galleries

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 Brief History of Minimalism

Written by Emily Cheetham, Summer 2019 Intern

Imagine you are in New York City during the 1960s. You bike along the newly paved Brooklyn Bridge bike path listening to the Beatles, on your way to catch a show at a gallery. Over the past twenty years, abstract expressionism has become the dominant artistic style. Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Mark Rothko are the avant garde and New York has replaced Paris as the capital of the art world. Andy Warhol just unveiled his Marilyn Monroe paintings to the world and designed a Velvet Underground album cover. The 60s art world is all about loud color, splattered paint, and over-the-top imagery.

But across the city, three artists–Donald Judd, Robert Morris, and Sol LeWitt–sit in their studios developing a new artistic movement that would go on to influence everything from architecture and design to fashion and music: minimalism. “Minimalist artists rejected the notion of the artwork as a unique creation reflecting the personal expression of a gifted individual,” writes the Tate Museum in London, “seeing this as a distraction from the art object itself. Instead they created objects that were as impersonal and neutral as possible.”

What was so different and new about minimalism? A look at three famous minimalist artworks can explain. 

Robert Morris, Untitled (Mirrored Cubes)

Robert Morris completed this piece in 1965 to be exhibited at the Green Gallery in New York. Morris eventually destroyed the original piece, believing that the material was not of the highest quality. A new version of the sculpture was placed at the Tate Modern in London beginning in 1971. Four mirrored cubes sit in a symmetrical placement, encouraging the viewer to walk around the piece. As the viewer looks at the art, however, they are forced to reflect on themselves rather than just reflecting on the art. The viewer battles the beauty of art with the imperfection of reality. Minimalism is often overlaps with conceptualism, or art that draws its meaning from thought-provoking concepts.

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Donald Judd, UNTITLED (1969)

An apostle of minimalism, Donald Judd, once said, “actual space is intrinsically more powerful and specific than paint on a flat surface.” Minimalist pieces often take up literal space, rather than depicting something through painting. Donald Judd’s desire to exhibit art in an unconventional way is evident with this piece. Judd sought to revive the gallery space, to make art that reacts to the space it is in.

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Sol LeWitt, White Cubes

Sol LeWitt was mesmerized by the shape of a cube. He once called the cube "relatively uninteresting,” and used the shape in his art because the cube “lacked the expressive force of more interesting forms and shapes." To LeWitt, the cube was the ultimate “meaningless” shape. He wanted to make art objects that had no deeper or symbolic meaning—a cube is simply a geometric figure. These white cubes fall perfectly into the minimalist ideology: they are geometric, colorless and interchangeable.

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Minimalism Today

Minimalism continues to impact contemporary artists today. Chicago artists like Theaster Gates and John Pittman—tackle aesthetic issues through form and shape. As corporate art consultants, we have built a local and international network of artists working in a range of styles, including contemporary minimalism. Because a simple, impactful geometric artwork often pairs well with modern office furnishings, minimalism can be an excellent addition to the aesthetic of a corporate space.

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Intern Introductions: Emily Cheetham

This summer, the DeGroot team includes a new intern, Emily Cheetham. Joining us all the way from Texas ahead of her senior year of college, Emily brings a variety of previous internship experiences in the art world–from Dallas to Rome. We are thrilled to introduce her to art consulting and the Chicago art world.

Written by Emily Cheetham, Summer 2019 Intern

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My father is an architect. Growing up, I spent my summers at his firm’s office in San Francisco. When I wasn’t hiding under his coworkers’ desks, I played architect. A day in the life of my architecture business involved creating new sketches for my building that would leave a footprint on the Manhattan skyline. I rattled on about bathroom tiles to fit the pattern of blues in my new apartment complex and began designing the infinity pool that would soon fill the backyard of my dream house. As I got older, however, I became less interested in designing buildings–and more interested in the fine art that fills those walls.

In high school, I interned at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas. This museum houses modern and contemporary sculpture. I served as the social media and event planning coordinator. One of my major projects involved developing an interactive feature for museum visitors to use with the photo-sharing app Snapchat. The project helped boost audience engagement with the museum, allowing young people to relate and respond to the physical artwork at the museum they may otherwise have only seen in textbooks. Because I was a young teenager who loved Snapchat, this was a great introduction to working in the art world.

I began my undergraduate career at the University of Georgia as an art history major. UGA offers many courses in this field, ranging from ancient to modern. While dabbling in every area, I have a passion for American and European modern and contemporary art. Mark Rothko, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Pablo Picasso–to name a few–are artists that captivate me. I am interested in the sensory experience of viewing abstract pieces. For instance, the powerful blocks of color on a Rothko canvas completely engulf the viewer, heightening the senses.

Recently, I studied abroad in Rome. I was implausibly excited to leave my friends and family and venture out into a world I was unaccustomed to. There are very few cities with as much connection to European art history as Rome. Viewing the Sistine Chapel ceiling was a truly eye-opening experience. As cliché as it may sound, chills ran up and down my spine as I observed Michelangelo’s mastery.

While in Rome, I interned with a gallery based in the city. Run by Virginio Ferrari and his family members, Ferrari Studios is a collaborative gallery and shared studio space. Working with Italian artists and learning about different work culture was very interesting. I discovered that different countries and cultures have varied ways of working–even in the art world.

Now that I am back in the States, I am thrilled to be interning at DeGroot Fine Art for a summer. Art consulting is something I’ve always been attracted to and wanted to learn more about. I am interested in the business and project management aspects of art consultancy and I am enthusiastic to learn more. And, as I have many architectural building plans in my past, I am looking forward to seeing how architectural and interior design relate to art consulting. I’m sure my father would love for me to follow in his footsteps as an architect–but I think he’ll be just as happy for me to help adorn the walls that architects build.

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