My friend Suzie Schnepp is an objects conservator at the Art Institute, and she invited me to a gala artists’ opening for the new Renzo Piano–designed Modern Wing last Friday. I’m sure you’ve heard a little something about it, as rave reviews of the perfectly proportioned, spacious galleries, LEED-level eco strategies, and just general awesomeness have been splashed about the media for months, making our town the talk of the world’s art and architecture communities. It doesn’t disappoint, and the champagne-fueled excitement and pride was palpable. “I’m almost in tears,” gallery guy Doug Dawson told me. “This was so important for Chicago, and I am blown away by the job they did on design, installation, and execution.” Well-played, Signore Piano! Suzie and I had a great time people-watching (seen on the scene: art dealers Carl Hammer, Catherine Edelman, and Carrie Secrist, designer Jordan Moser, artists Martin Puryear, Tony Tassett, and Kerry James Marshall)and chatting with insiders (to figure out the placement of all the Brancusi sculptures in their swanky new digs overlooking Millennium Park, I learned, exact replicas were carved out of foam and will be auctioned off at a future date). Before ducking out into the rain, we had to swing by the new 3,000-square-foot gift shop, and I’m happy to report that they’re offering a lot more than starry-starry-night umbrellas. There’s a swell collection of modern furniture, housewares, and lighting, including this Leaf Light by Yves Behar (a repro of one from the museum’s design holdings).
This Saturday, May 23, marks the kick-off of the sixth season of the monthly Randolph Street Market Festival, and once again, as part of the Chicago Antique Market, Chicago Home + Garden is tackling an on-the-spot design challenge: whip up an imaginative room using pieces from only the 150+ participating vendors at the fair. This year we’ve turned to local decorator Laura Soskin for design advice, and the results will be on view Saturday with all items available for purchase through individual dealers. The rain-or-shine festival keeps getting bigger and more ambitious with each incarnation—new additions this year include a Global Goods Bazaar with ethnic offerings, a free trolley heading over there every hour from the old Water Tower (on Pearson, just east of Michigan Avenue), a Fancy Foods section, and vintage Schwinn bicycles from the 1950s and 1960s so you can kick-start it Pee-Wee Herman–style. The Indie Designer Market is also returning, and there will be live music both days. Admission is $10 (refundable with purchase) or wait until Sunday at 2:00—the last two hours are free.
As a big of a grammar nerd, I was uppercase amped to hear that this Comma chair, designed by Renata Kalarus for NOTI, just picked up a 2009 honorable mention award in Germany’s prestigious Red Dot Design Competition. It’s available in several finishes, leathers, and fabrics for $799 at IQMatics, Schaumburg’s dashing European furniture store. I emphatically support and would love to see more punctuation-based home design—maybe a semicolon couch, a hyphen hassock, or an ellipsis settee? I like it umlaut!
Little House Sale From Prairie
Naperville’s Prairie Loft furniture gallery is up and moving to the Arboretum in South Barrington, big bargains on the Arts and Crafts, Prairie, and Greene & Greene wooden furniture they design and manufacture. At least 60 percent off (already quite reasonable—this mahogany Whidbey table is normally $2,100) retail . . . sham-wow! Owner Deborah Lee, who established her company in 2001, likes to travel light, so she is also knocking prices off all the rugs, mirrors, and accessories at the Naperville locale. “Nothing held back,” she promises. All sales are final. I’m sure that Prairie Loft will fit tongue-and-groove into the Arb’s vibe, which already counts Arhaus, Yankee Candle, and that no-nonsense L.L. Bean among established tenants.