Now that America’s biggest art fair is over, let’s turn our attention back to the hinterlands and a city that was formerly a second center for American art.
Crain’s Chicago profiles Tony Karman as he gathers steam toward his new venture:
His Expo Chicago debuts in September in the same Navy Pier exhibit hall where the International Art Exposition was held before it folded, was replaced by another fair and was moved to the Merchandise Mart. The show’s cachet dwindled as art galleries dissatisfied with the Mart’s exhibit space defected, taking collectors with them.
Mr. Karman aims to bring them back. He’s already lined up gallery owners David Zwirner (New York), Richard Gray (Chicago) and Karsten Greve (Germany) as exhibitors. Uber-chic architect Jeanne Gang has agreed to redesign Navy Pier’s Festival Hall for the show. And Mr. Karman raised close to $1 million from some of Chicago’s biggest art patrons to fund it.
“We wanted to return Chicago to its rightful place as a pre-eminent art-fair destination,” says Mr. Karman, 53. […]
Mr. Karman has signed up gallery owners who deserted the Merchandise Mart show. Gallery owner Rhona Hoffman says the show lost its feeling of exclusivity as “VIP tickets were handed out to everyone.” […] “If you’re really interested in a fabulous (show), you have to work for it,” she says.
And juxtaposes his old firm’s new efforts in the same space:
Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. President Mark Falanga disagrees, saying international galleries left because “the Chicago audience isn’t a buying audience at that caliber and those price points.”
Still, the Mart is reworking its show, starting with another new name. Redubbed Art Chicago after moving to the Mart in 2006, the show becomes Next Art Chicago in 2012. The name reflects the combination of Art Chicago with the Next fair. Next Art is part of the Mart’s national network of art fairs, including the Armory show in New York.
Next Art has hired Staci Boris as director. She comes with a curatorial background—at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Spertus Museums—that will come into play with the revamped show. There will be wider aisles and lounge areas, and established and emerging artists will be set up side by side on a single floor.
“Art Chicago needed to evolve,” she says. “That’s why we combined the two fairs and changed the name.”
Restoring Chicago’s Art Show Rep (Crain’s Chicago)