I have always wanted to go this Art Extravaganza and this year I got my wish. Expanding over the entire 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart, Art Chicago is worth a trip to the Windy City if you want to see some of what’s current and happening in the art world. It happens every year the last weekend in April.
I was fortunate enough to go with a group from the Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids. The Executive Director of the UICA clearly explained to our group how the show was organized (more commercial, edgy, emerging) so that we could devote our time to the areas we were most interested in.
Our group zoomed right over to the area featuring on what is called the emerging artist. These are the artists who are at the beginning of their careers and probably the most experimental. This is consistent with the mission of UICA—we showcase emerging and mid-career artists.
We saw lots of work to ponder, generating lively conversation around “What is art?” For some, this conversation went well into the night. Didn’t come up with any answers, but had a good time weighing in on the different viewpoints.
Other memorable moments included tours organized by Art Chicago and by the UICA team.
A highlight was a private tour of a multi-million dollar collector who lives on the 34th floor of a building on Lake Shore Drive. The apartment wrapped around the building so we could see north, west, south and east. Wow. I love views from up high and this one was amazing. It was hard to drag myself away from the windows.
But, I did. The collection was mind-boggling. Lots of the big names including Hockney, Matisse, Picasso and Chagall. Made me wish I had paid more attention in Art History class so I could put them all in context. It was delightful to see so many different well-known artists in one space. Museum shows usually focus on one artist or one particular time period.
The gentleman, who owns the collection with his charming wife, was celebrating his 87th birthday. He served us Mimosas and talked about his collecting philosophy.
It was simple. He said, “We bought what we liked.”
We also toured artists’ studios traveling from the West Loop to Lincoln Park to Bucktown and Downtown. We saw huge paintings with massive globs of paint, tiny computer animations, slabs of dark brooding intense combinations of graphite and wood glue, large cut paper graphic images, representations of water in urban areas and art consisting of rows of tiny journal like musings on a large canvas. It was stimulating to meet the artists, hear their stories and the background behind their work.
We also toured backstage of Redmoon Theater and saw an extensive collection of contemporary art at the Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy. Redmoon is well known in Chicago for wild and crazy Spectacles including the Halloween Party for President and Mrs. Obama.
We visited two Pop Up Galleries in the Loop and two cooperative art studios in the West Loop, meeting the artists and learning how Pop Ups and Coops work as well as seeing a diverse range of art. My head is still exploding with all the images, experiences and newness.
To read about a recent exhibit at the UICA in Grand Rapids, click on this link. “Beacons:An Exhibition of Luminous Art.“