City Guide

Chicago: The Insider's Guide

By Sotheby's Museum Network
In this week's city guide we take a closer look at Chicago, home to several leading museums and a dynamic contemporary art scene. Sotheby's Museum Network sits down with Gary Metzner, Senior Vice President and Head of Office at Sotheby's Chicago to discuss the best cultural destinations and hidden secrets of the city.
Chicago. Photo: Roman Boed.

Sotheby's Museum Network (SMN): Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us today! You've been with Sotheby's for many years and are our resident expert on the city. Are you from Chicago originally?

Gary Metzner (GM): Yes, and I've lived in the city for over 35 years.

(SMN): There are so many great museums in Chicago; what are your top three favorites?

(GM): It's hard to choose but you can't miss the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Driehaus Museum. If you have more time, be sure to check out the Smart Museum, The DePaul Art Museum, and Six Five Nine Wrightwood.

Exterior View of Art Institute of Chicago.

(SMN): Beyond museums, what are a few of your favorite places in Chicago?

(GM): The 606 elevated hiking trail, the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, and the beautiful University of Chicago campus are top of mind. The city has so much to offer and the architectural boat tours have become one of the top attractions in the United States. While there, the new Chicago Riverwalk, especially at night, is a must along with Millennium Park near the Art Institute with Anish Kapoor's famous Cloud Gate, affectionately known as "The Bean" and the Crown Fountain.

Cloud Gate or Bean sculpture by Anish Kapoor.

(SMN): What are some "Hidden Gems” or "Lesser Known Secrets" of Chicago?

(GM): The Glessner House and the Prarie Avenue District, the Half Acre Brewery tour, and the Pilsen Neighborhood which is home to the Mexican American Museum. It's been called one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world. I'd also recommend Maggie Daley Park for visitors interested in getting outside; they have fantastic ice skating and rock climbing facilities. Nature lovers will enjoy taking a drive to the Glencoe Botanic Garden and shoppers should head to Oak Street or the Armitage Avenue Boutiques for the best shops in town.

(SMN): Chicago is famous for a few notorious foods, but what are your favorite restaurants?

(GM): Alinea is a fantastic option for a tasting menu - it was rated best restaurant in the United States in 2018! For other exciting options, check out Bellemore which features a rotating New American menu or Marisol right in the Museum of Contemporary art which features some of the best farm-to-table food in the city. If you are in town to see the Cubs play, Wrigleyville finally has a top end restaurant in Dutch and Docs right across from the ballpark. Last but not least, if you're visiting Sotheby's Chicago and want to eat nearby, head to Spiaggia, which is located in the same building as Sotheby's; it's one of my favorite Italian spots in Chicago helmed by the 2018 winner of Top Chef: Joe Flamm.

Glencoe Botanic Garden.
Glencoe Botanic Garden. Photo: Meridith112.

(SMN): We realize you're from Chicago, but if you were visiting from out of town, where would you stay?

(GM): The Peninsula on the Magnificent Mile was redone in 2018 and it's undeniably one of the best in the country. It also has a spectacular rooftop bar. Another reliable option is The Langham, a high-end property which has great rooms and is walking distance to the Art Institute. Finally, The Waldorf Astoria has great service and is in a prime location. The new ACE hotel in the West Loop is near some of the best restaurants and the Viceroy has a rooftop pool with a view of the Lake. Finally, Hotel E=MC2 which embraces a science theme - complete with room service robots no less!

(SMN): Chicago is very seasonal. What are the best events to mark our calendars for?

(GM): Chicago is a city of neighborhood festivals which feature food and music. Lollapalooza is one of the most famous in the country. I often auction off VIP passes at charity events…the best way to attend. There's also the famous Blues and Jazz Fests, the James Beard Awards in May and, of course, in September, one of the great art fairs. Expo Chicago which usually runs concurrently with either our architectural biennale or other great festivals showcasing the best the city has to offer!

Taste of Chicago, 2009. Photo: Monique Wingard.

(SMN): Who do you look to for inspiration in Chicago? Who can we follow for inspiration on the area?

(GM): Local luminaries and hometown favorites include artist Kerry James Marshall, the musical group Wilco, and our incredible mayor, Rahm Emmanuel.

(SMN): Fantastic, Gary; thank you! Any final tips or words of advice on how to make the most of Chicago?

(GM): Always be prepared. Dress can go from casual to cocktail in a minute just as the weather can go from warm and sunny to snowing. And, remember: Chicago is a big city with a small-town feel. Get beyond the main tourist attractions. Visit the neighborhoods and explore the lesser-known destinations. The Sotheby’s team is always happy to help.

Gary Metzner, Senior Vice President of Sotheby's and Head of Office for Sotheby's Chicago.

About the Insider

Gary Metzner is a Senior Vice President of Sotheby’s and their Head of Office for the Midwest. He joined Sotheby’s in 1997 after working as the Director of Fine Art for Leslie Hindman Auctioneers since 1993. Previously, he was Director of Hokin Kaufman Gallery in Chicago. He is a generalist in paintings, prints and sculptures from Old Masters to Contemporary painting. Mr. Metzner can be seen on Chubb’s Antique Roadshow on PBS and appeared weekly on the Home and Garden Television programs “At the Auction” and “The Appraisal Fair” and participates in Heirloom Discovery Days across the country. As an auctioneer he has also conducted hundreds of charity auctions throughout the Midwest including “Cows on Parade” and the Banner auctions for the City of Chicago. A graduate of Indiana University with graduate studies in Art History at the University of Chicago, Mr. Metzner is a recipient of the Plummer Scholarship in Fine Art and is president of Threewalls Arts Organization. He sits on the boards of the Richard H. Driehaus Museum and the DePaul University Art Museum and the Old Master Society of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is a member of the Arts Club of Chicago and sat on the advisory panel for the Legacy of Absence Gallery at the new Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie. He is on the Salon Committee for the Armory Show in New York and the Civic Committee for Expo Chicago.

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