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Museum Spotlight: The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art

Located on the University of Chicago campus, the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art houses over 15,000 pieces of art ranging from Rothko’s to Buddhist sculptures to contemporary Chinese photography. The museum’s affiliation with the University of Chicago enhances its emphasis on community, scholarly partnerships, and incorporating diverse ideas, identities, and experiences into exhibitions and public programming. 


The Smart Museum began in the 1960s with the University of Chicago’s desire to establish a permanent art collection and a structure to house this collection. In 1967, the Smart Family Foundation donated the funds necessary to fulfill the University’s desire and construction began in 1971. 

The museum was named after brothers David and Alfred Smart, Chicago-based publishers of popular magazines Esquire, Coronet and Verve. The art for the museum was acquired through gifts from foundations, individual donors, and various university departments. 

Doors to the Smart Museum opened in 1974. From the outset, admission to the Smart Museum has always been free to all who visit.


Today, the Smart Museum resides in an unadorned cluster of modernist buildings around a sculpture garden at 5550 S. Greenwood Ave on the University campus. 

The museum offers an online collection accessible to visitors from all over the world, as well as a “living with art” program that enables University of Chicago students to live with a piece from the Smart collection in their dorms. 

Plan Your Visit

The Smart museum is free and open to the public. 

For those who leave the Smart Museum wanting more, The Renaissance Society, located at 5811 S. Ellis Ave is open Thursday through Sunday and serves as a rotating exhibition space.