Art at NEMA

NEMA Chicago boldly embraces the brand’s commitment to art. From lobbies to residential corridors and amenity areas, NEMA is adorned with a variety of multi-media pieces by local and renowned artists, often showcasing local inspiration, and always thoughtfully curated to create an elevated sense of home for residents.


Two Blue Night Stands, 2013
Wool blanket and upholstery tacks on plywood

Tom Burr’s Two Blue Night Stands exudes the velvety warmth of its wool blankets, an homage to Chicago winters. In addition, the upholstery tacks—usually employed in house décor—allude to domesticity and interiority, further connecting the piece to NEMA as a warm home for Chicago residents. The structure of the work vacillates between media, from painting in its gestural folds to sculpture in its physically intensive construction and three-dimensional projection. Burr’s title, like the wool, layers and folds meaning upon itself. Poetic and rhythmic, Two Blue Night Stands immediately implies the doubling of a single blue nightstand and, in turn, a one night stand. The plural calls to mind bedroom furniture and the singular actions taking place alongside it.


Instant Gratification, 2013

The metal work of Grant Park’s classic statues, as well as the modern Agora sculpture across from NEMA, establish the park as Chicago’s most important public space. Appropriately, Michel François’ Instant Gratification draws upon the intrinsic resistance of the bronze and its capacity for taking shape by default. It is this capacity he explores and then complicates. François’ work is made by pouring molten bronze onto the floor of a foundry and creating the intricate weblike splatter that forms delicate patterns. After the bronze is thrown over the floor and solidified, it is lifted onto the wall, hanging in the balance between painting and sculpture. The effect produced is a fixed form, as if the piece is frozen in movement.


Joe Louis vs. Al McCoy, 1940
Vintage photography print on metal

American boxer Joe Louis became the world heavyweight champion on June 22, 1937, when he defeated James J. Braddock in eight rounds in Chicago’s Comiskey Park. Several of Louis’ earliest professional fights occurred on the South Side of Chicago, where his name became legend following a 24-0 start. In this photo, taken on December 16, 1940, Louis fought Al McCoy to retain his heavyweight title for the 12th consecutive time. Performing in front of a crowd of over 13,000, Louis stole the show. By the fifth round, McCoy retired early to his corner in defeat.


Bond on the Moon, 1971
Vintage photography print on canvas, framed

Sean Connery, while filming the notable James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever, is caught practicing his golf swing while on set. Likewise, NEMA provides residents an opportunity to play golf in an otherwise unexpected location: home. This image, also depicting the scene of the moon landing, portrays America as a pioneer of space travel.


Slow Motion, 2018
Acrylic on canvas

NEMA’s location directly across from the Aon Center provides one of the best views of Chicago’s third tallest building, while Philippe Decrauzat’s Slow Motion evokes this modernist icon. The Aon Center, originally named “Big Stan” due to it being the home of the Standard Oil Company of Indiana, is built using a structural system of perimeter columns that define a tube. Decrauzat, known for embedding iconic references from architecture in his work, manipulates a multitude of such lines to synchronize in undulating, overlapping and interwoven motifs, and in so doing achieves an array of kinetic optics that provoke both the eye and body.


Japanese Lesson #23, 1993
Oil on canvas

Thomas Trosch’s oil paintings are luscious and theatrical. With a conspicuous hand-made labor, he mixes purses, dresses, lamps, coffee tables, sculptures, abstract paintings, and appropriated texts while scrapes, scumbles and thick impastos are applied in a dizzying fashion that perfectly describe the circus-like existence of art and high society. There is also a humor in the mixture of chance and control; in the way everything always has the good manner to dissolve into a brilliant passage of painterly excess. Evoking the energy of social interaction that characterizes the community at NEMA, Japanese Lesson #23 illustrates a simple gathering scene as a vivid and eccentric abstract. Intuitively rendered and lavishly painted, the piece suggests multiple levels of reading. Trosch further invites our collective wink and a nod by incorporating text that he has appropriated from a Japanese to English translation book.


American Collection Painting 38 (Louis), 2019
Oil on canvas

The clean lines, 90-degree angles, innovative use of glass, metal mullions, and lack of applied ornamentation in Brian Rideout’s American Collection Painting 38 (Louis) embody the tenets of mid-century modernism exemplified in Chicago architecture. The minimalist interior contains a Morris Louis painting from his famed ‘Unfurled’ series, 1960-1961, another major example of the modernist style. The leaning of Louis’s painting along one of the room walls brings attention to the architectural space surrounding it. In the same vein, the installation of Rideout’s American Collection Painting 38 in NEMA Chicago's Urban Lounge brings attention to the modernist legacy Rafael Viñoly has crafted with NEMA's celebrated design.


Muhammad Ali, 1966
Vintage photography print, framed

World renowned photographer Thomas Hoepker captured Muhammad Ali in his Chicago boxing studio in 1966. Known for his loud and profound personality, this image captures a more quiet, private side of Ali. During the time this photo was taken, Ali was the boxing world heavy weight champion and would go on to win the title again in 1970, further securing his status as one of the greatest of all time in the sport.


Color Block Towers
Sculpture, 2019

Chicago’s skyline is replete with skyscrapers that have been engineered using cutting-edge techniques. Witness the gravity-defying narrow base of 150 North Riverside, or River Point with its distinctive arched base. Sculptural artist Chris Nelke created his own take on Chicago’s architectural wonders on a smaller, more playful scale. Nelke used painted blocks on a metal base to rise to the challenge with these Color Block Towers.