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Chicago Art Fair

Ilona Malka


Hiro Yamagata

Elaine de Kooning
JFK #12

Louis Elshemus

Paul McCarthy

Anish Kapoor

Julian Opie
Imagine You 
Art Landing (
Farm 2)


Anthony Gormley

Katharina Fritsch

 Chris Burden
New Improved
Spaceport with

Richard Long
Hogwallow Flat Circle

Barry Flanagan
Leaping Hare 
on Curly Bell

artnet goes to the chicago art fair

by Walter Robinson

Ah, Chicago, now there's a town. Worse weather than New York, worse traffic than Los Angeles. Did somebody say they should raze the place and start over elsewhere? Not us, we love Chicago, it's got life, it's got architecture, its got the art fair! It's what the art world would be like if it were all dealers! Having slaved to get the fair's catalogue up on the Web, the ArtNet crew rolled into the Navy Pier on May 9, 1996, along with more than 175 exhibitors who were there to "price things, see what's out there, to visit people," as it was put by Jeannie Freilich of Marian Goodman in New York. As she noted before rushing off, "the business is so much about relationships." As ArtNet's team of art-market experts worked to set up the ArtNet booth in a corner of the convention hall, we wandered across the way to visit with Perry Rubenstein, who was at the fair for the first time. He had some beautiful secondary market things, among them a grisaille early Stella that Perry said was priced at $180,000. "Prices," he said. "That's all anyone's interested in--comparing to things they own, things they're considering, things they've rejected." Over at Gracie Mansion/Fred Dorfman Projects, there was a Sol LeWitt white open cube, a small one, a grid of eight with one corner missing, to sit on a coffee table, in an edition of 42, priced at $1,440. "I've sold 14 already," said Gracie. "I didn't know he was still making those," we said. Gracie also had two five-foot-tall reindeer sculptures covered with fake grass, with little drawings and sculpted figurines stuck on them like ornaments, by Ilona Malka, one of Gracie's more recent discoveries. "They're twins," she said. They're $6,500, we noticed. Also on view, a $12,000 David Wojnarowicz 1983 painting on a supermarket poster including his trademark images of a G.I. and a choking cow. We wandered around, looking for familiar faces. There, at TZ Art, was Frederieke Taylor. She showed us a head carved out of phone books by Long Bin Chen for $1,500. There was also a "gentle lion" made of 360 pieces of yellow plastic raincoat by Peter Rosel, a Frankfurt artist showing at the gallery May 24-June 25. This big lion, lying on the floor, goes for $6,000. It has eyes of reflective safety plastic. Over at the booth of Tyler Graphics, otherwise headquartered in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., our attention was immediately caught by Nude with Blue Hair, a recent six-color print, almost 60 inches tall, by Roy Lichtenstein. It's a lovely nude, one of a handful at the fair. Next our eye was caught by a painting at Galerie Lahumaire, Paris, a Neo-Plasticist abstraction by J.F. Dubreuil (b. 1946) with a lot of gray, apparently based in some kind of systemic fashion on the newspaper, specifically Liberation of 3/28/95. We have always liked color-as-structure. At Daniel Templon, Paris, there was a fantastic Eric Fischl painting of a standing nude woman, called Questionable Pleasure #3 (1994). We can't decide whether we like Fischl nudes better with the dogs or without. "I want that," we told him. "I don't know you, I'm sorry," Templon said. The painting was 70 x 45 inches and the price was $145,000. Noted also at Fred Hoffman Fine Art, Santa Monica, were three Mercedes Cabriolets painted with flowers by Hiro Yamagata. We asked how much they were and the nice lady there said they weren't for sale, they were part of Yamagata's ongoing project. Over at Joan Washburn's gallery was a painting by Elaine de Kooning of JFK-- called JFK #12, 1963--about 35 by 24 inches. It was priced at $250,000. A drawing sold out of the Jackie O sale for close that, so "why not?" Joan said. So then we went to Kohn Turner, Los Angeles. Michael Kohn used to be an East Village dealer. He had a nice selection of early American moderns. One Oriental Landscape by Louis Elshemus, c. 1912, an oil on board, showed a domed palace and crescent moon, and was priced at $3,500. At one time Duchamp called Elshemus "the best living painter," but now hardly anybody knows him, Michael said. What is interesting about art fairs? You can see who's on show and who's not. Guess who was here, to our surprise? Reiner Fetting. A nice picture of a red-headed whore (if that's not too presumptuous an appellation), naked except for a lace bra under a long coat, 200 cm tall, for only $42,000. It was painted in 1990 and was in the booth of Galerie Scheffel from Bad Homburg. One place that could not possibly be sexist is the art world, for while women are portrayed naked the guys are portrayed as blithering idiots. Such is proven by Paul McCarthy's "tomato head," a lovely 11-foot-tall, tomato-juice-red version on view at Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna. It was $55,000. "It sold in the first minutes," said Ursula Krinzinger. "I could have sold it a second time." It had big clam feet and a giant, featureless, globular head. You know who was all over the fair? None more than Thomas Schütte. At Galerie Nelson, Paris, proprietor Philip Nelson, an American expatriate who speaks English like a native, we saw five prototypes of the swaddley aluminum figures recently seen at Marian Goodman in New York, called The Last Dance is for You, and priced at $30,000. Schütte calls them Grosse Geister, or large ghosts, and also "heroes," inspired by theater, by science fiction. They look kind of like Michelin men. Philip also had a series of photographs by Jim Welling taken inside a VW factory in Wolfsburg in 1994. It was one of the first completely urban-planned town done by the Nazis, Philip pointed out, of which all evidence is occluded. "Is there something there you can't see, a presence, a feeling?" he asked, elegantly explaining something subtle to we dunderheads. "Making the memory of the Nazi past disappear." Then we saw an artist. The photographer Ellen Carey escorted us over to Ricco- Maresca Gallery, New York, where her new work was on display. Once she made trippy nude self-portraits but now she makes brightly hued monochromes using the large- format Polaroid. A set of four, yellow, red, green and blue, goes for $9,000. "It's photography degree zero," Ellen said. I was fast running out of energy. At Adam Baumgold Fine Art, another one of my favorites, he had a smallish Jewish Jackie by Deborah Kass for $1,200. I told Yantra Boyardee, the noodle heiress, that she should buy it. She was tempted. We thought we should actually talk to a dealer. John Gibson, who didn't have a booth, Chicago is his hometown. He was sitting in the restaurant when he noted that the new Navy Pier, recently overhauled and refurbished, was "a fabulous facility, the best in the world. It's classic Chicago architecture," he said, gesturing at the huge barrel-vaulted hall. "Listen to the sound, there isn't any, that's true of nowhere else." There were little birds flying through the steel rafters, however, calling out to the art buyers, "cheep, cheep, cheep." At Lisson Gallery London, Freeny Yianni showed us a shiny, mirror "void" set in a wall by Anish Kapoor. It's $35,000. "It's the antithesis of all his dark voids," Freeny said. "It throws light out in a swirling course of multiple reflections," she said, or something like that. Also on view, a tiny set of four buildings by Julian Opie called Imagine You Art Landing (Farm 2) of painted plaster, a bargain at $5,000. By the way, the fair was presided over-- that is, the work stood at one end in the middle of the cafe--by an Anthony Gormley sculpture called Bearing, in which one rusty cast-iron figure squats upon the shoulders of another, whose head is inserted into a pelvic opening of some kind on the squatter. My, my, how about that. So many other things I can't go on. A small Kline study for Shenandoah Wall at Richard Grey. A Katharina Fritsch plaster poodle multiple at Matthew Marks, an edition of 64 for $5,000 each. A Bernard Lavier skateboard at Galerie Pietro Sparta, Chaquy. Chris Burden's New Improved Spaceport with Spaceship at London Projects. Richard Long's Hogwallow Flat Circle at Anthony d'Offay, only $75,000. A 1991 Koons sculpture of three carved little lapdogs for $95,000. Some Chia gouaches and Salvo pastel-colored landscapes at Galerie Kaess-Weiss, Stuttgart. Kiki Smith at London Projects, From Heart to Hand, 1989, a beautiful piece--a heart and a hand attached by an umbilical artery, all made of paper and stained blood red. Works by Manuel Ocampo and Cesar Nunez at Galeria OMR, Mexico City. Christian Eckart's yellow lacquer on aluminum, 60 inches square for $25,000, at Robert McClain, Houston. Marc Mulders at Galerie Barbara Farber, Amsterdam, with heavy pinkish expressionist paintings of fish. Carl Solway, Cincinnati, with an installation of Nam June Paik, as well as viewer-activated videos by Jim Campbell. An incredible 1956 David Park nude at John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco. A work by Hundertwasser. Ed Kienholz's $163 at Galerie de France. A picture of the Dali Lama. A 1920 Man Ray. See you next year. Postscript: The reliable publicist Valerie Shields has sent us Art 1996 Chicago's after-fair report, which optimistically claims a "resurgence of contemporary art in the United States." According to the press release, nearly 30,000 visitors attended the five-day fair, which was produced, we should mention, by Thomas Blackman Assciates. Among the significant sales reported: Landau Fine Art, Montreal, sold several paintings in the $250,000 range by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and sold out its supply of the artist's graphics priced at $6,000 to $7,000. London's Waddington Galleries sold out of its bronze sculptures by Barry Flanagan, including his large Leaping Hare on Curly Bell, that went for around $100,000, and several smaller works that sold for up to $80,000. Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, did well with Stephan Balkenhol's painted wood sculptures, selling its complete stock, including a standing female nude for $22,000. Yoshii Gallery did well with young artist Ann Agee, selling a large bathroom installation and dozens of her blue-and- white porcelain sex toys. Stephen Daiter Photography, Chicago, reports that it sold a print of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy's Leda and the Swan for $35,000. Lawrence Miller sold all five of Petah Coyne's black-and-white Monks Running #738, priced at $5,000 each.