By Susan and Al Bagdade
Nearly 90 galleries representing ten countries exhibited contemporary decorative and fine art in the mediums of ceramic, glass, wood, metal, and fiber. The opening night benefit for Northwestern Memorial Foundation supported the arts program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Expressions of Culture, Inc. producer of SOFA, collaborated with many museums and arts organizations to sponsor the lecture series featuring 33 presentations by internationally prominent artists, arts professionals, and collectors. There were also nine special exhibits covering a variety of subjects including an exhibition honoring American Craft Council awardees.
Everyone was concerned about attendance and sales since this was the first major event in Chicago since the events of September 11. However, many exhibitors reported strong sales as well as attendance. Numerous collectors traveled to Chicago from various locations to shop at SOFA. Over 1,000 collectors, artists, and arts professionals opened SOFA on the preview evening, and 27,000 attended the show during the next three days.
SOFA officials reported that sales were in the $15/20 million range. Mark Lyman, president and found of SOFA said, “Just as all of us are here in support of the arts, the arts are here to support all of us.”
Holsten Galleries from Stockbridge, Mass. once again devoted its entire exhibit to the expressionistic glass art of Dale Chihuly. Jim Schantz related that “people feel this is the best show to date of Chihuly’s work. We have been showing him for five years. Sales were as good as last year. We sold several larger pieces, and people are interested in installations.”
Charles Reinhardt, owner of Mostly Glass Gallery from Englewood, N.J. had the best preview opening. He was “very heartened to see a lot of his out-of-town collectors come to Chicago for SOFA.”
Miriam Di Fiore “uses glass wires and frits to create landscapes on panels done through sequential fusing.” Her micro-mosaics sold well, and she won a prize for one of the top five artists in SOFA. David Salvadore’s blown glass shields also sold well as did the realistic wooden sculptures of Livio De Marchi. Claudia Lezama’s blown glass on metal entitled “Buds of Life” sold in clear, red, and green along with “Bistro III.” Lamp work glass pieces by Cesare Toffolo also sold at SOFA.
Tom Riley of The Riley Hawk Gallery from Seattle, Wash. Reported a sales record for a new series of figurative glass sculptures by William Morris. A former bronze sculpture collector bought several Morris pieces. “Colima Man” sold for $350,000, “Hohokam Man” sold for $350,000, “Rendille Woman” sold for $175,000, “Zande Man” sold for $150,000, and “Teotihuacan Man” sold for $65,000.
Morris glass sculptures, according to Riley, “show human expression plus addition of adornment. They do not attempt to be historically accurate, they are not about replication, they are not representational, they are not anatomically correct, but stimulate an emotional response.
“All of his work is about man and how he relates to objects. Morris started as a ceramic artist. He works his faces from within, inside out, to achieve the facial expression she wanted,” said Mr Riley. This gallery also sold works by Duncan McClellan, David Reekie, Nick Mount, Albery Paley, and Kari Russell Pool.
Ruth Bloch bronzes exhibited by Galerie Vivendi from Paris, France sold very well at SOFA. We loved the striking steel and tin furniture with natural rust patina by Jim Rose shown at the Ann Nathan Gallery of Chicago. Sales included his rolling two-drawer worktable, and a Canterbury settee. Wood and steel chairs by Tibor Timar sold along with a bronze entitled “Maternidad” by Jesus Curia Perez.
At Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art from Kansas City, Mo., they sold more than ten hand-carved wood and mixed media pieces by Judy Onofio, just as they did last year.,
The John Elder Gallery from New York City sold a lot of ceramics by Janis Mars Wunderlich.
Artist John DeWit, represented by the John Natsoulas Gallery from Davis, Calif. reported selling his blown glass with glass paint totems to Boeing for their new home in Chicago. A lot of attention was paid to Roy de Forest’s “Dog Bench’ that was a funky red bench with two dogs in bronze and powder coat with steel.
Douglas Dawson Gallery from Chicago reported great sales this year at SOFA. Doug showed ceramics, sculpture, textiles and abstract forms. He sold everything from high-priced objects to lower-end hats this year. During preview they sold a Nineteenth Century Chinese limestone window that was heading to a Japanese garden in Ohio. They sold architectural elements, a Java Twentieth Century teak root table, effigy stones and an early Twentieth Century earthenware with pigments zoomorphic vessel from their SOFA flyer.
Leo Kaplan Modern of New York City sold jewelry by Kinda MacNeil, Richard Jolley glass, KeKe Cribs glass, Garry Knox Bennett metals, and Tommy Simpson furniture such as his cheese cabinet entitled “Curd and whey are here to stay.”
Last year Michael Bennett featured glass horse heads at PISMO Gallery from Beaver Creek and Denver, Colo. This year he showed his clear blown glass horses with welded steel and sold “Grazing” and “Looking Back.” Several pieces of furniture by Andrew Muggleton including tall curved drawers and interlocking end table also sold.
At Ferrin Gallery from Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., they were selling at almost every price point, but not every artist. They felt they lost some long distance people, but there was a strong local attendance. Several wonderful teapots as handbags by Joan Takayama-Ogawa sold along with teapots by Annette Corcoran and Louis Marak. Russell Biles’s ceramic and gumball machines sold well as did his “Seven Deadly Sin Series” on carousel horses. Ceramics by Leslie Rosdol, Karen Portaleo and Adrian Arleo also sold well.
When we talked with wood sculptor artists William Hunter who utilizes exotic woods in his work he was very pleased to have sold five important pieces by Saturday afternoon at the del Mano Gallery from Los Angeles, Calif. They also sold a rocker by Sam Maloof and wood pieces by David Cutler, Giles Gilson, and Gianfrano Angelino.
Maruku Arts from Ayers Rock, Australia sold a lot of spear throwers and wood animals, but things were a little slower than last year. From Canberra, Australia, Narek Galleries did well with red cedar pieces by Robert Howard and rosewood by Grant Vaughan.
Gourd artist Nancy Miller from Kagedo Japanese Art in Seattle, Wash. Is “trying to elevate the lowly gourd to a higher place.” Nancy is passionate about her gourds that she hollows, sands, polishes, dyes and waxes to achieve the desired look. These are large shell gourds either plain or embellished with inlaid pebbles that were selling well at SOFA. They also sold lacquer vessels by Nagatoshi Onishi and woven stones by Deloss Webber.
The Scottish Gallery from Edinburgh, Scotland was in Chicago for the first time with the eight British Galleries founded by the British Crafts Council. They were the only gallery from outside of London and brought a range of Scottish work. A limed driftwood and pine chest by Ed Teasdale “could have sold about one hundred times.” All of Karin Wagner’s felt jewelry sold by Saturday, Kate Neal’s small porcelain objects sold well as did jewelry by Wendy Ramshaw.
The British Crafts Council exhibit from London, England sold ceramics by Carol McNicoll, glass by Rachael and a lot of fabric jewelry by Angela O’Kelly.
Tai Gallery/Textile Arts from Santa Fe, N. Mex. Carried museum-quality tapestries and textiles from Africa, China, Indonesia, Japan, Pre-Columbian, and Nineteenth Century Navajo. They also now represent contemporary Japanese basket artists including Fujinuma Noboru who was demonstrating how he creates bamboo art.