From Brunch to Art Nouveau: Restaurateur Jerry Suqi Tries His Hand at Art Dealing

Thanks to the efforts of Jerry Suqi, the Century Guild shows off some high-end art: prints from Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt.

‘Birch Forest‘ by Gustav Klimt

Logan Square is home to a number of young, emerging art galleries, but now, thanks to the work of restaurateur Jerry Suqi, one of the Logan galleries is getting in on the high-end game—the hundred-year-old fine art prints by Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt are being sold at the Century Guild (2644 ½ N. Milwaukee), a pop-up gallery focusing on Art Nouveau-era and contemporary Symbolist artworks. You may recognize Klimt by his über-famous painting, The Kiss, or the 2006 headline that his painting sold for $135 million, a record at the time. On display at the Century Guild are portions of Klimt’s meticulously printed portfolio, Das Werk, from 1908.

Klimt oversaw the printing of Das Werk, which reproduces many of the artist’s best-known works. He embossed each print with a uniquely designed signet in gold ink. The pieces range from dreamlike, gothic fantasies to rather impressionistic landscapes. In fact, Das Werk was his attempt to catalog his life’s artistic output. Although his pictures may look rather traditional by today’s standards, Klimt was a leader of experimental artistry at the turn of the century. For being 100 years old, the prints are crisp as new, and their subjects—from placid landscapes to dreamlike netherworlds—are deliciously titillating.

Suqi is the man at the helm of this operation to seed Logan Square with some high-end fine art. He’s best known in Chicago as a restaurateur, opening and designing joints such as Narcisse, Sugar, La Pomme Rouge, and most recently Chickpea. Now, he’s trying his hand at fine-art dealing. In the past Suqi has been involved with private art dealing, but this is his first venture running a public gallery.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Suqi was in the gallery, talking to visitors about Viennese art from over 100 years ago. “Are you the artist?” asked a man who walked in off the street. Klimt may not be a household name, but Suqi does a great job educating newcomers about what makes Klimt’s art so special.

Gustav Klimt’s prints show through the end of February at the Century Guild, 2644 ½ N Milwaukee.

Jason Foumberg is Chicago magazine’s contributing art critic.

 

Photograph: Courtesy Century Guild

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