Slow start for Chicago’s Expo fair
New fair on Navy Pier aims to fill gap left by defunct Art Chicago
By Christian Viveros-Fauné. Web only
Published online: 26 September 2012
Maybe it was the modest PR push, or the $400 ticket for Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art’s opening night benefit, or just a case of fair overload (there are now around 189 such events worldwide). Whatever the reasons, the vernissage at the first Expo Chicago at the Navy Pier on Wednesday 19 September proved to be a letdown. Over the following days, a consensus emerged among participating galleries that results at the new Chicago fair (20-23 September) were, at best, a mixed bag.
While the event’s director Tony Karman spoke eloquently about the fair’s excellent list of galleries, the city’s civic pride and his own desire to “produce a fair that fits the great legacy of an art fair in Chicago”, one blue chip dealer reported that many prominent New York galleries were “gnashing their teeth”. Several reported no sales by the end of the fair’s second day, including David Zwirner, whose stand boasted a large Dan Flavin light sculpture ($950,000), an Alice Neel oil on canvas portrait of her son Hartley ($800,000) and a room-sized David Hammons, Basketball Installation ($1.8m). A new painting made for the fair by Lisa Yuskavage did find a buyer later on. A spokeswoman for the gallery said: “While well situated and impressively laid out, the fair on the whole was slow, but it allowed us a platform to strengthen relationships with institutions in the region”. Similar slow results were reported at galleries like Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Salon 94 and Paul Kasmin, the last of which eventually made some sales to New York and California-based collectors.
Despite tepid movement at the upper end of the market, important sales under $350,000 took place at the stands of both US and international galleries. Haunch of Venison sold a detailed pine sculpture by the Arte Povera star Giuseppe Penone (€260,000), works on paper by the Tibetan artist Gonkar Gyatso ($45,000 and $55,000) and a 2012 mixed media painting by Isca Greenfield-Sanders ($48,000). London’s Max Wigram sold out his stand of works by the Mexican conceptualist Jose Dávila on the first day: these included a cardboard box riff on Donald Judd’s stacks ($20,000), a diptych of Dan Flavin-inspired photographic cutouts ($18,000), as well as a handsome wall installation of similarly styled works on paper ($26,000). Also selling briskly were video portraits by the California artist Brian Bess: LA’s Cherry and Martin sold five such works priced between $12,000 and $22,000 to local collectors such as the developer Roger “Biff” Ruttenberg, who plans to donate his work to the Museum of Contemporary Art. The gallery’s co-owner Mary Leigh Cherry’s said: “We’ve seen a lot of collectors that we’ve seen in Miami, but there’s a feeling of focus here.”
Despite a general appreciation for the fair’s sterling organisation, it was hard to avoid sobering assessments. Nonetheless, some remain positive. The LA art dealer Michael Kohn said: “There aren’t enough buyers right now, but if the name stays strong then more people will come—that logic will work if we can get some of the bigger name galleries to persevere.” Despite reporting few sales, the local dealer and fair committee member Rhona Hoffman said: “If people take the long view [of the fair], this is a go.”
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