The Art Institute of Chicago

Photograph courtesy of the Art Institute

Getting “Bisa Butler: Portraits” before the public has been a struggle against COVID-19 from the start.

Days before the exhibition of the artist’s extraordinary and ebullient quilted portraits of African Americans was to premiere at the Katonah Museum of Art north of New York City, the seriousness of the pandemic became clear and the state went into lockdown.

For her first solo museum show’s next stop, the Art Institute of Chicago, a November debut was set. The quilts were hung. The signs on the wall were in place. Butler had done some interviews and was excited that her work was mounted in the very rooms that had last hosted paintings by the old master El Greco, the museum’s first exhibition by a living artist to hang in its classical European galleries.

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