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The year in Art and Design | 2011 in review

Vivian Maier, Bertrand Goldberg and other rediscovered Chicagoans made this an exciting year.

Photograph: Courtesy of the artist
Andreas E.G. Larsson, Untitled (Chicago, Illinois), 2009.

While 2010 left me wondering why Chicago art and design was stuck in a rut, 2011 started with a bang: the opening of “Finding Vivian Maier” at the Chicago Cultural Center. The excitement continued all year, as locals stood up for neglected artists, architects and designers, and upstart institutions did solid work. TOC recognizes the following individuals and organizations for their gumption and grit.

Emily Dickinson Award for Posthumously Discovered Talent: Vivian Maier It’s unfortunate that Maier (1926–2009), a Chicago nanny who led a secret life as a brilliant street photographer, didn’t live to witness the international uproar over her work, which has been rediscovered and promoted by a few local collectors. Her mostly black-and-white photographs from the 1950s through the 1990s have been praised in The New York Times, The Guardian and Vanity Fair and shown in cities around the world. In November, John Maloof, the collector whose archive yielded “Finding Vivian Maier,” published Vivian Maier: Street Photographer (powerHouse Books, $39.95). His documentary Finding Vivian Maier is in production.

Concrete Achievements Award: Bertrand Goldberg As his organic architecture emerges from the shadow of Miesian modernism, Goldberg (1913–97) is the subject of three ongoing exhibitions. The Art Institute of Chicago hosts his retrospective “Architecture of Invention” through January 15. Its companion show, “Inside Marina City,” features Iker Gil and Andreas Larsson’s photographs (pictured) of the apartments in Goldberg’s unofficial landmark. The Arts Club of Chicago presents objects from Goldberg’s own collections in “Reflections” through February 8, and hosts an open house Saturday 17 with gallery talks.

Concrete Achievements Honorable Mention: Save Prentice The preservationists’ coalition Save Prentice (saveprentice.org) is still struggling to secure protective landmark status for Goldberg’s original Prentice Women’s Hospital (333 E Superior St). But Northwestern University hasn’t obtained permission to demolish his iconic design yet, either.

Brave Enough to Argue with Frank Lloyd Wright Award: Alfonso Iannelli The subject of a spring exhibition at ArchiTech Gallery, Iannelli (1888–1965) was an artist and designer who collaborated (and later tussled) with Wright on Midway Gardens. His other local projects include commissions at the Adler Planetarium and Park Ridge’s Pickwick Theatre. In July, the Kalo Foundation purchased Iannelli’s longtime home and studio at 225 North Northwest Highway in Park Ridge and began transforming the property into the Iannelli Studios Heritage Center.

Space Grace Award: Spudnik Press In the spring, the four-year-old cooperative print studio defied the recession by moving to a bigger home at 1821 West Hubbard Street and funding new letterpress classes through Kickstarter.

Sweet Home Award: DePaul Art Museum No longer relegated to rooms off DePaul’s Richardson Library, DPAM opened a three-story, 15,200-square-foot building in September. It has enough space at last to show off its permanent collection and compete with Chicago’s other fine university museums.

Proving Us Wrong Award: Chicago Artists’ Coalition In 2010, the CAC’s problematic Art Loop Open seemed to embody the art world’s malaise. But the caliber of the artists participating in the organization’s new BOLT residency reflects a sensible approach to arts advocacy, and director Carolina Jayaram promises 2012’s ALO will be very different.

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