Binoculars are for sightseeing or the cheap seats at the opera house, but an exhibition at the Elmhurst Art Museum is that rare art show that would be even more pleasurable with a pair of field glasses.
It's called Inventory, and the show is hung salon-style -- the artwork is nearly floor-to-ceiling, almost crowding each other. Unless you're a starting NBA center, you might have trouble getting a good look at the paintings, drawings and photographs near the top of the 18-foot ceilings.
Curator Staci Boris told us that she had considered providing opera glasses in each gallery -- it has been done before -- but she decided against it. Make no mistake -- there's plenty to see at eye-level.
The exhibition digs deep into the museum's holdings, so there's amazing American art from the 19th and 20th century, plus a gorgeous print by Marc Chagall, odd works by Salvador Dali, and lots of weird stuff to rile up the "that's-not-art" crowd. Sometimes there's a thematic contrast from one piece to the next. Other times they complement each other in surprising ways. Either way, your eyes could use a boost to see the stuff closer to the rafters.
This is not a complaint. In fact, I wish more museums exhibited work in the fashion of 17th century French art salons. Imagine if the Art Institute of Chicago dedicated one large wall or gallery to displaying their immense collection -- most of which is off-view -- in a completely eclectic way, mixing up the order of things once or twice a year. It would be stunning, an instant destination.
Until that happens, you can visit the Elmhurst Art Museum. It's free on Fridays; always free if you're an active member of the military; and only $5 to get in the rest of the week. You'll have money left over to invest in a pair of binoculars.
For more on the exhibit, click here.