The Chicago art world’s most significant changes in 2012

DCASE, Prentice and the Renaissance Society faced major upheavals.

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Tony Karman Director of EXPO CHICAGO in front of garbage from the Chicago, Illinois, Mississippi and Ohio Rivers that will be uesd to recreate Gordon Matta-Clark's Garbage Wall.

Tony Karman Director of EXPO CHICAGO in front of garbage from the Chicago, Illinois, Mississippi and Ohio Rivers that will be uesd to recreate Gordon Matta-Clark's Garbage Wall. Photograph: Jeremy Bolen

While Chicago’s art, design and architecture communities experience ups and downs every year, 2012 seemed to have more twists and turns than an episode of Gallery Girls. Here are the 12 events that marked the end (or beginning) of an era:


February 8: Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. cancels the Next Art Chicago fair, which it took over in 2006. Fair director Staci Boris joins the Elmhurst Art Museum as chief curator.


March 23: The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum at UIC introduces its Art Lending Library, which allows patrons to borrow Chicago artists’ works for months—for free.


June 5: Artist Jessica Stockholder’s Color Jam wraps the intersection of State and Adams Streets in 76,000 square feet of colorful vinyl, making the third annual Art Loop project the largest public artwork in city history, according to its sponsor, the Chicago Loop Alliance. Unfortunately, the installation’s materials deteriorate so quickly the CLA removes it before its scheduled September closing.


June 27: The Chicago City Council passes the Business Live-Work Ordinance cosponsored by Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno and Ald. Tom Tunney. The ordinance, which allows some small-business owners to work and live in the same space under specific conditions, could be a boon to artists.


July 1: The Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture shuts down. While the closure results in 88 layoffs, it restores some responsibilities and staff to the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, which rehires curators Lanny Silverman and Greg Lunceford. DCASE also names former Art Institute of Chicago associate curator Daniel Schulman its director of visual and public art.


September 19–22: Expo Chicago debuts at Navy Pier with an exhibition space designed by Studio Gang. The fair attracts approximately 27,000 visitors; 3,000, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, attend its opening-night Vernissage party.


October 12–14: The University of Chicago officially opens its Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. Designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, the $114 million center brings significant new exhibition and performance spaces to the South Side.


October 15: DCASE unveils the Chicago Cultural Plan, the city’s first since the original plan was issued in 1986. Its 200 initiatives include promoting arts education in public schools.


November 2: Donald Young Gallery closes after 29 years in business, and almost seven months after Young’s death from cancer. Chicagoans are left wondering where they’ll see work by international stars such as Rodney Graham and Rosemarie Trockel.


November 15: The Renaissance Society names Solveig Øvstebø its new executive director. The Bergen Kunsthall head succeeds Susanne Ghez, who led the contemporary-art institution for 40 years.


November 29: Michelle Grabner, chair of SAIC’s Department of Painting and Drawing, and former Gallery 400 assistant director Anthony Elms are named cocurators of the 2014 Whitney Biennial, along with Tate Modern curator Stuart Comer.


December 7: Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital gets a reprieve—for now: Cook County Circuit Court judge Neil Cohen maintains a restraining order blocking its demolition by Northwestern University. After the Commission on Chicago Landmarks granted and rescinded Prentice’s landmark designation during a single unorthodox November 1 meeting, the Save Prentice coalition sued the city and the commission, alleging the latter failed to follow the Landmarks Ordinance. Cohen takes up the case again January 11.


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