chicago art history

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

. . .

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!

. . .

Richard Hull: One Artist, Three Client Projects

2019-09-04.jpg

This week, Chicago Gallery News featured Richard Hull on the cover of their Fall 2019 magazine. Since graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with an MFA in 1979, Hull has maintained close connections with the Chicago art community. Inspired by the Chicago Imagists and the Hairy Who, Hull has spent 40 years living and working in the city, producing artwork that is now in prominent national collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. For the last 15 years, Hull has been a professor of painting at SAIC, mentoring a new generation of artists. 

Richard Hull is known for his expressive, color-soaked, and almost-abstract figural paintings that he calls “stolen portraits.” He first started creating these pieces after playing a game of exquisite corpse with a famed composer and an illustrator.

Richard Hull is often a client favorite because of his dense and varied use of color. Speaking to Chicago Gallery News, Hull explained the logic of his colorful paintings: “My only color theory is you decide on a color to start with, and you find a color that makes that better. It’s about the relationship to the color within the piece. If I add violet next to a red, does that make the red better or does it distract from or make the red look bad? It’s color, next color. Color, next color. And I’m always kind of surprised by how colorful my things are.” 

In many ways, Hull’s color theory is like our work as art consultants. We often have a starting place–the furniture, the finishes, the wall colors, the existing art collection of a client–and we seek out artwork that makes it even better. Over time, this is how great individual pieces come together into a stunning collection, each piece amplifying the others. 

We recently completed three projects involving Richard Hull’s artwork:

Rotating Exhibition

Over the last year, we have featured several pieces by Hull in a rotating exhibition that we curate in a corporate lobby. Temporary exhibitions allow us to showcase work that we think is exciting and special. Working with artists to collaborate on exhibitions allows us to develop a deep understanding of an artist’s work and ultimately helping us find the best piece for our clients. 

Private Client

One of our private clients recently added a piece by Hull to their collection. We assisted the clients in finding the perfect artwork for their home, framed the piece, and installed it in their living space. The clients chose a Richard Hull crayon and ink drawing. Works of art on paper are often more affordable alternatives to large paintings and can be customized with a bespoke frame to match home furnishings and personal taste. For this piece, we worked with the client to choose a fused-metal corner frame. The bronze-colored burnished aluminum frame subtly complements the rust tones in the drawing.

Corporate Acquisition

We also recently assisted a law firm in acquiring a large Richard Hull painting on canvas. The scale and color of the painting are perfect for the office lobby, welcoming visitors and employees alike into the space. By supporting a contemporary local artist, the law firm cultivates a connection with Chicago’s cultural community and supports art of the present moment.

We love seeing one of our favorite artists getting well-deserved recognition for their contributions to Chicago’s art history. You can see more of Richard Hull’s work in a solo booth at EXPO Chicago this September presented by Hull’s gallery, Western Exhibitions.

. . .

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.

. . .

Public Art in Downtown Chicago

Written by Emily Cheetham, Summer 2019 Intern

Since the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, building a better city has been a top priority for Chicagoans. Celebrated architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan flocked here to build the city that we know today. Alongside architecture, public art has been a fixture of Chicago aesthetics for decades. The city’s public art includes some exemplary pieces of modernist art. Here are the stories behind four sculptures that define public art in downtown Chicago.

THE PICASSO

Designed by Pablo Picasso in 1967, this piece is technically unnamed, but is colloquially referred to as “the Picasso.” It was one of the first public sculptures to be placed downtown and sits in Daley Plaza inside the Loop. Commissioned by the architects of the Richard J. Daley Center, Picasso refused the payment for the piece, instead creating the sculpture as a gift to the city of Chicago. The Picasso looks a bit like a jungle gym and it is not uncommon to see visitors of the plaza climbing on and around the sculpture.

ALEXANDER CALDER’S FLAMINGO

Head a few blocks south in the Loop and you will find yourself dwarfed by the Flamingo, a large vermillion abstract sculpture sitting in the Federal Plaza. Alexander Calder designed this sculpture in 1974, clocking in at an epic weight of 50 tons. Calder wanted his sculpture to wind and arch, a curving pop of color surrounded by monumental steel buildings. Flamingo was the first sculpture to be unveiled under the Percent for Art program—a program which administers a percentage of the city budget to public art. 

Left: Pablo Picasso, Untitled, 1967. Right: Alexander Calder,  Flamingo , 1974.

Left: Pablo Picasso, Untitled, 1967. Right: Alexander Calder, Flamingo, 1974.


JOAN MIRO’S CHICAGO

Down the street from Picasso’s sculpture is a work by contemporary master Joan Miró, fittingly titled Chicago. This piece was unveiled in Brunswick Plaza by Chicago’s first female mayor Jane Byrne in 1981. Miró’s sculpture is a 40-foot statue of a woman tucked between two skyscrapers. It is a mixed media sculpture—steel, wire mesh, concrete, bronze and ceramic tile produce Chicago.


ANISH KAPOOR’S CLOUD GATE

 Known to all Chicagoans and visitors as “The Bean,” this sculptural feat is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the whole city. Contrary to popular belief, the actual name of Anish Kapoor’s sculpture is not The Bean—it’s Cloud Gate. Kapoor’s design was based on liquid mercury and consists of 168 stainless steel plates welded together. The highly polished structure is a mirror to Millennium Park and the buildings that surround it. The bean-shape bends and curves giving viewers a perfect photo opportunity as the reflections are distorted. The sculpture was the product of a design competition and debuted in 2004.

Left: Joan Miró,  Chicago , 1981. Right: Anish Kapoor,  Cloud Gate , 2004.

Left: Joan Miró, Chicago, 1981. Right: Anish Kapoor, Cloud Gate, 2004.

Chicago is known for its public art, from sculptures to murals to interactive pieces in parks. Public art is meant to be enjoyed by the people and be accessible to all. Sometimes that accessibility leads to rare acts of vandalism. Just last week, Cloud Gate was tagged with spray paint. According to the Chicago Tribune, workers were able to remove the graffiti quickly and restore Chicago’s iconic sculpture.

In our work as art consultants, we have worked on a variety of projects involving public art or conservation. We have coordinated the moving and storage of large-scale outdoor sculptures. We also work with talented conservators to restore artwork when accidents happen. Helping companies find, install, and protect art for the enjoyment of their employees, customers, and the public is one of our chief joys as a company.

. . .