Putting Chicago Back on the International Art Fair Map by Norbert Marszalek

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The second annual Expo Chicago was very much like last year’s fair … which is a good thing! Expo Chicago is putting Chicago back on the international art fair map. Thank goodness Tony Karman rescued this art fair from the incapable hands of the Merchandise Mart—though it wasn’t all bad with the Mart. The Merchandise Mart worked some of their incredible magic in 2006 with their own recovery from Thomas Blackman and his intended tent in Grant Park. It’s just that the Merchandise Mart doesn’t really know how to run an art fair and it became more apparent as the years went on.

Regarding the work, I really enjoyed seeing a lovely David Park portrait of a woman hanging next to a figurative painting by Elmer Bischoff and then turning the corner and seeing a Diebenkorn. Also memorable was a large painting by Chantal Joffe titled “Molly on the Beach” and some smaller works by San Francisco artist Kim Frohsin.

There was a lot of what I would consider “decorative” abstract work but overall this was a very satisfying fair. I would like to note that the most dynamic piece I saw was a painting (pictured below) by Wesley Kimler. This painting was located in one of the open areas because he is not represented by a gallery.

I am definitely looking forward to next year’s fair. Let’s hope Expo brings the same plus more!


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2 Responses to “Putting Chicago Back on the International Art Fair Map by Norbert Marszalek”

  1. Norbert Marszalek

    All good news from this year’s fair. From Expo:


    125 of the World’s Leading Galleries From 17 Countries and 36 Cities
    Exhibited to 30,000 Visitors

    CHICAGO—EXPO CHICAGO, The International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, closed the second annual exposition reporting vigorous sales and high collector attendance. This year’s four-day show saw a record number of 30,000 visitors, an increase over last year’s five-day show. Many exhibitors returned for their second year and voiced strong support from the greater Midwest collector base in addition to international collectors from Europe and Latin America.

    Under the leadership of President and Director Tony Karman, the exposition featured 125 of the world’s leading galleries representing 17 countries and 36 cities. The exposition posted a significant increase in regional and international museum groups, curators and collectors attending.

    “Our second edition proved to be a great step forward in establishing Chicago’s rightful place on the international art fair calendar each September,” said Karman. “We proved that we can attract art enthusiasts from the greater Midwest, both coasts and internationally, and we are very proud that many of our participating galleries were successful in selling artwork while connecting with visiting collectors and curators who attended. We remain extremely grateful for the ongoing support of our local museums, institutions, collectors and cultural leaders and look forward to broadening our collaborative partnerships with more regional and international institutions in the future,” he added.

    “Nearly all exhibitors said that business was better this year with work selling in a vast price range and going to buyers from not only Chicago but as far reaching as Mexico City.” (Art in America)

    Artinfo stated “This year…sales at the fair took steps in a more lucrative direction,” disclosing strong early sales from Chicago mainstay Kavi Gupta, with works by local heavy-hitter Theaster Gates as well as at David Zwirner with works by Oscar Murillo, Isa Genzken, James Welling and Christopher Williams.

    EXPOSURE, the section of the fair dedicated to galleries in business up to seven years, also reported success including Blackston Gallery, New York; DODGEgallery, New York; Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco; MARSO, Mexico City; and Spinello Projects, Miami.

    “We presented a range of sculpture, paintings, video works and photography at this year’s EXPO CHICAGO,” said Christopher D’Amelio, partner, David Zwirner/New York. “We had a positive response from both long-time collectors of the gallery along with some new faces.”

    “Business at EXPO CHICAGO this year was significantly improved from last year. We experienced greater and more substantive attendance and booked nearly a dozen purchases ranging from a David Smith at over a million dollars, an Arshile Gorky work on paper from 1946 in the mid-six figures as well as works by Jaume Plensa, Rashid Johnson and other mid-career and emerging artists. The activity in the gallery, where last week we opened a major exhibition of Alex Katz paintings was similarly increased over last year during EXPO.” Paul Gray, Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago.

    “EXPO CHICAGO, once again, gave the city and the Midwest a fantastic opportunity to have its moment. We are very pleased to have had the pleasure to host so many collectors, curators and artists from around the country and beyond this week, and to have had the pleasure of sharing the inaugural opening of our new gallery space, featuring Roxy Paine’s exhibition, with such an amazing audience. We look forward to the continued success of the fair for many years to come.” Kavi Gupta, Kavi Gupta Chicago | Berlin, Chicago, Berlin

    “We had an amazing experience at this year’s fair. Chicago is such an incredible city and in such a wonderful, intellectual context in terms of museums and discourse, this is a true art fair on the rise. We not only sold well, but the most exciting thing for us was that most sales went to Chicago collectors and new collectors, high quality collectors—museum trustees and board members—that we did not work with before. We were also in touch with museums curators who were here from the entire region. EXPO CHICAGO is a very strong fair and we are definitely coming back, we even have an early idea of what we will bring!” Susanne Vielmetter, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Los Angeles

    “We are delighted by how welcoming Chicagoans are. This has been a successful fair for the gallery and for our artists. We are committed to long-term community building here and it has been a pleasure to be a part of EXPO CHICAGO 2013.” Honor Fraser, Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles

    “We had a great fair and are pleased that EXPO CHICAGO collectors had no trouble identifying the intelligence and uniqueness of the work by artist Shannon Finley. We sold out our booth to new and local collectors. A New York solo show has also been confirmed for Finley as a result of EXPO CHICAGO.” Jessica Silverman, Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco

    “The demand for Anoka Faruqee’s work that we brought to this year’s exposition was strong. We were able to place over half a dozen paintings in important Midwestern collections.” Leo Koenig, Koenig & Clinton, New York

    “We wanted to offer something unique at this year’s exposition, and in teaming with David Nolan Gallery we were able to do that. Our first day at the fair saw wonderful results including the sale of eight pieces to one collector from Ohio. It was great to see the positive turnout from the Midwest collectors this year.” John Corbett, Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago

    “We were thrilled to present a solo booth with Lorna Williams at EXPO CHICAGO this year and have the opportunity to place three significant sculptures, two of which were collected by museums. Overall, visitors were enthusiastic and receptive to this young artist’s work, which is unlike what many expected to discover at an art fair. Collectors were especially appreciative that we offered a solo presentation in order to share her practice in greater depth. The fact that we ran out of copies of Rich Blint’s essay about Williams by the end of the weekend, reinforces an interest in the educational potential of the fair, which EXPO successfully facilitated in their own right through a rich program of conversations and the inclusion of non-profit organizations. We couldn’t be more pleased and look forward to what lies ahead with EXPO CHICAGO.” Kristen Dodge, DODGEgallery, New York

    “We had an excellent fair highlighted with the sale of all of our David Rathman paintings—additional works of his that were not at the fair were sold also. This was good timing as his first major retrospective opened at the Rochester Art Center last week. We thought that the fair, as was the case last year, looked very handsome and progress overall continues to be made. We believe that sentiment was shared by attendees and dealers.” Leslie Hammons, Director, Weinstein Gallery, Minneapolis

    “The electricity was palpable, sales brisk, and we built on the success of last year. Looking forward to returning next year.” Miles McEnery, Ameringer | McEnery | Yohe, New York

    Three unique prizes were awarded at EXPO CHICAGO 2013 in support of Chicago’s art community. Presenting Sponsor Northern Trust donated a piece by Jorinde Voigt from David Nolan and Corbett vs. Dempsey to the Art Institute of Chicago; Artadia: The Fund for Art and Dialogue awarded Chicago-based artist Dan Gunn from moniquemeloche with the Artadia/EXPO CHICAGO Award, a monetary prize in support and encouragement of his work; and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago received a work by emerging artist Amy Feldman from Blackston Gallery, funded by the Andree Stone Emerging Artist Prize.

    “Artadia is proud to have been a part of Chicago’s vibrant cultural community ever since we launched our first awards here 12 years ago,” said Artadia Founder and Board President Christopher E. Vroom. “Tony Karman and his team at EXPO CHICAGO have created one of the world’s premier art fairs, in the process showcasing the city’s amazing artists and cultural institutions. We’re delighted to further our mission to support artists directly and to give Chicago’s artists greater visibility at the fair through the Artadia/EXPO CHICAGO Award.”

    Presented in partnership with The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the /Dialogues panel discussions, conversations and provocative artistic discourse offered audiences a firsthand glimpse into insightful exchange between today’s most respected art professionals. Among them, Jesper Just, Michelle Grabner, William J. O’Brien, LaToya Ruby Frazier and Elysia Borowy-Reeder provided a deeper look into their respective fields and the modern art world.

    “Critical dialogue leads to critical thinking,” said Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit Director Elysia Borowy-Reeder. “EXPO’s /Dialogues series uniquely integrated the academic perspective Chicago is known for. It was a great experience.”

    Curated by Shamim M. Momin, the 2013 IN/SITU program presented 10 exhibiting artists showcasing large-scale and site-specific installations. Under the title “Levity/Gravity,” the program included work from Diana Al-Hadid, Kevin Appel, Sanford Biggers, Jose Dávila, Dan Gunn, Karl Haendel, Andreas Lolis, Shinique Smith, Alec Soth and Glenn Kaino. Kaino’s “Bridge” (2013) a golden slatted foot-bridge made of multiple casts from 1968 Olympian Tommie Smith’s arm, suspended over-head from Festival Hall’s ceiling, proved to be a show highlight. Kaino, Tommie Smith and Curator Franklin Sirmans gathered on the show’s floor for a special, intimate dialogue discussing both the piece and the historical significance behind Smith’s empowering statement.

    “EXPO CHICAGO highlighted the combination of a great location in a great city,” said Curator Franklin Sirmans. “It felt as if the fair really took into account and made the attempt to represent what goes on in the U.S. between the coasts. Along with a diverse assortment of art from a good part of the globe, the presence of so many galleries from Chicago was illuminating. With great institutions, collectors and artists all involved with some aspect of the fair, it left a great impression.”

    More than 20 special exhibitions were included in this year’s fair highlighting EXPO’s mission to illustrate and preserve the important link between the arts, philanthropic and nonprofit organizations through unique and high quality exhibitions. Some of the top museums, universities, organizations and institutions participated, including ACRE, Aperture Foundation, Artadia, Artspace, Bad at Sports, Balloon Contemporary, Chicago Artists Coalition’s BOLT Residency and HATCH Projects, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, The Conservation Center, Hirsch Books, Human Rights Watch, Hyde Park Art Center, Independent Curators International, International Sculpture Center, Laumeier Sculpture Park, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), School of the Art Institute of Chicago, University of Chicago, Warhol Museum, West Collection and Whitechapel Gallery.

    NRDC’s interactive booth, featuring large-scale terrariums allowing fair-goers to place their heads inside, attracted droves of people. The special exhibition also officiated over 4,000 adoptions of “Pocket Biospheres,” small pieces of the earth urging owners to take care of and be aware of the environment.

    “NRDC was thrilled to be part of EXPO CHICAGO this year,” said NRDC Midwest Director Henry Henderson. “EXPO is a beautiful, joyous gathering of generous and engaging people and is important for the Chicago community both culturally and economically. The exposition is deeply important to NRDC as an international environmental organization by creating a confluence for citizens of the globe who care about and invest in their world and environment.”

    Studio Gang Architects, led by MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang, returned to design the second edition of the fair transforming the interior of Navy Pier’s Festival Hall. Gang’s design provided a spacious exhibitor layout and her unique cones made out of burlap, mylar and scrim were a navigating focal point throughout the expansive Hall. Studio Gang also designed EXPO VIDEO, a selection of dynamic and cutting-edge film, video and new media works by artists selected from the 125 international exhibiting galleries. In conjunction with Columbia College Chicago and curated by Dean Otto, program manager of the Film/Video Department at Minneapolis’ Walker Art Museum, the program included work from Gustavo Artigas, Ed Atkins, Dawoud Bey, Zackary Drucker, Cao Fei, Carlos Irijalba, Jesper Just, Glenda Leon, Lynne Marsh, Jacco Olivier, The Propeller Group, Federico Solmi, Jan Tichy, Nina Yuen and Columbia College student Ahmed Hamad. Located underneath Gang’s west cone, the video lounge featured natural wood display stands and log seating of varying heights to define the lounge space without obstructing views to the surrounding booths.

    Partnering with Choose Chicago and Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), EXPO CHICAGO presented the inaugural EXPO ART WEEK, a citywide celebration of arts and culture with more than 100 special events, institutions, museums, galleries, theaters and restaurants participating, Sept. 16 – 22, 2013. Offering special performances, discounts, exhibitions and events EXPO ART WEEK allowed residents of Chicago as well as visitors from around the world to take advantage of the incredible talent and artistry on display in the city.

  2. Chris Miller

    There’s no question that the high ceilings of Navy Pier make for a more enjoyable space than the claustrophobic Merchandise Mart — but though I’ve read several comments like yours, none of them has specified just which galleries at the Mart shows annoyed them so much.

    While I can think of at least one gallery, Linda Warren’s, that I miss seeing.

    Expo Chicago seems to be the triumph of the blue chip galleries to focus more attention on themselves. Maybe that had to happen to keep the show going — but is that necessarily a good thing?

    More is better as far as I’m concerned — even if I have to walk an extra mile to find something that rattles my cage.

    BTW – here’s my tour of the show:


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