The Casual Art Fan’s Guide to Expo Chicago

How to get the most out of the biggest fine art exhibition all year, which happens on Navy Pier this Friday through Sunday.

photograph: 5 Joel Sternfeld Arcadia Cohousing, Carrboro, North Carolina, April 2005

This weekend marks the second annual Expo Chicago, which, for the uninitiated, is the city’s single largest fine art exhibition of the year.

The fair’s pedestrian address on tourist-saturated Navy Pier might signal otherwise, but the Jeanne Gang-designed environs will draw a well-heeled crowd of Midwestern collectors, artists, and art students.

Then there’s the art: some 125 or so gallerists representing dozens of countries. Here’s where to start, depending on what you’re hunting.

 

When and where?
Located in the massive exhibition hall on the eastern most tip of Navy Pier, the fair itself runs only three days: Friday through Sunday starting at 11 a.m. ($20 for one day; $30 for three) But a slew of ancillary parties, gallery tours, and VIP receptions are scheduled all over the city starting Wednesday. Some are open to the public, but many are for fair VIPs only. Public events are listed at expochicago.com. Tickets are on sale at the door. 

 

I’m a first-time buyer. Where’s the affordable stuff?
The fair’s “Exposure” section will feature emerging (read: cheaper) artists; it is a good starting point for newish collectors. Look for the Benrimon Contemporary booth (from New York City); it will show bright, one-of-a-kind photograms made by Liz Nielsen, a Chicagoan who is now living in New York and who has something of an obsession with outer space phenomena.

 

I’m a seasoned art fair attendee from back in the days of Art Chicago. Who will everybody be talking about this year?
The Norwegian transplant Solveig Øvstebø is the first new executive director of the Renaissance Society in 40 years (the Ren, as it’s called, is the influential South Side gallery that’s under the umbrella of the University of Chicago). She will be on a panel on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. with the artist William Powhida and his gallerist Charlie James (Los Angeles)…. William J. O’Brien is a prominent emerging Chicago artist who makes ceramics and colored pencil drawings; his work will get a major local showcase early next year at the MCA. Hear him discuss his process and influences at a talk Friday at 11 a.m. at the expo; or stop by the booth of the Marianne Boesky Gallery (New York City), where his work will be on display. 

 

What other Chicago artists should I not miss?
Kavi Gupta Gallery represents the unconventional Chicago-born-and-bred art star Theaster Gates; read about him here. Monique Meloche will be showing the work of the 3-D installation artist/painter Dan Gunn. Chicago-born artist Rashid Johnson will be on display in the booth of Massimo de Carlol Gallery (Milan, London), and Oak Park artist/SAIC prof Michelle Grabner (a co-curator of the 2014 Whitney Biennial) will offer up a preview of her forthcoming survey exhibition Work From Home (opening November 1 at Cleveland MOCA) in a panel discussion with MOCA chief curator David Norr on Friday at 12:30 p.m. 

 

Which of the “blue-chip” international dealers are in the mix?
David Zwirner Gallery (New York) is back, with work by international art stars Luc Tuymans and Donald Judd, among others. Matthew Marks Gallery (New York, LA) will be displaying work by multimedia artist Paul Seitsema (whose work is currently on display across town at the MCA). Luhring Augustine (New York) will feature pieces by the Brazilian artist Tunga and the documentary photographer Joel Sternfeld.  

 

Which of the satellite events are open to the public?
Chicago Artists Coalition is holding its own satellite fair of affordable art called Edition Chicago; it’s all weekend at 217 North Carpenter Street. Chicago artist Cody Hudson will be making a special print for the exhibition, and 14 galleries will have work on display. For more info, editionchicago.com….Gallery Weekend Chicago is a weekend-long series of events that kicks off with late hours, on Friday evening, September 20, for many of the participating West Loop galleries, including Andrew Rafacz (showing Wendy White), Carrie Secrest (showing Andrew Holmquist), and Western Exhibitions (showing Rachel Niffenegger). See the full list of events at galleryweekendchicago.com.

 

What if I want to skip the fair and just eat the hot nuts at Navy Pier?
By all means, we won’t stop you.

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