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Show Off Your Art at This $6.5 Million East Lake Shore Drive Condo

The custom 6,100-square-foot apartment was built to serve the display needs of art “accumulators” John and Anne Kern. This is the first time it’s ever been listed as a finished space.

The living room, like every room, is filled with art and midcentury furniture. It has poster views of Oak Street Beach.   Photo: Courtesy Baird & Warner

Price $6.5 million

An East Lake Shore Drive condo designed for an art collecting couple was publicly listed for sale for the first time Wednesday.

The 6,100-square foot spread occupies almost the entire eighth floor at The Mayfair (189 E. Lake Shore Dr.). It has four bedrooms and four full bathrooms and includes long runs of windows along north, east, and west exposures.

When word broke in 1995 that the Mayfair Regent Hotel would be converted into condos, John and Anne Kern got in early. “We were the second in line, so had our pick of spaces,” John tells me. “To our mind, this had the best view at the best height—within reach of cherry pickers in an emergency but above the treetops.”

John Kern leads the charitable Kern Foundation. He also serves as a trustee at the MCA, while his wife serves as one at the Chicago Symphony Center. The couple includes in their collection works from Beatrice Wood, Martin Puryear, and Sam Gilliam. “Anne and I have been accumulating art most of our lives,” says John, now in his 90s. “Not for its [monetary] value but as a document of our travels and encounters with great artists.”

To convert the raw space into something that resembled an art gallery, they hired architect Marc Trudeau. “He saw tremendous potential for openness, so we installed a new plan that softly divided the living areas with floating angled walls in pastel shading.”

They harnessed natural light to the fullest and deployed a museum-grade mix of direct and diffuse lighting fixtures. Mirrored surfaces on window sidewalls create an illusion of even larger space and greater transparency.

Other apartments for sale in the building include a 8,000-square-foot penthouse for $9.3 million. A 10th floor unit with identical square footage to the Kerns’ condo was listed in July for $8.5 million; its owners are now asking for $7.8 million.

The Kerns are moving to a smaller residence, so a lot of art and furniture will go to the kids or be sold, John says. “We’re not opposed to keeping some with the property if a buyer wants to negotiate.”

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