Art Fair Madness

January 28, 2008 · Print This Article

It has struck me as strange that while people continue to delight in talk of an art market crash, the number of Art Fairs just proliferates. It is a bit like watching the Cold War Arms race. Just keep building them till you bankrupt the smaller spaces and smaller economies. (A race which seems to have already contributed to the demise of one Chicago gallery with another 4 or 5 being rumored to be closing sometime in ’08.)

Last year in Miami there were 13 fairs. 2007’s fair boasted 23?

WTF is going on? And WTF is up with the Merchandise Mart?

Supposedly they’re planning the purchase or start up of an LA fair?(According to LA Weekly) And they have just bought the Toronto Art Fair? (according to the Chicago Trib)

We, as Chicagoans, continue to worry about our “Art Chicago.” As the fair approaches it has begun to feel like the only two things people want to say about it is that the main fair is again expected to disappoint despite the “improved” gallery list/the return of some of the major past contributors, and people seem to feel both nervous and hopeful about the official smaller fair Kavi Gupta and Christian Viveros-Faune specially selected NEXT fair.

So what is going on with the purchase of all these new venues? Will it help the “Mart” shake the perception that they are just “wealthy trade show people” muscling into the, currently very buoyant, art market? Or will extend their ability to attract great dealers to their home fair?

Hopefully, the mistakes and half-baked elements of last year will be corrected and NEXT will fulfill its promise to bring challenging and emergent culture/ideas to town, because the alternative seems to be the further getto-ization of Chicago’s art world. The Mart will either prove their commitment to culture or use their deep pockets to permanently taint the reputation and profile of Chicago’s art world. We are waiting to see.

19 thoughts on “Art Fair Madness”

  1. Balzac says:

    To the Mart, art is simply another trade show, merchandise indeed!

    Their odd shopping spree speaks to all corporate consolidation. Buy lots of the smaller players, drive out the independents, then once competition is seriously wounded, consolidate and jack the prices. And people in the arts think they are free from the hard and fast rules of business economics. ha!

  2. Not only rampant Big Business, but many elements of many fairs seem ever “wronger” purely in terms of generating interest. Basel-Basel’s anti-side-fair rumblings. Chicago’s Artist Project at 700 “young” artists — seems a step in the wrong direction too. And so on.

  3. Tony Fitzpatrick says:

    What surprises anyone about this?….. really.

    The minute there were hedge-funds built entirely on objects of art; the whole discourse changed. Whether we like it or not ; we are now in the business of making ‘lifestyle’ decorations for the wealthy…… burn it down. The ‘market’ will rob artists and art of its definition.

  4. Che Vladimir Picasso says:

    Burn ’em all!!!

    Power to the people!!!

    No WalMart for Art!!!!

    And what is up with the weird reject-from-the-main-fair-show Kavi Gupta is doing?

    Chicago needs a real satellite show.

  5. edmar says:

    word on the street is that the mart cholos don’t have their shit together for this year’s art fair. it will suck bad. mostly due to their beauracracy and inablity to adapt.. like the internet..
    Art Chicago will make Next seem like the only bright spot in this town since the eclipse. They might even redeem the city’s reputation for having an Official art world that is so lame. so lifeless.. so full of haters..

    For the record (at least the one i am listening to) Next is NOT taking rejects from the mart. maybe they are taking on some not so beige chip gallery action, but hey you have to pay the bills no?
    such ill -informed rabble gets on these comment boards don’t they?

    i agree that the mart prolly wants to corner the market on art fairs… but as anyone knows.. all it takes is some balls and voila! a new art fair emerges!
    look at bridge..
    does anyone shit on them anymore? not really.. he is one medium sized gatekeeper. If michael’s lucky the mart will buy his action.. and i hope they do…

    i suggest that people read mute magazine’s latest issue about the market and the fact that “Art” is prolly the best place for those cocksuckers (in the words of
    swearingen and Wu) to invest money in this volatile market.

    the art wars have only just begun.
    now go buy some art.

    and…..please . please show me some artists that do not want to make decorations for the wealthy..

    check out::
    Living in a Bubble: Credit, debt and crisis

    oh please also keep in mind that there have been other art festivals and fairs in town for years. even as good as the now nostalgic stray show…. but for some reason.. “art world” types don’t consider what is not contained in a white cube storefront/loft sponsored by some big shot as valid, relevant, exciting or worth consideration.

    i should know.

    god bless the dark matter

  6. Ann Onymous says:

    We Heart Edmar.

  7. Tony Fitzpatrick says:

    Ed , I can show you any number of artists that wish to do more than provide decorations for the wealthy….

  8. Richard says:

    I mostly make decorations for me. I like them.

  9. Tony Fitzpatrick says:

    Likewise Richard.

  10. Mine are too ugly to be decorations, but I keep trying.

  11. edmar says:

    man as usual, my sarcasm is detected at the wrong moments.

    obviously we all know artists not making decorations for the proverbial tree.

    although i too wish i could make decorative art, mark.

    heart you guys.

  12. I loved your comment, Ed. Really. Agree too. I don’t really try to decorate. Sometimes I wish I could.

  13. Curious says:

    So Edmar, will you be beheading Kavi this year? Or maybe beheading his curator that got ousted from the Voice???

  14. David Roth says:

    “(in the words of swearingen and Wu)”

    gotta love a Deadwood reference.

  15. Balzac says:

    Lets simply behead everyone in the arts, it will save so much dialog. Seriously.

  16. Chris says:

    Sorry to interfere in a thread but maybe someone can help me. What was the name of the fair that ran alongside Art Chicago for smaller, less established and fringy-er galleries? Also, does anyone remember a group of drawings shown in that fair last year showing groups of children with adult genitalia? Who was the artist?

    PS I miss Edmar, the store not the person posting.

  17. edmar says:

    i miss edmar the store too.
    but no, curious. we won’t be beheading anyone this year.
    although i have to toot my own horn and claim that it was the best performance art piece of the year. it actually made art chicago seem “cool” and “hip” from what i heard. its just too bad we didn’t have our aircraft carrier and blimp.

    instead of beheadings we will be launching a new art magazine called Proximity at NEXT!

    talk about Deadwood style politics!

    PS you were talking about the Stray show.

  18. Information dept. says:


    What year, last year it was the Bridge Art Fair. Before that there was the Stray show.

  19. Chris says:

    I do believe it was the stray show, tucked back in a corner of the main floor of the Art Chicago show. Not the year it was rescued but the second year it was at the Merchandise Mart, I think. Any recollection of the artist or the work? Thanks for the help.

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