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.