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This was the first time I had been to Chicago Expo, and really, any sort of art fair of its kind. I’m fairly new to the idea of the art world as a capitalist market, but I suppose, so is the art world (at least on the scale it has amassed to in the last thirty years or so). Overall, it was an enjoyable experience. On one hand, it was an opportunity to see the up-and-coming artists of our time in a fast-paced, very dynamic environment, but on the other, it was hard to get past the flock of rich old white people collecting bad, beaten-to-death art, and talking big numbers through wine-stained teeth. However, I saw some absolutely brilliant painting, although it was often shadowed by larger, more novel pieces. I suppose that’s the thing that really made me question the nobility of it: it was a lot of novelty and timely work, of pseudo-pop money-making artifacts, with more the conceptual, discomforting, and craft-oriented pieces left by the wayside. However, Kerry James Marshall’s talk did help me to reframe the lens from which I was viewing the art. He made a point about how the purpose of art is to present something to someone that they wouldn’t otherwise see. It was something which should have been obvious, but something which I hadn’t heard articulated so well in my art education. And so I suppose that there is a point to be made with the tacky CD-eyed portraits and giant slabs of acrylic. Their value lies in their funkiness. That is their point: to be present. So I’ll forgive them for that, even though I personally wouldn’t give them the thousands of dollars at which they were priced.
I suppose then, Expo taught me to broaden my perceptions on art, even though my taste might be quite different from the greater art community. But it wasn’t Expo that taught me this, it was the wisdom of a true master of our time. So, ultimately, Expo was a productive experience, though I have tremendous criticism for the way it values craft and the ultimate purposes of art. (It was overwhelmingly capitalistic, was hard to focus on the art in such a stock market environment, not to mention its being hosted in Chicago’s glorified food court (i.e. Navy Pier), &c.) But still, compelling.