art consultant midwest

Thoughts on Chicago’s 2019 Art Fairs

For one weekend in September, Chicago is inundated with art from galleries across the country and around the world. This year, the city hosted two major art fairs. EXPO Chicago had its eighth edition on Navy Pier and the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) premiered their first-ever Chicago Invitational. This was an exceptional opportunity for our team to view a huge spread of artwork, meet new artists, and make connections with gallerists–both local and global. After viewing hundreds of pieces and shaking nearly as many hands, here are our thoughts on this year’s art fairs:

Trends and Through-lines

One of the joys of attending an art fair is noticing the different mediums, methods, and subjects that reverberate across the art world in a given year. Through-lines connect contemporary artists–and as these through-lines weave together over time, they become the tapestry of art history that we reflect on decades later. This year, we noticed a few trends across both EXPO and NADA’s Chicago Invitational: pattern and abstraction, semi-sculptural pieces, and high-gloss artwork.

It is easy to associate abstract artwork with the loose, random-seeming paint splatters of Action painters like Jackson Pollock, but abstraction can also be tightly controlled. One theme our team noticed is the prevalence of patterns in contemporary art. Artists like Matthew Craven create intricate, multi-color patterns that are stimulating and eye-catching. Even art that depicts real life, like this still life of a table with a watermelon by Holly Coulis, borders on abstraction.

Matthew Craven

Matthew Craven

Holly Coulis

Holly Coulis

We noticed some pieces throughout the shows that are “2.5 D” or somewhere between two-dimensional and three-dimensional. These works are often wall-mounted like a painting, but have sculptural elements that make them pop out from the wall. In general, textile artwork is having a renaissance. We saw great examples of tapestries and large-scale fabric pieces, like Jessica Campbell at Sapar Contemporary and Joël Andrianomearisoa from Galerie RX in Paris.

The paintings that caught our eyes were often packed with shiny pigments. Glossy artwork is having a moment right now. Some artists are turning away from matte finishes towards lustrous polish, giving many works the look of enamel. Los Angeles-based gallery Luis De Jesus had a piece by June Edmonds at EXPO with a gleaming finish.

Team member Julia at viewing a 2.5 D piece

Team member Julia at viewing a 2.5 D piece

Face to Face

It’s a uniquely 21st century problem: increasingly, we all know people from email or social media and haven’t met them in person. At the fairs this year, we finally got to meet a few gallerists that we have only known digitally. Meeting people in person makes it so much easier to build our community and forge strong connections in the art world. Additionally, art fairs make it easy to keep in touch with old friends from throughout our careers. Because our team members worked across the art world before joining DeGroot Fine Art, the art fairs are a great excuse to get a coffee with a curator or catch up with someone from grad school who is just passing through town.

Location, Location, Location

Seeing lots of people from outside of Chicago reminded us of the importance of traveling when sourcing artwork. Each booth was only a small selection of a gallery’s deep well of talent. Traveling to different parts of the country–or even world–opens up more possibilities for our corporate clients to learn about new work they might not otherwise have the chance to see. We look forward to booking our trips for the coming year to visit those we met on their turf for visits to their galleries and regional fairs.

Whether it was trend-spotting, meeting famous dogs, or toasting to the opening of the art season at Vernissage surrounded by artists and gallerists, we had a successful weekend at the fairs!

Julia and Jaime at Vernissage

Julia and Jaime at Vernissage

Jaime with a painting by Anna Kunz

Jaime with a painting by Anna Kunz

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Getting the Most Out of the Fall Art Season

Each fall, Chicago’s art world buzzes with gallery openings, art fairs, museum exhibitions, and major events. Here are our tips to get the most out of the season.

Carol Jackson at Corbett vs. Dempsey

Carol Jackson at Corbett vs. Dempsey

Pencil It In

With so much going on, we recommend making a list of the shows, galleries, and fairs you want to attend–and then adding the events to your calendar. Check out the shows at the galleries you are familiar with and read up on guides to the season from publications like Chicago Gallery News. Look into events outside your usual circle to see fresh art that you might otherwise miss. NewCity’s “Fall Arts Preview 2019: Alternative Spaces in Chicago” is a great place to find hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path galleries.

It can be all too easy to let an exhibition closing date slip by without realizing you never got to see it. Early in the season, prioritize attending events that are only open for a short time, like a weekend art fair, and save longer-running exhibitions for when things slow down in November. Always double check that spaces are open when you plan to go. Many galleries are closed on Mondays, for example. Call ahead if you want to confirm the hours that a space is open.

Visiting Galleries

Many galleries kick off their fall shows with an opening reception, often in September. Receptions are great for meeting gallerists, artists, and people in the art world, but the high attendance and overlapping conversations can make it hard to focus on the art, so plan on seeing the show again after the opening when you can absorb the exhibition more fully. The prices of artwork may not always be posted; if you are interested in a piece, ask a gallery attendant for a price list, which will detail the artist’s biographical information and the cost of the work. 

We are looking forward to so many shows this season. Julia Fish: bound by spectrum at the DePaul Art Museum captures a decade of observational paintings of light in a Chicago house (September 12–February 23, 2020). Corbett vs Dempsey hosts an exhibition of wall-hanging sculptures by Carol Jackson titled End World Music (September 6–October 12). In The Last Cruze, MacArthur “genius” Fellowship award winner LaToya Ruby Frazier brings 67 of her famed documentary photographs to the Renaissance Society, chronicling the lives of autoworkers in Ohio (September 14–December 1).

This fall, we are hosting our own exhibition in our office at 1709 W. Chicago Ave. Kantoor is a group exhibition of artwork made with pencil or graphite by five artists based in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. The exhibition will run from September 13–November 1 and showcase artists who are popular picks with our client base. We hope you’ll stop by!

Navigating Art Fairs

EXPO Chicago (September 19–22) is the city’s largest art fair. EXPO is an excellent opportunity to see artwork from around the world–136 galleries from 24 countries will be showing work by their best and brightest talent. This year, the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) will host a fair in Chicago–their first fair outside of Miami (September 18–21). Just as things are winding down before winter, the third annual Chicago Art Book Fair (November 15–17) is an excellent chance to pick up some reading for the cold months.

Art fairs can be an overwhelming blur of people, voices, and lots of art. Experience an art fair at your own pace and do not feel pressured to see every single booth or work of art. Do not feel shy about asking questions or inquiring about prices. Each booth will be staffed with one or more gallerists ready to tell you more about the art. And it never hurts to wear comfortable shoes–there’s usually a lot of walking involved in a day at the fair.

Don’t Miss Out on Other Major Cultural Events

Between gallery-hopping and chatting with dealers at EXPO, be sure to make time for some of the other excellent arts and cultural events happening in Chicago this fall. Every two years the Chicago Architectural Biennial takes over the Cultural Center with thought-provoking projects on the way we live and build. This year marks the third iteration of the biennial, running from September into early 2020.

The Chicago Humanities Festival hosts speakers from around the country–journalists, political figures, and cultural heavyweights headline the festival. There is even a series of free talks dedicated to fine arts, titled Creative Chicago: Arts and the City.

As always, the exhibitions at Chicago’s museums can’t be missed, including a slew of shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art and a blockbuster exhibition of Andy Warhol at the Art Institute

Grab a sweater and a latte & enjoy the autumn art season!

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A Tale of Two Cities

Best of the Midwest

As art consultants in Chicago, we are often called upon to manage projects in nearby Midwestern regions. Which states qualify as “Midwestern” is debatable, but being centrally located in Illinois we are in a great position to entertain them all. We love traveling to cities booming with new business such as Troy, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; and Columbus, Ohio. 

Most recently we have been working on a project in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. On our fourth journey out to the new site, we decided to drive instead of fly. Just as valuable as an art history degree and consulting experience is understanding the area you are working in. Our clients appreciate the measures we take to dive into what it means to be “local.”

Buying Local in Sioux Falls

Helen Frankenthaler,  Alloy , acrylic on canvas, 1967

Helen Frankenthaler, Alloy, acrylic on canvas, 1967

For this particular project we were tasked with updating a fascinating collection of artifacts and photography specific to the region. We chose contemporary and archival framing updates for their collection and accompanied the works with new labeling that reflected up-to-date research and accessible language. Driving through the Great Plains–and meeting a new cast of individuals along the way–brings great insights that we can then use to inform our curation and knowledge of projects such as this. 

We also reached out to a local, contemporary photographer to have custom pieces fabricated and installed throughout the building. This was a purposeful way to connect the collection’s historic textiles and bronze sculptures with the present. In any collection, seeing the common threads shared by the artwork makes the viewing experience that much more meaningful. Sometimes this can be done with a lineage of artists inspired by one another and other times it simply takes a nod to the same subject matter or medium.

The Mill City

On the way to this job, we detoured to Minneapolis, Minnesota to experience the art and culture of the Land of Lakes. With only 24 hours in town, we didn’t see it all and look forward to coming back for such things as the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum. We did get to visit the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and the Walker Art Center which are excellent examples of the power of a unified collection. The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden showcases all large-scale sculpture, yet was diverse and dynamic in content. I was struck by the power of Kiki Smith’s Rapture and Pierre Juyghe’s tree installation Wind Chime (After a Dream) ringing out all the notes of John Cage compositions.

Our team in Minneapolis

Our team in Minneapolis

Next door at the Walker Art Center, their primary show was titled “Five Ways In: Themes from the Collection.” Tauba Auerbach’s woven canvas, a stunning Helen Frankenthaler titled Alloy, and Lake George Barns, an unusual depiction of a barn motif painted by Georgia O’Keeffe, stuck with me long after my visit. It isn’t surprising that I was resonating with themes of textile, industry, and rural architecture after our trip across the Midwest.

We also had a wonderful stay at a hip, new hotel housed in an old mill located in downtown Minneapolis. As ever-vigilant art consultants, we took notes on their artistic direction and hanging styles. We photo document what we see in offices, hotels, restaurants, museums, and galleries in other cities. This record helps us stay aware of trends that work well and those that do not.

Overall our trip was as enlightening as it was long. We are always happy to be home in Chicago with our nearby network of vendors, galleries, and artists, but are so grateful to have met many new acquaintances along the way. We look forward to seeing where art takes us next–be it Detroit or Cincinnati, Midwest or beyond!

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