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Apr. 4, 2006 

In the world of art fairs, spring means Chicago, and two art fairs are on the boards for the City of Broad Shoulders, both opening at the end of April. While the proliferation of art fairs in Europe and on the East Coast has worn away Chicago’s historic position as a central U.S. art market, the city boasts a lively art scene and promises an intense week for art-fair visitors as well.

Art Chicago in the Park
"Art Chicago in the Park," Apr. 28-May 1, 2006, is the 14th incarnation of the venerable Art Chicago -- a founding member of the International Contemporary Art Fairs Association, along with Spain’s ARCO, the original Art Basel, Art Cologne and France’s Fiac.

Until quite recently, the affair was held on the city’s Navy Pier. In 2005, however, changing fortunes led Art Chicago’s producer Thomas Blackman Associates to move the event into a large 125,000-square-foot outdoor tent in Butler Field, which is where it returns to in April, a stone’s throw from the Art Institute of Chicago and adjacent to the Millennium Sculpture Park. This year’s pavilion reaches a height of 40 feet, and has natural light from a translucent roof.

A total of 125 galleries are anticipated for Art Chicago 2006, up substantially from last year, when there were 94 gallery booths (Art Chicago boasted more than 150 exhibitors in 2004, its final year at Navy Pier). The show includes the Stray Show, a special section of 15 cutting-edge galleries from around the U.S., as well as the International Invitational, a selection of 15 contemporary galleries from the international arena.

Among the Chicago-area galleries expected at Art Chicago are Aaron Galleries, Robert Henry Adams Fine Art, Russell Bowman Art Advisory, Roy Boyd Gallery, Lisa Boyle Gallery, Stephen Daiter Gallery, Devening Projects + Editions, gescheidle, Carl Hammer Gallery, Thomas McCormick Gallery, Aron Packer Gallery, Perimeter Gallery, Carrie Secrist Gallery, Western Exhibitions, Zg Gallery, Inc. and Zolla/Lieberman Gallery

Eleven participants are from New York, including Forum Gallery, Nancy Hoffman Gallery, June Kelly Gallery and Sundaram Tagore Gallery. Four dealers are from San Francisco, including Arion Press, Elins Eagles-Smith Gallery, Andrea Schwartz Gallery and Paul Thiebaud Gallery. Other dealers hail from Nashville (Cumberland Gallery, TAG art gallery and Zeitgeist), New Orleans (Arthur Roger) and Hollywood (Koplin Del Rio Gallery).

Art Chicago also has concentrations of international galleries from England (six galleries), Germany (six galleries), Spain (six galleries), Canada (four galleries) and Denmark (two galleries), plus a special curated pavilion of works from Korea in association with the Korean Trade Organization. The absence of many "power galleries" from New York and Europe, however, reflects Art Chicago's loss of status.

The programming also includes two series of panel discussions, one called Art Chicago A.M., taking place at 10 am, and a second called Art Chicago P.M., slated for the evenings. Expect a diverse program.

NOVA Art Fair
Returning for a second year in 2006 is the annual NOVA Art Fair, Apr. 27-30, 2006, with an advisory board comprised of Tony Fitzpatrick, Carl Hammer, Paul Klein, Christy MacLear, Monique Meloche and Ken Saunders. The sophomore effort proudly trumpets endorsements by Chicago mayor Richard Daley and Illinois Senator Barack Obama. The 2005 fair, which was a bit touch-and-go at the beginning, was installed in an empty industrial space on Washington Boulevard. This year the fair has taken a page from the Scope playbook, and sets up in the City Suites Hotel at 933 West Belmont in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.

NOVA is sponsored by Bridge Magazine, the bimonthly nonprofit arts publication, and the fair is squarely focused on emerging art. The list of 35 announced galleries is diverse, and, among other things, includes a sizeable portion of Williamsburg -- Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery, Brooklyn Fire Proof, Front Room, Klaus Von Nichtssagend Gallery, McCaig-Welles Gallery and Pierogi all make the trip inland. Look for Jackie Kazarian’s densely layered abstract paintings at Chicago’s Outlaw A gallery, the ironically mythical figurative paintings of David Gremard Romero at San Francisco’s Bucheon Gallery and a stable of artists incorporating glass and crystal to innovative effect at Marx-Saunders, also from Chicago.

NOVA’s youth-centered program also includes the "Nova Train Fashion Show" on Apr. 28, field trips to hip night spots, and a vernissage after-party that includes a performance by the ever-popular D.J. Spooky.

Chicago Contemporary & Classic, R.I.P.
In 2005, Chicago boasted three fairs -- Art Chicago, Nova, and another new entry named Chicago Contemporary & Classic, sponsored by Pfingsten Publishing (which also produces Art Miami and Artexpo). CC&C, as it was called, turns out to have been a flash in the pan.

CC&C was subject of not a little controversy, especially after it stepped in to succeed Art Chicago and set up on the prime tourist real estate of Navy Pier. The sense of competition was further stoked by the fact that the new fair was put under the direction of Art Chicago veteran Ilana Vardy (who has also overseen Art Miami), not to mention the fact that the fair, originally scheduled for May 6-9, 2005, was moved up a week in the calendar to compete head-to-head with Art Chicago.

Chicago Contemporary & Classic’s line-up received mixed reviews. Despite the fact that Pfingsten reportedly won a seven-year lease on the pier for the event, Chicago’s fair season returns without it.

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