Chicago EXPOses Itself: Some Quick Thoughts on the Art Fair by William Dolan

Expo Chicago 2012

Courtesy of Studio Gang Architects

Now that Expo Chicago has come and gone, I have a few thoughts on this past weekend.

First of all it was really nice to see the latest incarnation of Chicago’s annual art fair back at Navy Pier, where it all started. However I have to admit that I miss the decrepit sheds. I always enjoyed the juxtaposition of a high-end event with the broken-down buildings. It helped make the art fair stand out. With the generic tourist carnival at the east end of the pier, one would not even know that there was something special happening. Chicago’s art scene was at its peak when the fair was at Navy Pier, so it felt right, though.

The space was very open and made wandering the show floor a pleasure. The high ceiling of Exhibition Hall made the Merchandise Mart shows of the past few years seem claustrophobic. While the chrome hangings helped create a festive atmosphere without being silly or distracting, they also helped orient the visitor. I don’t think it’s anywhere near Jeanne Gang’s greatest acheivement, but hey it worked!

As far as the art goes, for the most part it was all exceptional. I was happy to see the Jayson Musson Coogi sweater painting.

I was however, disappointed to see the Kimler up on blocks and stuffed in the corner by the coffee shop. A little more respect for a work by one of this city’s most important painters, please, especially in front of the larger art world.

Although it seemed smaller than past shows and although there wasn’t the circus of competing fairs like there are in Miami or New York, I hope this was a success. By late Saturday afternoon, there were quite a few red dots on the walls and it seemed like it was happening. I hope those that came from elsewhere were happy and tell their friends. I hope they come back next year and explore the Chicago scene a little more. (It seemed a little quiet in the West Loop Friday night, even with the search lights and bucket beaters.) I hope there can be a few more Chicago galleries in the show next year. I hope we can build on this year’s show.

Anyway, it was a great (re)start.