There was a sense of pent-up energy in the leadup to Expo Chicago, which started as early as Monday evening with programming through the run of the fair this weekend. Chance the Rapper gave a talk, and fair director Tony Karman was joined by Chicago’s new mayor-elect Brandon Johnson for a reception.
At yesterday’s lively preview, the crowd built steadily inside the Festival Hall on Chicago’s Navy Pier to see a top-notch selection of 170 exhibitors from 36 countries.
Karman said the fair opened “to fantastic response,” and that the exhibitors saw “strong sales and many placements with institutions and important collections.”
A couple dealers reported selling out their booths by the end of day one, including Half Gallery, which presented works by Yoora Lee at prices ranging from $5,500 to $24,000 (buyers included trustees of the Whitney Museum and Brooklyn Museum). Meanwhile, Sean Horton Presents reported selling out its booth of 11 works by Lauren dela Roche at prices ranging from $5,000 to 12,000.
“As always the opening was buzzing with a strong collector presence and good overall energy,” Los Angeles dealer Richard Heller told Artnet News. In a vote of confidence, Heller took over two booths that faced each other across an aisle. One was a solo booth devoted to paintings by Laure Mary-Cougénia while the adjacent booth was a dynamic presentation of gallery artists, which included paintings by Amy Bennett and Carter Flachbarth, and ceramics by Eric Croes.
Heller noted that he has been attending Expo Chicago since 1985, “when Jan-Eric von Löwenadler was busting out $14,000 Basquiat masterpieces from just-arrived crates,” he told Artnet News. “I’ve been participating as a gallerist since the mid ’90s.”
Asked about his decision to double down on this edition of the Chicago fair, he told Artnet News that he was “certain” that Mary-Couégnias’s work “would somehow excel in the ability to transcend the confines of an art fair,” he said, adding that it’s “a calming oasis in an otherwise frenetic environment.”
Discoveries abounded, particularly in the fair’s focused sections. Miami-based Spinello Projects presented a solo booth by Los Angeles-based painter Elizabeth Tremante in the “Profile” sector. Tremante, who uses humor to question the representation of women in the art-historical canon, had works on sale from $5,000 to $15,000. (Collector Beth Rudin DeWoody acquired Tramonte’s
“Attendees were genuinely enthusiastic, curious, and inquisitive. There was no shortage of curators, museum directors, and major collectors,” Spinello told Artnet News.
Galeria Nara Roesler sold three works by Brazilian artist André Griffo (who Artnet News cited as an artist to watch at the fair yesterday) at prices ranging from $30,000 to $50,000.
“We enjoy coming to Expo Chicago year after year,” said director Rachel Tretter. “We have been very happy with the conversations we had on the first day with local collectors as well as national and international ones from places like Miami and Norway.”
Miles McEnery confirmed the sale of another our preview highlights, Annie Lapin’s painting (2023).
Meanwhile, Harlem’s Claire Oliver Gallery had success with artist Gio Swaby, whose work is the focus of a just-opened solo show at the Art Institute of Chicago, titled “Gio Swaby: Fresh Up,” through July 3. Two of three large-scale textile pieces on view, with prices maxing out at $75,000, sold to museums.
Los Angeles-based Kohn Gallery also made several notable sales, including a large-scale painting by Ilana Savdie for $110,000 to an East Coast institution, and two works by Siji Krishnan, one to an East Coast collection for $58,000 and one to a private museum in the U.S. for $70,000.
Another stunning and unexpected work on view was a massive bronze self-portrait bust by South African artist Zanele Muholi, who is famous for her black-and-white photography. When we spotted the artist nearby we mentioned our surprise at seeing her name on a bronze sculpture. Muholi shrugged and said with a smile: “You know? The pandemic.”