A visit to the Wndr Museum is an immersive experience of art, technology and selfies.
A floor lights up wherever you walk on it. Your shadow is in four colors, not black. A room filled with mirrors and silver balls takes you to infinity.
The wow factor is sky-high at the photogenic Wndr Museum in Chicago’s trendy West Loop neighborhood. More a modern art gallery than traditional museum, it merges art, science and technology with works by celebrated and emerging artists. Most notable–and the highlight for many visitors–is the Infinity Mirror Room by renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.
Take pictures. Lots of pictures.
(The Wndr Museum hosted our January 2020 visit, but I paid for my admission on previous visits.)
(Technically, the name is written entirely in lower case as in ‘wndr museum.’ But that distresses my spell-checker. I’m using Wndr Museum, with caps, which is confounding enough. Pronounce it ‘wonder.’)
The Wndr Museum opened as a pop-up in September 2018. Ticket sales were so enthusiastic, it’s now a permanent and family-friendly cultural fixture in the city–and a quickie CTA No. 20 bus ride from downtown. The premises are revamped with a new theme and new artwork every six months or so, although some of the most popular works are retained.
Each theme is called a ‘chapter’ in Wndr-speak, and the museum is now in its third chapter since its opening. The current chapter is called “The Hero’s Journey Through Wndr,” inspired by author Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” Through questioning, reflection, exploration and a complimentary guide booklet, visitors are prompted to become the heroes of their own lives.
If that sounds a little heady, no worries. Simply wander through the circuit of Instagrammable spaces and marvel at the ingenuity of it all. You’ll enter the museum through a sequin-lined tunnel. Wipe the walls with your hands and the sequins change color.
Near the end of the circuit is the Infinity Mirror Room where your image is reflected over and over and over. (Have your camera ready before going inside. You’re allowed only a 60-second viewing, just enough time to get several outstanding pix.)
In between are optical illusions, video screens and dazzling lightplay. Go ahead and push buttons, pose, dance, draw and scribble to discover the many delights that await.
For example, the walls and floor of the women’s bathroom are lined with copper pennies. A large arrow points to a red button with the warning, ‘Do Not Touch the Red Button.’ Guess what I did? Of course, I pressed it. I won’t spoil what happened. Try it yourself if you dare.
You can get through the Wndr Museum in about an hour, or you can spend much longer. Timed tickets can be purchased in advance here, which is a good idea if you’re planning to visit on a weekend. You can also buy tickets at the door, but you might have to wait to get in. (We arrived on a weekday afternoon and found no lines.) Tickets are $32. Kids ages 2 and under are free.
Wndr Museum, 1130 W. Monroe St., Chicago IL 60607