Chicago’s Driehaus Museum enlivens its historic mansion with contemporary art

Jonathan Hilburg, The Architect's Newspaper, October 7, 2020

In A Tale of Today: Nate Young and Mika Horibuchi, the second such show in the Driehaus Museum’s A Tale of Today contemporary art initiative, the Chicago-based sculptor Nate Young and visual artist Mika Horibuchi were tapped to respond to create art that engaged with the National Register of Historic Places-listed Nickerson Mansion. The mansion itself was designed by Chicago’s Burling and Whitehouse and was renovated in 2003 after being purchased by Richard H. Driehaus.


“Presenting contemporary art in a Gilded Age setting allows the museum to engage with new audiences in new ways, as many will be experiencing this type of architecture and its history for the first time,” said Driehaus, the founder and current president of the museum’s board of trustees, in a press release. “This exhibition provides a unique opportunity to demonstrate the importance of architecture and sense of place from the incomparable vantage point of the Nickerson Mansion while also showcasing new artists in this historic setting.”


Young has contributed both sculptural objects as well as enormous paintings that recreate scraps of his great-grandfather’s letters, highlighting the Great Migration (the mass movement of African Americans from the South throughout the northern and Midwestern states at the turn of the 20th century). According to the museum, the paintings are intended to illuminate “a specific lost history shared in part or full by many Chicagoans.” Young’s more physical pieces, on the other hand, are more subtle; carefully crafted replicas of extant cabinets and drawers, and a wooden grandfather clock that runs backwards, blend in seamlessly with their surroundings.