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All you need to know about the EXPO Chicago Fair 2017

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The ever famous EXPO Chicago fair, a Tony Karmen’s awakening took place for the sixth time this year with so much of a gala affair. This EXPO proved to stand out for the fact that international artists also exhibited their proud possessions in the beautiful city of Chicago.

The EXPO Chicago is an annotation of international art which was established as the foremost art fair destination. Always initiating the international fall art season every year, this takes place at the exclusive Navy pier whose backdrop hosts internationally acclaimed exhibitors. This works like the best season in Chicago that when it pours like the sun showers, there is no better place to be than inside the closed doors of this art fair.



The flashback that relates to this fair is when art and artists in Chicago were completely subdued twenty years ago. During this time the famous artist Kavi Gupta opened his first gallery in the West Loop neighborhood. Rent at that time was very cheap and he found it immensely easy to avail two large exhibition spaces. But on a general note Chicago artists usually fled the town to New York once their artwork was recognized.

According to him “We can do so much with our artists here,” he said, from finding large inventory and inexpensive spaces. Being the powerhouse of spaces, this Windy City offers exquisite sites for public art.

Likewise Gupta’s investment twenty years ago now hosts the world’s most sought-after artists like Mickalene Thomas, Irena Haiduk, and McArthur Binion with the West Loop neighborhood growing modern and trendy day by day with new high-rise buildings, exclusive restaurants and many more.

Gupta’s stall at the EXPO Chicago this year was a huge hit which saw many guests and fleet-footed sale. For this, he credited the director of the EXPO Mr. Tony Karmen who worked so hard to change the art scenario of Chicago.

This exquisite Windy City is now home to various schools, art institutions and museums. This side of the city was brought out by the efforts of Karmen and Gupta to increase the art cultural scene of the city. “He’s using the fair as this thing that’s beyond a trade show,” Gupta said. “He’s using it as a catalytic moment to shift the cultural makeup of the city.”



By working along with the city’s top institutions and bringing in top galleries from everywhere, this sixth edition of EXPO Chicago saw artists from 25 different countries like Gagosian, Tina Kim Gallery, Lévy Gorvy and many more whom Tony took a great deal convincing.

The Mayor was also given credit for making this EXPO a grand success by realizing how important culture is to a city’s economy by partnering to display digital billboard series “OVERRIDE” by 12 international artists who have been beautifully exhibited around the city.

According to Matthew Witkovsky a curator and head of the Chicago’s Art Institute “They have more to do with exhibitions, with site-specific projects, or making connections that will help sustain an artist’s career. That could come a bit at the expense of selling that one work on that wall, but it’s a tradeoff.” Famous Art Collectors and curators always spotted at the EXPO include dancer Jay Franke, Marilyn and Larry Fields, and David and Nancy Frej making this EXPO even fancier.   



What greeted the guest at the fair’s entrance?? Well, it was a huge Joan Miró’s bronze sculpture in front of the 38 foot high black and white photo of the statue that is present at the Chicago’s Brunswick Building Plaza.

The exhibition booths were marvelously curtained rooms made from vintage textiles seen by Fendi at Rome and Milan evoking the feeling of Renaissance nobility. The ambiance was set such that the collectors can spend some time with the artwork meditating all around it. From the walls inside to all the artworks present every detail had a huge connection to the city of Chicago.



Christo’s wrapping of the Museum of Contemporary Art in 1969, or Robert Indiana’s studies at the Art Institute of Chicago in the early 1950s ooze out Chicago in all its glory. Gmurzynska had an exceptional bid of an untitled work by Kurt Schwitters for around $400,000 and an untitled Louise Nevelson artwork from 1959 for around $160,000 were both given to private Chicago collectors who in general are very exclusive and pensive.

Unlike the Miami Beach Art Basel, the EXPO at Chicago is quite like a tortoise slow and steady but very successful. New York’s famous David Nolan gallery had brought Chicago based artists and the gallery weekend saw some amazing sales. Though the gallery places importance for local artists it also gives space for the international scene. The gallery has worked to create and establish a strong relationship with collectors over a period of time.  

At the EXPO, John Corbett sold a Karl Wirsum drawing, as well as works by Chicago artist Morris Barazani, including Solid Sky; a textile work by LA-based Christina Forrer; and pieces by Magalie Guérin, Lui Shtini, and Bryan Calvin of which only one was pre-sold. He worked to Introduce Chicago artists to international fairs such as Art Cologne and Frieze Masters for more popularity. He felt there was a long way for Chicago to introduce the next generation of collectors into the art sector.


Owner of the Paris- and Dallas-based Galerie Frank Elbaz, Frank Elbaz was a new addition to the EXPO and so was gallery director Danielle Cardoso Maia who got in with the compulsion and convincing of Karmen. Elbaz put in a lot of effort into the the collections like a work by Mangelos which was sold to a trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a piece by Julije Knifer to another collector at the fair keeping in mind the interests of curators and collectors.

One such inclusion which Karmen worked to include in the fair was Lévy Gorvy an international gallery. According to the fairs senior director Emilio Steinberger, Karmen worked to involve base talented artists to give them exposure on a larger scale. On the first day the gallery sold many artworks like large untitled 2004 painting by Pat Steir for a whooping price of $550,000, the Underground Rises Again (2015),an untitled 1968 work by Carol Rama for a exuberant price of $350,000, a large white canvas with metal studs by Dan Colen, who joined the gallery this year was also sold at a high price.

Being back to the fair for the second time was Amsterdam-New York based Grimm Gallery who took two booths selling American artist Matthew Day Jackson’s Destroyed by Fire (2017) for $60,000, and several paintings by Caroline Walker for between £2,850 and £3,100. New York’s Bortolami was making its mark for the fourth time finding her sales to curators and collectors being fantastic and loved being back at the fair every year. The gallery placed a huge blue-and-white striped work by Daniel Buren which was redone because the originals were burnt down in a storage fire for around $160,000.

The fair also saw many young galleries reach high prospectuses like the Los Angeles’s Shulamit Nazarian who sold many pieces of Genevieve Gaignard and final prints of Basic Cable & Chill  and of Kathleen, both within an edition of three photographs, for around $3,000 and $4,000, respectively, and Ain’t I a Woman, for around $6,000, as well as two sculptures for $4,250 to $6,000, Los Angeles gallery Anat Ebgi who had won the prestigious Northern Trust Purchase Prize last year which made him gain momentum more and he sold five out of six works by Alec Egan for between $6,500 and $20,000.

Most people feel that the Chicago Art has a hungry appetite for works oozing out social, political and environmental messages. This year the EXPO not only featured political art but also art that spoke of political and social causes. Human Rights Watch exhibited Tea Project of 780 cast porcelain cups, one for each of the 780 Muslim men detained in the U.S. detention site at Guantanamo Bay. An exclusive sculpture by Chicago-based art collective Luftwerk, White Wanderer, inspired by the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica was also displayed at the fair.

As such so many artists were introduced into the fair this year by Karman. This EXPO gave way to many talents this year. All this was possible only because it was Chicago – land of immense space for each and everyone to exhibit their talent.

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