community and an institution to be open to everyone.