Madlener House
4 West Burton Place
Chicago, Illinois 60610
Telephone: 312.787.4071


Through a newly commissioned body of work, including a large-scale textile installation, intricate embroideries, works on paper, sculptures, and a performance, Nelly Agassi conjures historical and imagined narratives from the architectural details of the Graham Foundation’s Madlener House. Built in 1901–02 for Albert F. and Elsa S. Madlener, the house was originally designed by architect Richard E. Schmidt, with designer Hugh M. G. Garden, and then renovated in the 1960s by architect Daniel Brenner to transform it into the Foundation’s headquarters. The culmination of Agassi’s 2019 Graham Foundation Fellowship, this exhibition explores erasure, preservation, identity, and architecture’s capacity to change.

The exhibition is accompanied by a program of public events, including presentations by Graham Grantees Despina Stratigakos; Allyson Vieira in conversation with Terry Kapsalis; Diane Simpson, and a performance by Nelly Agassi and Ryan Packard and Peter Maunu.

Chicago-based artist Nelly Agassi (b.1973, Israel) received her MFA from Chelsea College and her BFA from Central St. Martins, both in London. Her work has been shown internationally at institutions and galleries such as The Arts Club of Chicago, Aspect Ratio, Hyde Park Art Center, The Israel Museum, Poor Farm, Tate Modern, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, La Triennale di Milano, and Zacheta Warsaw. Agassi is a cofounder of the nonprofit organization Fieldwork Collaborative Projects and a 2019 Graham Foundation Fellow. She is represented by Dvir Gallery and Foksal Gallery.

Agassi worked with Hand and Lock embroidery house in London and The Weaving Mill in Chicago to produce works in the exhibition.

Hand & Lock are London’s premier embroidery house providing embellishment services to the Royal Family, top European design houses, the Royal Armed Forces, Savile Row and members of the public.

The Weaving Mill is an experimental weaving studio in Chicago’s Humboldt Park that blends design, fine art, textile education, and research-based practice.

Spirit of the Waves is commissioned by the Graham Foundation and organized by director Sarah Herda and Ellen Alderman, deputy director of exhibitions and public programs, with James Pike and Ava Barrett. Special thanks to Lori Hanna Boyer and Christopher Rosenberg, Department of Architecture and Design, The Art Institute of Chicago; Jaime Fuentes; Chandra Goldsmith Gray; Scott Heron and Jessica Jane, Hand & Lock; Sharon Hoyer, High Concept Labs; Duncan Jackson and Simon Kristak, Billings Jackson Design; Jennifer Keats, Service Bureau, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Lauren Mack; Peter Maunu; Ryan Packard; Nathaniel Parks, Ryerson & Burnham Libraries, The Art Institute of Chicago; John Vinci; Emily Frances Winter, The Weaving Mill; and the Graham Foundation staff: Vidisha Aggarwal, Alexandra Drexelius, Carolyn Kelly, Ron Konow, Junxi Lu, and Alexandra Small.