The museum encourages the individual experience of works of art, the irreplaceable embodiments of the creative impulse from all times and areas. The mission is to collect, preserve, and interpret these works of art for 1.5 million visitors annually from around the globe.
The Art Institute, founded in 1879, has approximately 300,000 works of art in its permanent collection, stewarded by eleven curatorial departments and nearly 500 employees. This collection is housed in eight buildings—nearly one million square feet—at the heart of Chicago, one block from Lake Michigan and serving as the eastern anchor of the city's downtown. In addition to displaying the permanent collection, the museum hosts 30 special exhibitions and hundreds of gallery talks, lectures, performances, and events every year and has one of the finest research libraries for art and architecture in the country as well as state-of-the-art conservation facilities that ensure that the art of the past carries on well into the future.