CHICAGO, ILL. – The Seventh Annual International Exposition of Sculpture Objects and Functional Art: SOFA CHICAGO 2000 took place November 3-5 at historic Navy Pier. This year’s event was bigger and better than ever. Ninety international galleries presented three-dimensional art in glass, ceramics, wood, metal and fiber in over 40,000 square feet of exhibit space in Festival Hall at Navy Pier.
The beneficiary of the SOFA Opening Night Gala Preview was the Arts Program of Northwestern Memorial Hospital sponsored by Northwestern Memorial Foundation. More than 1,300 guests were there to support the Northwestern program and to have a first look at the contemporary and decorative art at SOFA.
SOFA/Chicago is a project of Mark Lyman’s Expressions of Culture, Inc. located in River North. Attendance was on a par with last year with approximately 30,000 people attending the show, despite an increase in the ticket prices this year. Sales can best be described as “outstanding” according to Lyman, its director. Several important objects sold in the six-figure range.
Special events included an exceptionally extensive lecture series featuring internationally prominent artists, arts professionals and collectors in 33 presentations all included in the general admission price. A strong jewelry based component was included in this year’s series focusing on artists who have tested the boundaries of jewelry making.
Another special event was this year’s British Initiative showcasing six of Britain’s leading decorative arts galleries who came to SOFA for the first time. These galleries represented over 50 British artists. The British Crafts Council was the major sponsor of the British Initiative at SOFA CHICAGO.
The Holsten Galleries of Stockbridge, Mass. featured a one-person exhibition of Dale Chihuly’s expressionistic glass art, including chandeliers, sconces, Persian installations and his “Seaforms,” “Persians,” and “Basket Series.” Chihuly has led the avant-garde in the development of glass blowing as a studio art and the broader contemporary interest in glass as an expressive medium. His work is included in over 180 museum collections worldwide.
Early in the preview evening, his “Red Russet and Topaz Amber Chandelier” sold for over six figures and was going to a private home. There was interest in almost every Chihuly piece on exhibit, and some smaller pieces also sold (in the $32,000 range). Gallery staff related that some collectors purchase several examples by a major glass artist, while others collect one piece from every major artist.
At Mostly Glass Gallery from Englewood, N.J. there were lots of sales representing several of their artists. Two Paint Sets by Livio De Marchi sold, along with multicolored glass by Claudia Lezama and Claudio Tiozzo. There was tremendous interest in the colored flowers and butterflies by Vittorio Constantini.
“Sales have been incredible” said John Natsoulas, “I’ve been packing since we started.” This gallery is located in Davis, Calif. and brought several of its artists to SOFA. Clayton Bailey’s robots drew a lot of attention. Clayton makes these from antique parts he finds in thrift shops and antique stores. Components include coffee pots, space heaters, old machinery and such. He has made about a hundred of these robots. Many have been sold, and they are also in the Oakland Museum, the San Jose Museum and the Palm Desert Museum. Excellent wood sculptures by Barbara Spring were lifesize. Ceramics by Esther Shimazu and Vicky Chock along with porcelains by Jo Rowley were all selling well.
The Evan Lewis Gallery from Chicago made its first appearance at SOFA. Sales included a bookstand and lots of smalls. They featured handcrafted studio furniture and accessories in copper, steel and wood including chests, tables, sconces, bowls, mirrors and chairs.
At Galerie des Metiers D’Art du Quebec from Montreal, Canada, their most popular artist was Christine Larochelle who makes one of a kind jewelry. They had sold so many pieces by Saturday that they hardly had anything left to replace the exhibit. Her pieces are easy to wear, are understated and each necklace and ring is unique. Several pieces by Luci Veilleux sold including structural watches, bracelets and salt and pepper shakers. Ceramics by Mitsuru Cope, Eva Lapka and Gary Merkel all sold well.
Making its third appearance at SOFA was Maruku Arts and Crafts from Ayers Rock, Australia. Maruku is an Aboriginal owned organization marketing the sculptures and artifacts in wood of artists from Australia. Sales included several Perentie Lizard Men by Billy Wara, pieces by Niningka Lewis, Spearthrowers and hunting spears.
From Brooklyn, N.Y., UrbanGlass is a nonprofit international art center representing emerging artists who do not have gallery representation. At SOFA they featured four artists who made decorative, functional design based objects in glass. David Jacobson works with very colorful murrine that look like ceramics. Maria Sparre-Peterson, a Danish artist, uses beautiful coloring for functional and decorative objects. William Couig’s kenetic pieces of uranium based glass or glow glass generated a lot of interest, and Jamie Harris uses multiple color overlays in a 70s retro color pattern.
Leo Kaplan Modern from New York City showcased artists in contemporary glass sculpture and studio art furniture. Sales for Tom Loeser included in chests and other examples, Dan Dailey’s “Circus Lovers” and “Seated Nudes with a Jewel” sold, and Richard Jolley’s “Rhythm of Time” sold along with jewelry by Linda MacNeil.
Del Mano Gallery from Los Angeles, Calif. had six exhibit spaces filled with a variety of baskets in different medias. Many were sold including examples by Christian Burchard and William Hunter, one of the leading turners in the country. Exquisite translucent baskets in Norfolk Island pine by Ron Kent were a huge success as were pieces by David Sengel. At least a dozen boxes and bowls in African blackwood and amoyna burl by Hans Weissflog were sold by Saturday morning. Other outstanding pieces included console tables by Po Shun Leong and ceramic teapots by David E. Frith.
Contemporary American ceramics are the specialty of Ferrin Gallery from Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. They were highlighting contemporary American teapots by such artists as Paul Dresang, Susan Thayer, Mary Roehm and Kathryn McBride who are featured in “Teapots Transformed: Exploration of an Object” and who all had strong sales. Additional ceramics by Louis Marak and Leslie Rosdol sold well along with a series of limited edition prints by Sergei Isupov from Estonia who now works in Kentucky, primarily in ceramics. There were numerous sales of smaller teapots by Mark Shapiro, Woody Hughes, Barbara Walch, Michael Simon and Jeff Oestreich.
Chicago’s Portals, Ltd. featured Charlotte Brown’s mixed media pieces, and had sales of carved and painted woods by Robert Andrus and lots of pieces by Connie Roberts. At the entrance of their exhibit was “Forbidden Fruit” that was all decorated with junk food.
Specializing in fine contemporary glass, Habatat Galleries from Chicago, Pontiac, Mich., Boca Raton, Fla. and Great Barrington, Mass., sold works by Martin Blank, Dale Chihuly, David Huchthausen, Latchezar Boyadjiev, Livio Seguso, Clifford Rainey, Jack Schmidt, Kimiake Higuchi and Lucio Bubacco.
Australia’s Narek Galleries sold a ton of Janet De Boos porcelains, wood pieces by Robert Howard and Peter Carrigy.
Vivendi Galeries d’Art from Paris, France had great success with coiled steel sculptures by Vincent Magni and bronzes by Xiradakas Vea.
Karen Turner, the director of business development for the British Crafts Council indicated that the six British galleries that came to SOFA for the first time had a fantastic reception. The galleries were promoting the best of British crafts and had major sales with all the people they brought to Chicago. Contemporary Applied Arts from London sold fantastic ceramics by Claire Curneen and Craig Mitchell.
The British Crafts Council had sales by Malcolm Martin and Gaynor Dowling with their limed and scorched oak vessels, Angela O’Kelly sold tons of her jewelry made of layers of individual paper disks on paper cords. She was one of the speakers with three other jewelry designers who spoke on the difference between British and American designers. Angela’s pieces can either be worn or hung on the wall. Crystalline glazed stoneware by Kate Malone, glass by Rachael Woodman and teaholders by Simone Tenhompel all sold well.
During the preview at London’s Galerie Besson, we talked with a collector who bought three pieces of beaker sculpture by Fernando Casasempere and a piece by Vladimir Tsivin. Studio pottery by Lucie Rie as well as stoneware by Hans Coper and Claudi Casanovas all sold.
At Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art from Kansas City, Mo. there was only one piece left from a new group of wall sculptures by popular artist Judy Onofrio. Working with carved wood, beads, ceramic and mixed media, these sculptures with names like “Acrobatic Feats of Great Daring,” “Fish Lips,” “Lily,” “What’s Going on Here,” “Whose Facet is it Anyway?” and “Serve It Up” all went to new homes. Larger pieces selling included “Sport, the Reversible Dog” and “Would You Like One?”
Sales at William Traver Gallery from Seattle, Wash., included glazed ceramic pieces by Jun Kaneko and porcelain with bird’s-eye maple by Jamie Walker.
Next year SOFA/CHICAGO will be held four weeks earlier October 5 to 7 at Navy pier.