Untitled by Nabil Nahas was one the abstract paintings on display at this year’s art Expo Chicago. Image: Galerie Tanit, Beirut
CHICAGO— There was great excitement at the fifth edition of Expo Chicago. Soon after the VIP vernissage reception benefitting the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Navy Pier became a beehive of activities. From across the world, art lovers and collectors converged at the venue to experience art. Some of the top collectors and curators at the show included Hans Ulrich Orbrist, Simon Castets, Anita and Paul Zabludowicz, Toby Kamps, and Jorge Pérez among many others.
More than 145 leading galleries were at this year’s Expo Chicago. They came from 220 countries and 53 cities from around the world. Countries represented included: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Korea, Lebanon, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.
The galleries presented some exciting works by artists they represent. At the Ashes/Ashes booth was an interesting piece by Timothy Hull. Titled Ancient Glyph Wall Painting Three, the painting borrows from ancient traditions to stress contemporary thoughts. Bortolami New York had on display Scene IV, an interesting piece by Barbara Kasten. Connersmith based in Washington presented Stair, a 1977 piece by celebrated artist Sam Gilliam.
Many of the works display were recent creations. Harlem Redux: Hats and Scarves, a 2016 piece by Dawoud Bey was in the Rena Bransten Gallery booth. In the Carpenters Workshop Gallery booth was Pink Cocoon Concrete Base, a 2015 sculpture by Nacho Carbonell.
In addition to the works presented by the galleries, art lovers also got the opportunity to enjoy a slew of special projects. The Expo Chicago Projects were presented alongside IN/SITU in and around the Navy Pier. The projects included large-scale site-specific installations and performative works by emerging and established artists represented by 2016 exhibitors.
Imperial Courts 2015, by Dana Lixenberg, was one of the major attractions. The Three-channel video, color, with sound, 69-minute loop tracks how changes are affecting a small, inner-city community from South Central Los Angeles. Using a combination of video, and an extensive series of black and white photographs, the artist shows how time enables a forgetting and erosion of history. But More importantly, how little changes magnify over time. GRIMM represents Lixenberg.
Onwa N’etilu Ora, 2013–2015, by Nnenna Okorem borrows from the artist’s childhood experience living in Nigeria. Her sculptures made from twisted and painted paper address the regeneration of forms. Okorem’s use of natural materials twisted into structures illuminates her understanding of the intricacies of objects, and nature’s influences on our lives.
Magdalena Abakanowic’s project The Son of Gigant 2003, a Bronze sculpture, also captivated the audience. Abakanowicz is represented by Marlborough. Other projects included American Bikers, 1990–95 by Sandro Miller; Because the Mountains Were So High 2016, by Sabina Ott, and Hold It Up to the Light 2016, by Cody Hudson.
Dialogues was a major component of this year’s Expo Chicago. Organized in partnership with School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Dialogues included panel discussions, conversations, and provocative artistic discourse. Participants included leading artists, curators, designers and arts professionals who discussed current issues affecting art practice.
There was a particular focus on art in Africa during one of the discussions at Expo Chicago. The impact of global economy on contemporary art from Africa and its Diaspora was the topic of discussion during The New Global Economy: Contemporary Art from Africa and its Diaspora in the Marketplace. Moderated by Bomi Odufunade, participants included curator Kenneth Montague, Mary Sibande, and curator Yesomi Umolu.
The panel examined contemporary art practice in Africa and the impact of globalization. At issue were the challenges of globalization and its impact on Contemporary African artists in the global marketplace. The conclusion was that African artists must continue to identify opportunities even as they confront the challenges of globalization.
Other topics discussed under the Expo Chicago Dialogues included History of Performance in 20 Minutes, Art & Language Symposium, Conceptual Paradise, Art & Language: Conceptualism and Rock & Roll, Picturing Punk: The Legacy of Mark Morrisroe, and Aperture Live: On the Direct Gaze among several others.
The fifth edition of Expo Chicago achieved record attendance. More than 38,000 visitors attended this year’s event. Evidently, many people came to experience art. But beyond art, Expo Chicago was an opportunity for people to reconnect. Peggy Leboeuf of Galerie Perrotin explains her experience at this year’s Expo Chicago: “We had a wonderful time in Chicago. We were thrilled with how involved the local institutions were with the fair as well as how many curators from around the world attended. It was also fantastic to connect with the established Chicago collections.”
The high quality of presentations and innovation was another reason many people attended this year’s Expo Chicago. “Expo Chicago is a beautifully produced, high-quality art fair that we look forward to every September as we launch the fall season” notes Valerie Carberry of Richard Gray Gallery. She adds: “Each year, Tony Karman and his team somehow manage to fold in one more layer that makes the current year that much better than the last. This year’s public programming, for instance, set a new bar for its depth and rigor. The fair is not to be missed.”
Based on attendance this year’s Expo Chicago is a success. In addition to the outstanding artworks and innovation that gave people new ways of experiencing art. The art projects and videos were also refreshing. The question now is what Expo Chicago do next. With the exceptional display at this year’s event, expectations are even higher for next year’s Expo Chicago.