Renaissance Society

The Renaissance Society is an independent contemporary art institution based at the University of Chicago. Founded in 1915, the kunsthalle-style museum typically presents four exhibitions each year, with a focus on the commissioning and production of new work from international artists. "The Ren" also hosts concerts, performances, screenings, readings, and lectures, all of which are free and open to the public, and produces publications in conjunction with many of its exhibitions.

The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago
Location5811 S. Ellis Ave. Chicago, IL 60637
Coordinates41.7892°N 87.6010°W / 41.7892; -87.6010
TypeArt museum
DirectorSolveig Øvstebø


From 1929 to 1935, the Society was led by important photographer and artist Eva Watson-Schütze, who helped create groundbreaking exhibitions of modernists including Braque, Arp, Brâncuși, Miró, and Picasso. Important one-person exhibitions organized by the Society included Henri Matisse (1930); Alexander Calder (1934); Fernand Léger (1936); László Moholy-Nagy (1939); John Sloan (1942); Käthe Kollwitz, Paul Klee (1946), Mies van der Rohe (1947); Diego Rivera (1949); José Clemente Orozco (1951); Marc Chagall (1958); Réné Magritte (1964) and Henry Moore (1967). A distinguished history of educational programs featured luminaries such as Sergei Prokofiev, Alfred Barr, Leonard Bernstein, Gertrude Stein, Zora Neale Hurston, and Paul Tillich.

From 1974 through mid-2013, Susanne Ghez led the Renaissance Society as Executive Director and Chief Curator. During her tenure, Ghez exhibited artists such as Robert Smithson, Louise Bourgeois, Anselm Kiefer, Georg Baselitz, Daniel Buren, Rodney Carswell, On Kawara, Gunther Forg, Juan Muñoz, Hanne Darboven, Jean-Marc Bustamante, Thomas Struth, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Kara Walker, Arturo Herrera, Darren Almond, Thomas Hirschhorn, and Mark Manders.[1]

In July 2013, Ghez stepped down, and was replaced by Solveig Øvstebø as Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Renaissance Society.[2] For more than a decade prior, Øvstebø had been director of Bergen Kunsthall in her native Norway[3], where she curated exhibitions with artists such as Tauba Auerbach, Richard Tuttle, Runa Islam, Elmgreen & Dragset, and Nairy Baghramian.[4] At the Renaissance Society, Øvstebø has worked with artists including Nora Schultz, Irena Haiduk, Mathias Poledna, Paul McCarthy, Sadie Benning, and Jennifer Packer.[1]

Hamza Walker was Associate Curator and Director of Education from 1994 to 2016.[5] He has been called by The New York Times one of the "seven most influential curators in the country", as well as "one of the museum world's most talented essayists."[6] Walker won the Ordway Prize in 2010, in recognition of his innovative curatorial work and his wide-ranging thinking and writing about contemporary art.[7]

In February 2019, the Renaissance Society announced a $1 million gift from the Mansueto Foundation in support of its publications program[8]. This gift secures the institution's publishing activities for 10 years and marks the largest single commitment in its history.


  1. Society, The Renaissance. "Exhibitions - The Renaissance Society".
  2. "Renaissance Society names Solveig Øvstebø first new executive director in nearly 40 years". UChicago News. University of Chicago. Archived from the original on 19 April 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  3. Weinberg, Lauren (15 November 2012). "Renaissance Society names Solveig Øvstebø new executive director". Time Out Chicago. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  4. "Bergen Kunsthall". Bergen Kunsthall.
  5. Society, The Renaissance. "Hamza Walker Appointed Executive Director of LAXART - News - The Renaissance Society".
  6. Gates, Anita (2 May 2001). "The Curators: Discerning and Influential". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  7. Ise, Claudine. "HAMZA WALKER WINS $100,000 ORDWAY PRIZE". Bad at Sports. Bad at Sports. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  8. "Hyde Park museum gets its biggest gift ever, from Morningstar founder". Crain's Chicago Business. 31 January 2019.
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