The masterpieces are from Mexico's ancient civilizations, many of which have never been seen in the United States. The exhibit is called "Ballplayers, Gods and Rainmaker Kings."
"We wanted to bring to Chicago great antiquities of the ancient people of Mexico," said Jim Cuno, president of the Art Institute.
"This exhibit is beautiful...the size and quality of these are thrilling," said Harriet Pakula Teweles of the Princeton University Art Museum.
The works reveal the distinctive styles and symbolic forms of Mexican-Indian societies that flourished between 900 B.C. and A.D. 1521.
The Macaw marker featured in the exhibit was both a ball court zone marker and also a symbol relating to Macaw Mountain, the mystic cosmic mountain of first creation.
"I've never been to Mexico, so it's kind of a way for me to see what's down there and what it's all about it," said visitor Curt Miller.
"These are displayed very well and with a nice background," said visitor Joyce Matuszewich.
Cuno says human societies were seen as an integral part of nature. The ancient gods were bound to the land, crops and the annual cycle of seasons. The gods would pray for rain to appear and initiate the time of renewal. The universe was seen as reflections of relationships between life forces and art, architecture and ritual drama.