art history

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.

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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!

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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Storing Works of Art on Paper

When prints and drawings are not framed and displayed, it is crucial to store them properly. Whether you have a few prints to keep safe or are building large-scale storage solutions, there are a few main concerns, solutions, and best practices to keep in mind when storing works of art on paper.

We recently acquired these works of art on paper for a corporate client. Millee Tibbs,  Air/Plains series , 2013

We recently acquired these works of art on paper for a corporate client. Millee Tibbs, Air/Plains series, 2013

Keeping Paper Safe

All artwork should be handled carefully, but works of art on paper can be especially delicate. Paper can fold, curl, crumple, or easily tear when it is not matted and framed. Keeping the paper flat and secure is a primary concern in the storage of prints and drawings. This can be achieved by storing works in frames, in stacked mats, or in archival boxes. Paper used in older works is often not archival–meaning its chemical composition inevitably breaks down–and the paper becomes more brittle as it ages. Storing works properly can help mitigate damage to older pieces. Today, many works of art are specifically made on archival paper to prevent decay. 

Protecting Pigment

The medium used to create an image on the paper can also impact storage and conservation efforts. Over time, ink used in prints can off-gas onto other surfaces. If the print is stored in a frame with glass, the print can sometimes leave a faint “ghost” film where chemicals from the ink have interacted with the glass. If a print is stored in a stack with other loose prints, it can off-gas onto the other works of art. In this situation, interleaving sheets of a thin, archival, pH neutral type of paper called “glassine” can prevent damage. Glassine also prevents certain drawing materials from rubbing off of paper. Pastels and charcoal are especially prone to losing pigment.

Another concern when storing artwork is light. Exposure to sunlight can fade works of art or bleach the paper. Some types of prints are especially sensitive to this. For example, Japanese woodblock prints from the 19th century and earlier were often made with organic pigment that loses its vibrancy or fades to gray. The purple pigment used in these prints is a “fugitive” color and it is now very rare to find vibrant purples in Japanese woodblock prints. This is why we always recommend framing art in UV-filtered Plexiglas to protect work from light damage. (Check out our earlier blog post dedicated to using Plexiglas!)

Colors fading in Japanese woodblock prints via  Viewing Japanese Prints

Colors fading in Japanese woodblock prints via Viewing Japanese Prints

Environment, Pests, and Pesky Situations

Environment is also an important factor in creating the proper storage conditions for works of art on paper. Artwork should be stored in an area away from major activity, far from any food or beverages, and in a secure location.

It is important to store art in a place with consistent, controlled temperature and humidity. According to a guide to storing works on paper published by the University of Illinois, “A frequent recommendation is a stable temperature no higher than 70° F and a stable relative humidity between a minimum of 30% and a maximum of 50%.” 

Paper is sensitive to moisture and can buckle when exposed to changes in humidity. Additionally, wet environments can produce mildew or mold, which can damage art. Works of art on paper and books are susceptible to foxing, or the spread of reddish-brown spots on paper caused by fungal growth.

Bookworms aren’t just people who love to read–they are any type of insect that eats paper. Ironically, these insects are not worms, but moths, beetles, and roaches. Keeping art away from any and all vermin is very important when storing work.

Solutions

Many of these concerns can be addressed by storing pieces in an archival box, like a Solander box. Solander boxes–also called “clamshell cases”–were developed by a botanist named Daniel Solander while he was cataloging the collection of the British Museum from 1763 to 1782. These boxes now come in standard sizes and can also be custom made. They protect from light, dust, vermin, and accidents like flooding. It’s a simple solution that can protect your artwork for many years to come.

Whatever your art storage needs, we are available to consult on creating the best environment for your artwork–on and off the wall.

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The Ins and Outs of Lithography

Robert Cottingham,  An American Alphabet: L , Lithograph, 2005

Robert Cottingham, An American Alphabet: L, Lithograph, 2005

Written by Brontë Mansfield and Emily Cheetham, Summer 2019 Intern

There are many forms of printing, like etching, screenprinting, and woodcut printing–but lithography is a particularly complex and versatile medium. Lithography literally means “an image from stone.” As the Tate Modern explains, “Lithography is a printing process that uses a flat stone or metal plate on which the image areas are worked using a greasy substance so that the ink will adhere to them by, while the non-image areas are made ink-repellent.” Limestone was originally used as the stone when lithography was first created. Today, the types of stones and metals used have widened.

Lithography was invented in the 18th century to distribute sheet music to orchestras, but was quickly picked up by artists. The creation of lithography allowed for images to be mass-produced in more colors and more quickly than prior printmaking techniques. The creation of lithography was hugely impactful to culture: art could be distributed more cheaply to the masses. Lithography is taught in MFA programs around the country and is a medium used by many prominent contemporary artists, including Robert Cottingham in his series An American Alphabet . Lithographs are often an excellent option for those looking to collect prints for their corporate space or home.

There are several different types of lithography: original stone, original plate, lithographic reproductions, and offset prints. Understanding the different types of lithography fosters a deeper understanding of art making, helps viewers identify prints, and lays a foundation for building an art collection.

Original Stone Lithography

The original stone lithograph is the oldest and most identifiable form of lithography—when you think of a lithograph, this is most likely the kind you are thinking of. These lithographs are drawn onto limestone by the artist using a waxy or greasy medium. The grease repels water and is used by the printmaker to transfer ink from the stone to paper. Original stone lithography captures the marks made by the drawer’s hand with more fidelity than any other form of printmaking. These prints are often more expensive and highly prized due to the mastery of the medium required to print them.

Since the creation of lithography in 1796, the medium has been instrumental in creating the aesthetics of several major artistic movements. In the late 19th century, Toulouse-Lautrec used lithography to make 350 original posters and advertisements that are now emblematic of bohemian Paris. Then, in the early 20th century, German Expressionists like Edvard Munch used the gestural marks of lithography to capture their inner turmoil during World War I.

To see original stone lithography in action, watch MoMA’s video, “Pressure + Ink: Introduction to Lithography.”

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,  Divan Japonais , Lithograph printed in four colors, 1892-93

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Divan Japonais, Lithograph printed in four colors, 1892-93

Edvard Munch,  Anxiety , Color lithograph in black and red on card, 1896

Edvard Munch, Anxiety, Color lithograph in black and red on card, 1896

Original Plate Lithography 

Original plate lithographs differ from original stone lithographs with the material used. Here, the artist is draws onto aluminum rather than limestone. A favored option to stone lithographs, these lithograph matrixes are easier to move. Litho stones can be incredibly heavy and while limestone is a common type of stone, limestone that is of high enough quality to produce prints is harder to source, leading to the creation of alternative methods.

Lithographic Reproductions

Lithographic reproductions can be copies of any work of art. A photograph is taken of the piece and used to create more copies of the piece. These images are not drawn directly onto a lithography stone and are often not created by the original artist. Lithographic reproductions are not original works of art, but are affordable ways to disseminate an image.

Victor Moscoso, Lithographic poster, 1967

Victor Moscoso, Lithographic poster, 1967

Offset Lithography 

Offset lithography is mostly commonly associated with posters. An iconic example is the two-toned or rainbow psychedelic posters of the 1960s. Offset lithography is not done by hand, but with a flexible aluminum plate incorporated in a large printing press. The term “offset” refers to the transfer or offsetting of pigment onto a “rubber blanket” before it is then printed on a piece of paper. This is a difficult process to describe in writing, but the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco created this excellent video that demonstrates the technique. Not only is offset lithography cheap and easy, it also results in a consistent, high quality image. Similar to a lithographic reproduction, the resulting artwork is not often considered an original piece.

Understanding the different types of lithographs can help individuals or companies looking to establish or expand their art collections. With a deeper knowledge of printmaking techniques comes a deeper appreciation for the finished work. Rather than seeing prints as mere reproductions of art, viewers can see lithographs as works of art unto themselves.

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Art World Logistics and Jackson Pollock's "Mural"

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This week, the New Yorker published a piece on Jackson Pollock’s painting Mural. Since the creation of Mural in 1943, the painting’s multi-decade journey–from a Peggy Guggenheim’s home and various museums to emergency storage and world tours–illuminates many of the services that we provide as art consultants.

Commissions and Installations

As New Yorker writer Louis Menand relays, Mural was commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim, niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim of foundation and museum fame, for her Manhattan townhouse. The piece was installed by the artist and Guggenheim’s friend Marcel Duchamp–which lead to a tall tale about Duchamp slashing eight inches off the painting to make it fit in the space. The story isn’t true, but it’s a great reminder why art consultants exist: not only do we occasionally work with artists to facilitate commissions for corporate clients, but we also work with expert art handlers on installations. For each installation, we take precise measurements, use hardware that works best for the location, and protect the art and the clients’ space.

Donations

In the 1950s, Peggy Guggenheim moved to Venice and wanted to donate the painting but was faced with a conundrum. She offered the painting to Yale, but the institution passed on the donation. The painting ended up in Iowa City, eventually finding its way into the University of Iowa art museum. As art consultants, we can help facilitate the donation of art from corporate collections when the pieces are no longer a good fit for the company. Our services include finding the right home for a piece and managing the logistics of transferring ownership.

Protection and Storage

Pollock’s Mural found a great home at the University of Iowa, but decades later disaster struck. In 2008, the Iowa River flooded the campus, causing $750 million dollars in damage. The school narrowly avoided losing their art collection to the flood. According to the New York Times, “a herculean effort in the preceding days had gotten thousands of pieces, including the museum’s well-regarded collection of African art and a Jackson Pollock piece, to safety.” A component of  our work is to ensure the safety of artwork. We can work with corporate clients to properly store and protect collections from calamities like water damage, mold, pests, or theft. Storage solutions can be on-site in a corporate space or off-site through a trusted vendor.

Transportation

Ground was just broken on the new University of Iowa art museum this past June, but Mural has not been hidden from the public for the past decade. The Pollock masterpiece has been on a world tour, traveling from museum to museum while its home institution recovers. A major part of our work involves arranging the transportation of artwork. For pieces acquired in Chicago, we work with a local network of art professionals to facilitate transportation. When we acquire pieces for corporate clients from galleries in places like New York or Los Angeles, we must arrange transportation for pieces across the country. We are also experienced in facilitating the safe and timely transit of art at a global scale, navigating customs, taxes, crating, and even transAtlantic transportation.

Exhibitions

In July, Pollock’s Mural arrived at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The piece has been in exhibitions around the world for the past ten years and, as the New Yorker notes, each museum decides how to exhibit the piece in relation to their collection. Curating and managing special exhibtions is another on of services as an art consulting firm. We work with clients to create seasonal exhibitions that showcase local artists for their employees and visitors, allowing the client to highlight their support for contemporary art or their interest in a particular medium, like photography or abstract painting. Each exhibition we curate is unique and tailored to our client and their space.

Mural is an excellent example of the interesting and varied life of a single artwork. Every work of art has a story and every owner of a piece contributes to that story. Our job is to help clients acquire new pieces or manage collections–and to help art and companies tell stories together.

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