'Tis the season for Artropolis, Apr. 29-May 2, 2011, Chicago’s own "celebration of art, antiques and culture,” courtesy big businessman Chris Kennedy and his Merchandise Mart organization, whose trio of art fairs -- Art Chicago, NEXT and the Merchandise Mart International Antiques Fair -- set up on Chicago’s Miracle Mile in the city's iconic Art Deco Merchandise Mart building.
Any art fair worth its salt kicks off with a big party, and for Artropolis, the big fête is the First Focus Benefit on Apr. 28, which offers a preview of Art Chicago and NEXT, appetizers and cocktails, a book signing by photo artist Laura Letinsky and more, not least of which is VIP admission to the fairs. A gaggle of museum visitors are expected, imported from MoMA, the Baltimore Museum, the Walker Art Center and elsewhere. Proceeds from the VIP opening -- tickets start at $150 -- go to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
And the gallery lineup? Well, that's been Art Chicago's big problem for several years. More than one uncharitable observer pointed out that Merchandise Mart, despite its successful operation of the Armory Show and Volta, has so far been unable to energize its hometown art fair. The problem, needless to say, is not who does exhibit, but rather all the big shots who do not.
At any rate, the fair's 100-plus art dealers include Cynthia Corbett (London), Galerie Bhak (Seoul), Browse & Darby (London), Robert Berman (Santa Monica) and Paul Thiebaud (San Francisco). New York participants include Dillon, Forum, Kathryn Markel, June Kelly, Kips Gallery, Laurence Miller and Hollis Taggart.
Some excellent Chicago galleries are taking booths, including Corbett vs. Dempsey, Douglas Dawson, Catherine Edelman, Carl Hammer, Kasia Kay, McCormick, Perimeter, Carrie Secrist and Zolla/Lieberman.
Artropolis incorporates its own satellite fair of emerging art -- NEXT 2011 -- overseen by Ken Tyburski, a partner in DCKT Contemporary in New York, and Kavi Gupta, the Chicago dealer who co-founded the Volta art fair. Both DCKT and Gupta are participating in Next, along with Allegra LaViola and Spencer Brownstone (New York), Green Gallery (Milwaukee), Charlie James (Los Angeles, Molesworth (Dublin) and Steven Zevitas (Boston).
Both Art Chicago and NEXT bow side-by-side on the 12th floor, and have enlisted Los Angeles graffiti superstar Shepard Fairey to create a special project space, sponsored by Robert Berman Gallery.
The fair has also enlisted Chicago Sculpture International to organize a show of more than 20 sculptures in spaces around the building, by artists ranging from Nicole Beck and Michael Brown to Jason Verbeek and Mike Young. Sculptures and installations are also presented by NEXT Projects, including works by Theaster Gates, Cordy Ryman, Lynne Harlow, Anindita Dutta and Zach Taylor.
The fair's "New Insight" exhibition is back, organized by Susanne Ghez, director of The Renaissance Society, and presenting artworks by MFA MFA students from around the country. Another curated show is "Focus Photography," which occupies and entire floor with contemporary and vintage photography works.
In the Artropolis "Talk Shop," artists and curators pair off, including Denver MCA director Adam Lerner and D.C artist Jim Sanborn; Laumeier Sculpture Park chief Marilu Knode with Jessica Stockholder; Chicago MCA curator Julie Rodriguez and artist Rashid Johnson.
Also on offer is a College Art Association-sponsored panel created in the wake of the National Portrait Gallery/ David Wojnarowicz scandal titled “Edgy Art; Who’s Collecting It, Who’s Exhibiting It?” on Apr. 29, which features a pretty impressive lineup: Boston University Art History Professor Patricia Hills, former New York dealer Barry Blinderman (now gallery director at Illinois State University) and Exit Art’s Lauren Rosati.
Now in its 14th year, The Merchandise Mart International Antiques Fair features more than 100 antique dealers on the eighth floor of the Merchandise Mart. It kicks off on Apr. 28th with a gala benefit for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago; tickets start at $150. Tickets to Artropolis -- all three fairs -- are $20, with a multiday pass good for return visits costing only $5 more.
Visitors to Chicago have plenty to see if they can tear themselves away from the myriad festivities inside the Merchandise Mart building. The Art Institute of Chicago, for instance, has a special exhibition of photos of sliced sausage by Fischli & Weiss. Open there on Apr. 30 is "Altered and Adorned: Using Renaissance Prints in Daily Life."
As for the Chicago MCA, it is featuring an eight-minute selection of folk songs about the Haymarket Rebellion played in a dark room, courtesy of Scottish sound artist Susan Philipsz. Opening on May 28, 2011, is a survey of sociopolitical map abstractions by South Central artist Mark Bradford.
At the Renaissance Society exhibition space at the University of Chicago, “The Age of Aquarius” is just ending its run (to May 1, 2011), a show of video and installation works reflecting “the lingering cultural fallout of the 1960s” by Carol Bove, Amy Grappell and David Noonan.
Among the city's commercial galleries, one not to miss is Richard Gray Gallery, which was founded in 1963, and specializes in 20th-century moderns as well as contemporary artists, from Magdalena Abakanowicz and Josef Albers to Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol.
Donald Young Gallery, located across from the Art Institute on Michigan Avenue and handles international Blue Chip contemporary art, has a four-person show on view, featuring works by Anne Chu, Moyra Davey, Jeanne Dunning and Rebecca Warren.
Moniquemeloche, who regularly hits the art fair circuit but who (like Richard Gray and many other local dealers) is sitting out Art Chicago, has on view an environment of large-scale drawings by Belgian artist Rinus Van de Velde in a show called “Dear David Johnson,” an elaboration of the artist’s fabricated autobiography. The exhibition is his first in Chicago.
In business since 2004, Corbett vs. Dempsey -- operated by John Corbett and Jim Dempsey -- specializes in Chicago art, and art that carries on that spirit. “John Sparagana: Between the Eyes” closes at the gallery on Apr. 30, but the gallery is presenting “Walter Hamady: Search Engine” at Art Chicago, along with works by Richard Artschwager, Albert Oehlen, Christopher Wool and others.
The photo specialist Catherine Edelman Gallery, which opened in 1987 and currently keeps its own blog (called Cyclops), is currently featuring an exhibition of photographs by Steve Schapiro from two major Francis Ford Coppola films -- the Godfather and Taxi Driver. Prints of these classic images range in price from $1,600 to $5,500.
Russell Bowman Fine Art -- headed by the former head of the Milwaukee Art Museum -- offers a full range of art consultancy services, and is currently presenting an exhibition of works by the newly discovered Chicago street photographer Vivian Maier (1926-2009). The first exhibition of the widely traveled photographer, who worked as a nanny in Chicago, recently took place at the Chicago Culture Center.The relatively new ACRE (Artist’s Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions), founded in 2010, features weekly exhibitions. Opening Apr. 30 is “Happy Collaborationists Exhibition Space” and a show by Myranda Gillies & Elspeth Vance.
McCormick Gallery in the West Loop, which specializes in American painting and sculpture and particularly Abstract Expressionism, boasts a show of drawings from the 1960s by Color Field painter Jack Roth (1927-2004), who showed his paintings in "Younger American Paintings" at the Guggenheim Museum in 1954 and later at Knoedler Gallery. The exhibition at McCormick is whimsically titled “When I Grow Up I Want to Be Just Like Jasper Johns.” Then, opening on Saturday, Apr. 30, 2011, is a presentation of new works by Nicole Northway and Michael Hedges.
Also in the West Loop is Robert Bills Contemporary, an exhibitor in the NEXT art fair, who unveils Anindita Dutta’s “Wrest in Peace” with an evening reception on Apr. 30, 2011. The show includes figural sculptures of clay and mud that incorporate the traces of previous live performances.
In the River North Gallery District, the 3,000-square-foot Gallery KH -- founded over 30 years ago by Mary Bell and now directed by Lissa Kivisto -- presents "After-Image," an exhibition of new photographic works by Canadian artist Robert Berlin that explore movement and ritual in Seville, Bali and Siem Reap.
Peter Bartlow Gallery, now located at 22 West Ontario, describes its current exhibition simply as “Group Show” and describes its exhibition thus: “Elvira Bronzes Brainard oils Mark Campbell paintings on wood and stone Anna Caser canvases Willy Heeks oils.”
Visitors to Jennifer Norback Fine Art can see photographs by Christopher Rauschenberg (the son of Robert), astonishingly beautiful found juxtapositions of oddments captured in Paris flea markets. Rauschenberg's reception is slated for Apr. 29.
Norback is presenting, too, pastels by David Loeb, precise, deeply colored, jewel-like -- ca. 8 x 8 inches square -- compositions that show a bowl of apples, each with a missing slice like a butterfly, or perhaps a plate of rocks, all smooth and red and gray, the place setting framed by a curling magenta ribbon.
F.L. Braswell Fine Art, an exhibitor in the 2011 Merchandise Mart International Antiques Fair, specializes in modern Master Works on paper.
The nine-year-old Valerie Carberry Gallery, a member of the Art Dealers Association of America, is closing an exhibition of new works by artists Judith Belzer, Susanna Coffey, Laura Letinsky and Jim Lutes on Apr. 30. For visitors who can linger in the city till May 6, 2011, the gallery is collaborating with Wright auctioneers to present a special exhibition of Tony Smith's hard-core Ab-Ex Minimalist Wall (1964), the first showing of a major Smith work in Chicago in 40 years.
Rhona Hoffman Gallery features fantastic new works by Pakistani artist Huma Bhabha, made from clay, chicken wire, Styrofoam, wood and other discarded materials, including a gigantic foot, Jhukarjodaro (2011), which appears to be overgrown by its own sinews.
Kasia Kay Art Projects is exhibiting at Art Chicago with artists Kevin Berlin, James Olley, Rim Lee, Claudia Hart, Daniel Bruttig, David A. Parker, Duncan R. Anderson, Kristin Anderson and Erika Harrsch.