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Tough to decide where to start with this one. A long, long time ago...this was the one and only truly international Art Fair in the United States. Armory had the NYC edge, but Chicago had the blue chips. Produced by Tom Blacmun, this was the be all and end all of US based fairs. Held on Chicago's Navy Pier, the fair drew dealers and collectors from all over the US and abroad with consistent results. Tom leveraged his achievement and started the the now non existent San Francisco Art Fair, which was also largely successful. Unfortunately, it seems money and logistics spread him thin and one day back in (I believe 2003) everyone showed up to the Navy Pier and low and behold, there was no structure. Merchandise Mart picked up the slack, held the fair impromptu in their facility and next year, bought the fair. Unfortunately, like all corporate entities, the goal of the Merch Mart organization was achieving growth, year after year. They were not content to have a great blue chip art fair, they needed the best purely contemporary fair, antiques fair and self represented artist fair as well. And in their infinite wisdom, they held them all in the same building, at the same time. Last year was roundly regarded as something of a disaster, with few dealers feeling positive. They learned the hard way that bigger is not better, and this year they seem to have reigned in some of that urge to expand, though how much of that was real strategy and how much of that was due to economic hardship is and always will be a mystery. Suffice to say, it is a smaller fair this year and most people are happy to hear that. Though it lost most of its international clients, Art Chicago remains a magnet for a certain kind of collector. Believe it or not, many wealthy, smart, sophisticated people live in the Mid West and don't much feel like going to New York to do their collecting. Art Chicago provides a regional purchasing forum for such people and draws a decent group of domestic "art tourists" from NYC, LA, SF, MI and the other usual suspect cities. This is a place you can find most of your fair junkies, plus some collectors that love the art, but don't want the scene. I have a feeling this year might be (a relative) success for them.
this fucking thing was the most bloated joke of an art fair ever in 2008. the organizers should feel ashamed of themselves even pretending that any dealer would have a prayer making business in that type of an environment. they would let anyone in to show there and the result was ever single art object just cancelled each other out. thats why the fair is smaller this year. every participant was infuriated and would have to want punishment to go back in that place. a fucking flea market garage sale atmosphere to say the least. dealers should not be fair organizers. boy that thing sucked.
Did the fair this past May (2010). Smaller, tighter... much less adventurous. But that's the dealers, not the fair. Did NEXT as well.As a dealer, have never had some a smooth experience operationally as I did at ArtChicago. Treated like a wanted customer. Imagine.can't offer the same praise for NEXT.. though this is where the energy was. Sold at both fairs, btw. Just enough.
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