Weekend Recap | Expo Chicago and Gallery Weekend Chicago

Expo Chicago 2012

Expo Chicago 2012 Photograph: Courtesy of Paul Audia


Expo Chicago closed on Sunday, and by most accounts, it was a success. “Reactions have been extremely positive,” says Mia DiMeo of Carol Fox and Associates, who has been gathering responses from the gallery owners since the international art fair closed. 

In its inaugural year, Expo played host to 27,000 visitors over four days. An additional 3,000 attended Vernissage, the preview party held on Wednesday, September 19.

If sales are a measure of success, then Expo reportedly did very well. Several high-profile pieces—including a Lichtenstein—reportedly sold over the course of the fair.  

But the Exposure booths—featuring less-established galleries and emerging artists—did especially well. Jessica Silverman Gallery of San Francisco sold its entire stock of paintings by Turkish artist Hayal Pozanti—nine in total—within the first two days. “We had a great experience and look forward to a continued relationship with Expo Chicago,” says Nico Colón of Silverman Gallery.

Another new gallery, Chicago’s West Town–based the Mission, sold a large work by artist Gustavo Diaz within the first 30 minutes of Wednesday’s preview. “For us, in addition to sales,” says Natalia Ferreya, “Expo gave us exposure—it did what it was supposed to do.” 

Chicago gallery owner Andrew Rafacz praised Expo. "At a time when I think everyone is experiencing art-fair burnout,” says Rafacz, “Expo managed to inject new substance into the existing model.… It was the best fair we've ever been part of here, and it happily raised the stakes for us in every direction."

Part of that “new substance” was Dialogues, a series of talks and events sponsored by Expo and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “Everything was extremely well attended,” says Patricia Courson, programming manager for Expo. “Several of the highlights were standing room only, and the Alec Soth discussion with Kate Bussard [associate curator of photography at the Art Institute of Chicago] was overflowing into the halls.”

Less successful were Expo’s series of art installations. Works by Maya Lin and Gordon Matta-Clark presented by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) were nearly hidden in a far corner of Festival Hall. Many of the fair’s In/Situ installations were presented along the peripheries of the exposition floor, making them easy to bypass. These works would have benefitted from better siting.

Expo’s setting in Navy Pier proved far less claustrophobic than other recent Chicago art fairs held in the Merchandise Mart. Festival Hall’s high ceilings and open floor plan allowed the art to breathe. But some complained of the “hard to reach” location at the end of the Pier and the lack of decent restaurants nearby. Expo’s much-hyped design and layout by Studio Gang Architects also received mixed reviews. Although functional, the design looked more glamorous in the renderings than in reality.

Gallery Weekend Chicago (GWC) ran concurrently with Expo Chicago. Sponsored by 15 Chicago-based contemporary art galleries, GWC hosted 200 collectors from across the country and abroad for a series of VIP events that dovetailed with Expo events. GWC also hosted a series of artist talks and gallery tours that were free and open to the public. “The public events were well attended,” said Monique Meloche, whose gallery hosted a full house of visitors for artists Joel Ross and Jason Creps. Meloche says plans are already under way for next year’s events with the Arts Club of Chicago slated to host the welcome party in fall 2013.


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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)