We lived in Chicago for 5 years a long time ago and always loved going to the Chicago art fairs. Sometimes we bought art and sometimes we just enjoyed looking at it. We arranged a trip to attend two of the city’s oldest and best-juried art fairs plus a couple of other fairs that just happened to fall on the same weekends.
Old Town Art Fair
The Old Town Art Fair, a 70+-year tradition, was the first juried art fair we ever attended and was the first art fair at which we ever bought art. It is also in one of the city’s prettiest neighborhoods. It generally attracts artists from across the Eastern U.S. and also provides an opportunity to see some of the lovely neighborhood’s houses and gardens. While we can’t recreate artist names or most of the techniques, we did particularly like one artist’s partially-painted sculptures of contemplative people in unusual positions and the delicate figures carved on granite, marble, and limestone panels.
Wells Street Art Fair
The Wells Street Art Festival is a 45-year-old show that is on the same weekend as the Old Town Art Fair. It is located just a few blocks from the Old Town Fair as something of a tag-along. While it has many more exhibits of the type of “populist art” (crafts, clothes, Chicago landmarks, prints of wine bottles, etc.) than Old Town, it did have some interesting exhibits. Among those we found to be most interesting were microscopy photos of food ingredients from our daily lives and copper plates in which abstract, multi-colored designs were created by applying different levels of heat.
Gold Coast Art Fair
The Gold Coast Art Fair has been one of the city’s largest annual art fairs, with more than 200 artists. When we originally saw the website, and validation in a Tribune calendar, we assumed that the fair would take in Grant Park on the same weekend. Once in Chicago, we saw different dates on different sites. The sponsoring company’s site displayed no date at all. When we showed up at the appointed place, the park was decked out for a Pokeman Go festival, complete with imaginary landscapes and masses of gamers, all of whom were being temporarily evacuated from the park in anticipation of severe weather which, luckily did not materialize. The self-proclaimed “granddaddy” of Chicago art fairs, however, was nowhere to be found.
SuHu Neighborhood Galleries
Although a number of the River North art center’s galleries have since moved to less expensive neighborhoods, such as Chicago Avenue and the West Loop, several do remain. We explored most of them, finding particularly interesting (although not necessarily affordable) works at galleries including
- Victor Armendariz (especially for his Jesus Perez bronzes and Brian Driscoll’s painstaking, life-size, fiber filament representation of a man),
- Rangefinder’s super-imposed photos of mannequins,
- Bae Gallery (Young June Lew’s mixed media portraits), Ken Saunders (Weston Lambert and Tim Shaw’s cut and blown glass), Hilton l Asmus (David Yarrow’s fun imposition of wildlife into very unexpected settings) and
- Echt Galleries’ lovely collection of glass art.
A venture into Michigan Avenue’s huge Artspace 8 Gallery yielded a number of rewards, including some of Fidel Rodriguez’ numerology paintings and especially Li Hu’s commentaries on Chinese policies, society and economics, such as with his “Empty City” and huge “Migration” oil paintings.