Take Care

Fall 2020 and Online

Unmade bed with rustled sheets and several hairpins resting on it, black and white photo.

What does it mean to care for something, someone, or ourselves?

Caring can be a form of affection, a survival strategy, a political tool, a mode of labor, and a means of sustenance. It can be driven by moral imperative or necessity. Whether an accumulation of small gestures, a singular bold act, or even strategic indifference, expressions of care—or the lack thereof—shape the world in which we live, a world that is often fraught with competing tensions and complexities.

Drawing generously from the Smart Museum’s collection, Take Care seeks to unpack matters of care from the personal to the collective. The artworks on view range from portrayals of familial relations and societal obligations, to gestures of hospitality and ritual, from strategies of bearing witness and evoking empathy, to explorations of networks of care and the results of their absences. This conversation between over 50 works of art across media considers and reveals the multi-faceted nature of the ways care is conveyed and experienced. And, in doing so, urges the open-ended question of how we care for ourselves and each other in our broader social worlds.

Run dates: Take Care was originally scheduled to be presented at the Smart Museum from October 1, 2020 to March 21, 2021. Due to COVID-19 precautions, the exhibition closed to the public on November 14, 2020.

Virtual Tour and Resources

Delve deeper
Download the interpretation packet (PDF) for a full checklist and copy of exhibition texts.


Sonja Alhäuser, Marianne Brandt, Bethany Collins, Imogen Cunningham, Detroit Tree of Heaven Woodshop, Julian Flavin, Mary Frank, Consuelo Kanaga, Käthe Kollwitz, Deana Lawson, June Leaf, Laura Letinsky, Kerry James Marshall, Berthe Morisot, Gabriele Münter, Louise Nevelson, Gladys Nilsson, Ōtagaki Rengetsu, Suellen Rocca, Erika Rothenberg, Arthur Siegel, Lorna Simpson, Sylvia Sleigh, Rosalind Fox Solomon, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Suzanne Valadon, H. C. Westermann, Cathy Wilkes, Amanda Williams, Yeesookyoung

Collective Care

Collective Care welcomes members of our communities to select a work of art from the Museum’s collection to be temporarily added to the exhibition. Guest curators are invited to choose an object in collaboration with Smart staff that affirms, elucidates, or demonstrates their own ideas around the forms and effects of care, as well as offer their own interpretation of the artwork.

a series of small gestures

Inspired by Take Care, the Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry invited University of Chicago students to submit proposals for short videos reflecting on the questions of how we care for ourselves and each other. Over the course of Winter Quarter 2021, a series of ten “small gestures” of care will be accumulated on the Smart Museum's Instagram and online. 

Take Care, Be Well

Saturday, March 20, 2021 • 11 am–8 pm
Marking the end of the Smart Museum’s exhibition Take Care, and situated one year after Chicago’s stay-at-home order, “Take Care, Be Well” is a day-long series of live-streamed experiences and recorded content created by artists, students, community partners, and educators.

Top: Video Still, Chicago DSS: Division 7, Division 4, Division 2, Division 6 by Mierle Laderman Ukeles and Julian Flavin with the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation, 2019.

Above: Imogen Cunningham, The Unmade Bed, 1957, Gelatin silver print. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Gift of the Estate of Lester and Betty Guttman, 2014.247. © Imogen Cunningham Trust.