Being invited to Chicago EXPO 2016, I had the honor of previewing the show and was able to gain a
first-hand experience before being influenced by others pinions. For someone who has limited experiences visiting art fairs, I’d make myself a fool if I write this review by comparing the pros and cons about Chicago EXPO. However, I’d still like to describe my experiences about this most-popular art fair in Chicago, and maybe my fresh eyes can capture a subtle sense in this overwhelming art festival.
I visited the exhibition twice; once before it was open to the public and another time with the crowd. Even though the preview was only open to limited people, I was still overwhelmed by the size of the venue and the number of booths in there.
For the preview, the majority of the people were either invited by the event or taken as a plus-one. For my understanding, these people were mostly collectors and artists, and the venue purposely invited them before the opening because they would have a better environment for conversations with the
dealers and a higher chance opening their check books. As a plus-one, I understood that I wasn’t one
of the elites but I purposely dressed up and purchased a glass of wine that was too pricy for a 6 oz cup.
While paying close attention on my posture and surrounding, I tried my best to focus on the works in
front of me like I was in a museum, but I soon realized that my effort was naive: I was either surprised by the price on the wall, or I was distracted by the dealers questions about if I had any questions. My effort to reading the works soon became glancing, and even when my brain started consciously refuse processing all of the exciting visualizations, my eyes were quickly attracted by the next interesting thing. I realized: going to an art fair is no less tiring than running a marathon.
For both of my visits, I paid a close attention on galleries from China and I spent more time analyzing
the works at these booths. The names of famous galleries like PACE, Pearl Lam and Red Brick have attracted my eyes, but their works told a different story. When visiting galleries from or related to China, I care more about the presentation than the quality of the works. Pace Gallery, for example,
chose most of their artworks by western artists, including Sol Lewitt and Rauschenberg. While
understanding their market strategy, I definitely would like to see more works done by artists from China. In occasions like Chicago EXPO, galleries should consider the importance of demonstrating and advocating arts that’s not in the center of the western context. I understand that the purpose of art fairs are always money-driven so that international galleries should alway put the primary market first. But I also believe that shedding more lights on foreign artists is essential for establishing an international context.
If I have to pick ONE thing that I absolutely hated in Chicago EXPO, I’d choose the SAIC booth without hesitation. It was absolutely not necessary to make the booth a curatorial space since it looked nothing more than an expensive garage. The chosen artworks were created by SAIC students graduated from last semester, and their talents and creativity were bluntly used for advertising the school. While I was pleased to see that just-graduated students were able to present their works in such important venue, I was much more angry at the fact that the school showed no effort to advocate for them. To a point, I was too shamed to say that I was a student
from SAIC because neither the works nor the curatorial statement demonstrated SAIC students
really talents. Alter spending over 10 minutes of inner-meditation, I finally drew a conclusion that was comforting enough for me to calm down: as long as “Chicago EXPO” holds a weight on an impressive cover letter, who cares what really happened in the show? As long as the price was good, even schools like SAIC would be bending towards the dollars, right?