The Art Institute Lions are alive!

The Art Institute Lions are alive!

I read a really funny article about how the famous Art Institute Lions have a new security feature: they roar if you sit on them. I read a snippet about the history of the lions, and I was really surprised. I didn't know that they're over 100 years old! Read more about the history of the lions in this week's 'Did You Know, Chicago?'."

The lions were created by Edward Kemey, a world famous sculptor known for his pieces depicting wild animals. Kemey originally created the lions for the World's Columbia Exposition; they were two of six that were located at the entrance of the Fine Arts Palace, now the Museum of Science and Industry.

They were recast in bronze and presented as a gift to the Art Institute by Mrs. Henry Field, sister-in-law to Marshall Field, to celebrate the grand opening of the museum's new Michigan Avenue building in 1893. Whereas the lions don't have official names, Kemey called the south lion "stands in an attitude of defiance" and the north lion "on the prowl."

The lions have only been moved twice. In 1910, Michigan Avenue was widened and the statues were pushed 12 feet closer to the museum. In 2000, the lion known as "standing in an attitude of defiance" was moved to make room for a reconstruction project that included renovating of the foundation under the lions' pedestals and of the museum's front staircase. It was gone for six months.

Now, it has never occurred to me to climb aboard one of the lions, but apparently this is a pretty common problem for security. The new alarm system was put into place during NATO weekend. At night, guards inside the museum play the alarm when they see someone climbing on the lions.





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