Floating Museum: A lion for every house

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 communication. It encourages us to consider the potential of the Art Institute’s holding to act as a collective resource for all Chicagoans.


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