Published: June 12, 2001
By Susan and Al Bagdade
CHICAGO, ILL. – On May 11-14, Chicago’s historic Navy Pier hosted 32,000 art connoisseurs, museum curators, enthusiasts and collectors at Art Chicago 2001 presented by Thomas Blackman Associates in Festival Hall. Now in its ninth year, Art Chicago puts Chicago center stage in the international art spotlight.
Prestigious art dealers and galleries representing 23 countries gathered at Navy Pier to exhibit mostly contemporary paintings, sculpture, drawings, photographs, prints, video, audio and installation work. Two hundred and twenty-four of the world’s modern and contemporary galleries presented works of more than 2,400 artists from modern masters to emerging artists.
An important new initiative for Art Chicago 2001 was the International invitational. Twenty of the most innovative and influential contemporary art galleries, many showing in the United States for the first time, exhibited works of some of the most provocative and cutting-edge artists working today. Each of the galleries focuses on a particular spectrum of current issues and trends that are electrifying the contemporary art world. Invitational participants are sponsored by Art Chicago for two years, which reflects the exposition’s commitment to promoting new galleries and introducing them to Chicago audiences.
The Museum of Contemporary Art presented “Vernissage,” its 20th annual spring benefit gala and preview of Art Chicago 2001. Vernissage, a French term for art openings, means “varnishing day” and suggests the energy and anticipation that surrounds the opening of a major art event. Approximately 2,800 people attended the preview for early viewing and buffets. New this year was a press and professional preview for four hours prior to the MCA opening. There was a variety of lectures during the three days of the exposition including slide presentations and panel discussions.
Art Chicago generated a tremendous amount of interest in this year’s showings. This was reflected in strong sales for the various galleries of approximately 60 million dollars. There had been some concern due to the stock market fluctuations this year, but sales were as vigorous as last year, and attendance was about the same level.
One painting that everyone was talking about was Amedeo Modigliani’s “Bride and Groom” (1915-16) shown by the Landau Gallery from Montreal, Canada. Landau had purchased this painting from the Museum of Modern Art which recently deassessioned it. Several offers were made, but with an asking price of $11.5 million, it was not sold in Chicago.
Jewelry designer Nikki Feldbaum utilized exotic pearls, precious gems and unusual semiprecious stones interwoven with 14-karat gold, 18-karat gold or platinum in hand-crafted, unique creations she called “wearable sculpture.” Feldbaum has been designing jewelry for about ten years and was showing with the Galerie Marion Meyer from Paris, France. Two of the best pieces sold at Art Chicago: a white gold piece with South Sea pearls and a coral hibiscus with Tahitian pearls in 18-karat gold. A wonderful 1940s mosaic tile by Leger drew a lot of attention, and sales included works by Keith Haring and Man Ray, also at Galerie Marion Meyer.
Rebecca Ibel representing her own gallery felt that the show was “more dynamic with a lot of younger contemporary artists. There were also a lot more photographers whose works were accepted as part of the fine art agenda.” This is Ibel’s third year here. “There are more cutting edge artists here [this year]. Tom has changed the direction of the show away from contemporary paintings to appeal to a different collector base.” Sales included works by Rob Wynne and Billy Sullivan.
The Fleisher/Ollman Gallery from Philadelphia, Penn., sold nine wire sculptures by the anonymous Philadelphia Wireman by Saturday, as well as two paintings by Mark Mahosky that were oils on burlap, a painting by Miyoko Ito and six works by James Castle. This gallery has exhibited every year since the show opened, and felt that this year the collector’s preview and evening preview were both excellent venues. Frank Stella’s “Steller’s Albatross, 3X” from 1976, a mixed media on aluminum was also on hold.
From Honk Kong, China, Art Beatus Gallery featured Luo Brothers advertising pieces entitled “Welcome to the World’s Famous Brands” in lacquer and paint on wood from 1998. There was an entire wall of these vivid, colorful ads for different products such as batteries, beer, watches and soda, and each one was $2,800.
Galeria Ferran Cano from Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca, Spain was doing very well with Majorca-born artist Pep Guerrero. His “ambience art” consists of objects such as furniture, purses and phones purchased in a flea market. Not every object he paints is old. “He gives a second opportunity to objects he likes.” He also paints in acrylic, on canvas, and handmade paper. Quite a few decorated objects were sold including the phone, a purse, a chair and a table to mention a few.
At Dorfman Projects from New York City, Dennis Oppenheim’s “Uppercut, 2000” drew a lot of attention. According to the artist’s statement, “he incorporates books of art criticism in `Upper Cut.’ The role of the teeth designate `art books’ as a conceptual bite. The `knocked out teeth’ signify entire sections of art history missing from collection of writings.” This gallery also experienced strong sales.
From Dallas, Tex., Pillsbury Peters Fine Art sold Jim Love’s “Flowers,” 1997, which were sculpted in steel; Al Souza’s “Nantucket Sound,” 2001, which was shades of blue puzzle parts and glue on wood; and two mixed media on paper by Andrea Rosenberg.
Locks Gallery from Philadelphia, Penn., felt “there was a consistent crowd; it is good to see the same people every year.” By Eileen Neff, they sold “Daylight,” 2000, “His Print,” “Anecdote of the Tree,” 2000 and “The Trees Between,” 2000. By Jennifer Bartlett, “House, Dots and Hatches,” 1998 was enamel on metal plates and Louise Nevelson’s “Untitled,” 1957, a mixed-media collage also sold.
Interesting embroidered tapestry works by Alighiero Boetti were featured by Galerie Iris Wazzau from Davos, Switzerland. They were also one of the galleries showing works by Sam Francis.
Takashi Murakami’s “Wink” was displayed above the crowds at Festival Hall. “Wink” was comprised of five huge inflatable sculptures up to 25 feet tall that featured whimsical designs including a winking figure sitting atop a ball of smiling daisies.
Chicago’s Catherine Edelman Gallery sold works by contemporary photographers Jack Spenser and Mark Citret. Peter Fetterman Gallery from Santa Monica, Calif., was continually busy showing photographs by Annie Leibovitz, Ruth Bernard, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ernst Hass and Cornell Capa to name a few.
New York’s Adelson Galleries, Inc. was showing at Art Chicago for the first time. They felt that “the crowds were very energetic, with a wide range of interest and were an interesting group of people.” An outstanding piece was George Bellows pencil and conte crayon on paper “Introducing Georges Carpentier: The Dempsey Carpentier Fight, 1921” tagged $325,000. We loved two watercolors by Maurice Prendergast entitled “Landing Stage” circa 1920-23 and “Rockport” from the same date.
Lisa Settle Gallery from Scottsdale, Ariz., reported doing well this year with important sales to good collectors. Sales included oil paintings of birds by David Knoll and Mayme Kratz’s “House of Reasons #4” of resin, cactus and plant life.
At Angela Flowers Gallery from London and Santa Monica, Calif., four works by Jiro Osuga wore sold tags, as well as work by Patrick Hughes. Works by Chun Kwang-Young such as “Aggregation 001-MA016” a mixed media with Korean paper sold well for Kukje Gallery from Seoul, Korea.
New York’s Forum Gallery sold Paul Fenniak’s “Cemetery Vandals (Autumn Rite),” an oil on canvas and Cesar Galicia’s “Still Life in Madrid Studio,” a mixed-media work on panel. Chicago’s Thomas McCormick Gallery sold Rodney Carswell’s “4Figured” and Sam Francis’s “King Corpse.” They were also featuring works by Robert Natkin, Jan Matulka, Melville Price and Seymour Rosofsky.
Sales were strong for Malborough Gallery from New York City as well as their Marlborough Graphics. Sales included a bronze, “Sitting Figure on a Box/Crate” by Magdalena Abakanowicz and Ignacio Itturria’s “Cabalbsamantes en la cama” (Horse Lovers in Bed), a 1999 oil on canvas. Manolo Valdes’s “Perfil,” 1996 and “Flores III,” 1994, were etchings with unique color collage. Ane Chu’s monoprint “A Ghost and 2 Knights” also sold. Outstanding here were Fernando Botero’s cat bronze as well as two oil on canvas pieces: “Seated Man” and “Madoline on a Table.” Other sales included Tom Otterness’s bronze “Frog and Bee” from 1996, and Larry Rivers’s “Webster (Senator on a Cigar Box)” from 1995, a pencil and colored pencil drawing on paper. We also loved the many works they were featuring by Red Grooms including watercolors and “Straphangers” and “Ferry Landing,” both enamels on epoxy.
According to Nancy Hoffman Gallery from New York City, “Two showstoppers that both sold were Nicolas Africano’s “Seated Figure” in cast glass, and Frank Owne’s “Threaders: Amber and Jet” an acrylic on canvas. “We were wildly busy every day,” said Hoffman.
Hollis Taggert Galleries from New York City was showing at Art Chicago for the first time. American modernists were featured such as Albert Bloch and Manierre Dawson, predecessors to the European Modernists. Sales included works by Americans Alfred Mauer, Thomas Hart Benton, Andy Warhol and Conrad Marca-Relli. According to the dealer, “There was a lot of attention for Romare Bearden” at Art Chicago, and a museum had a reserve on a work by Jim Dine.
Waddington Galleries from London sold a huge bronze by Barry Flanagan called “Leaping Hare on Curly Bell” from 1989. They also sold works by Robert Rauschenberg, Ian Davenport and Mimmo Paladino.
From both Chicago and New York, Richard Gray Galleries’ sales included Hans Hofmann’s “Mutation in Transition,” an oil on canvas; David Klamen’s “Parenthesis #4” oil on linen; Magdalene Abakanowicz’s “Four Seated” which was four figures in burlap, resin and iron; and a Henry Moore sculpture.
Sales at the James Cohan Gallery from New York City included works by Bill Viola and ceramic puppies by Jeff Koons. Also from New York, Susan Sheehan Gallery sold works by Ellsworth Kelly and Ed Ruscha. A wonderful set of ten color silk-screens by Andy Warhol on Marilyn Monroe from 1967 was priced to be sold as a set for $365,000.
“Collectors made a bee line for collector names this year” according to Anthony Meier Fine Arts from San Francisco. “We also did well with younger artists. We sold a ton of Jeremy Dickinson, an oil on canvas by Gerhard Richter and one by Sigmar Polke. TBA did a great job this year,” they added.
Jack Shainman Gallery from New York City sold works by Bob Knox, Kerry James Marshall and Zwelethu Mthethwa, while Leo Kooenig, Inc. from New York sold Torben Giehler, two by Lisa Ruyter and Erik Parker.
Chicago’s Klein Art Works sold Tony Berlant’s “Sorrento, 2000” a collaged metal on wood with steel brads and had works by Ken Price and Ed Moses on hold.
Robert McClain and Company from Houston, Texas, now in their sixth year at Art Chicago, reported tremendous interest and sales in portfolios by Cy Twombly such as “Natural History Part I No. II,” “Mushrooms,” and “Five Greek Poets and a Philosopher.” They also sold Terence La None and Brice Marden.
Nine oils on board by Jeffrey Hester were sold by Paul Thiebaud Gallery from San Francisco, Calif. They also sold at least six mixed media on cigar boxes by Ed Musante. “The show was very well attended. Serious people came to the collector’s preview this year. They are adding activities to bring people back, and our sales were very good” said the gallery owner.
Carl Hammer Gallery from Chicago “sold a ton” of Tony Fitzpatrick etchings. They also featured canes by Gregory Warmack/Mr Imagination and watercolors by Henry Darger. Sales also included works by Phyllis Bramson and Fred Stonehouse.
Robert Henry Adams Fine Art from Chicago sold Charles Sebree’s “Girl Reading,” an African American artist, and Leon Polk Smith’s “Untitled.”
Vintage photographs are the specialty of Howard Greenberg Gallery from New York City. They sold works by Dave Heath, Ben Shahn and Margaret Bourke-White. “There was a strong interest in contemporary photography this year” said Howard. New to the gallery are works by Gabrielle Basilico.
Galerie JHM from Paris, France sold one bronze by Fabrice Langlade and two by Claude Lalanne. We loved the “Nana Mosaique” by Niki de Saint Phalle which was a mosaic of mirrors from 1999. They were also featuring a lot of works by Tom Wesselmann.
First timer Bill Hodges Gallery from New York City highlighted African American artists. Important artists Norman Lewis and Romare Bearden both sold well, and he will definitely be back with a larger exhibit space.
Alan Christa Gallery from London sold a lot of etchings by Howard Hodgkin, two sets of four screen prints by Michael Craig-Martin, work by Julian Opie and Jan Dibbets.
Another first timer was June Kelly Gallery, Inc. from New York City who sold well with Alma Thomas paintings, William Johnson and Moe Brooker.
Thomas Blackman, show promoter, was “very pleased with this year’s fair. Everything flowed together. Sales were strong, especially since there is a lot of competition out there for show money. The new floor plan worked out exceptionally well and the International Invitational section featuring young, aggressive galleries and artists was very well received. The professional preview went well too.”
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