Once a week you have the need to walk a couple of blocks to go to a huge warehouse or cellar with high ceilings and a labyrinth of temporary aisles to look for the newest and best products, or in the case of Expo Chicago, once a year. In both cases, there are a lot of options: there are good deals, bad deals and things just about to expire. You can also find fancy women strutting around trying to acquire the freshest catch. There is no beginning or end; there are products, then food, 10-dollar water bottles, pastries, sandwiches and assistance with hipster haircuts. There are free samples, tiny drinks, and excruciatingly painful white lighting. On Saturday’s there is more people and also more kids.
In Expo Chicago the yoga pants become tight dresses and all new Nikes become uncomfortable heels. In both cases, if you are a mere mortal (not part of the economical enterprise) your participation in this experience is one of observation. One of the most fascinating things to watch is how the products are displayed. In Whole Foods there is an aisle that contains all kinds of nuts. They are curated in a huge shelf where they are classified and grouped depending first on the type of nut and then on the spice. In Expo, such specificity doesn’t exist. In opposition, every booth is its own salad bar in which you have to be able to discern what the good ingredients are.
In the middle of such impressively underwhelming array of products, in one of the white generic medium drywall booths, Pace Gallery brought two remarkable and noticeable Robert Rauschenberg collages. The simplicity and elegance of their simple wood framing made the fabric and paper pieces stand out in a sea of cheesy neon color frames and chrome furniture. I was like finding good French cheese in the cheddar section.
On the end of the aisles there is a section, the one that mimics the sample and wine section in whole foods. There you can find all the brands, schools and magazines promoting themselves as the best option and giving free samples, of a product that is exactly the same as the one in the opposite booth. This always proves unimpressive and a poor next door neighbor to the artist and guest talks. Because of this, the artists and curator talks, which are usually amazing names of the industry, become famous names presented in an undesirable situation. A huge crowd packed in a small space, always running out of time and with the smallest amount of sound equipment because who want to disturb the social interactions going on in the labyrinth of aisles outside. It is this way that a potentially amazing talk by artist Kerry James Marshall became a twin brother of a cooking class of a Gordon Ramsay in the courtyard of a supermarket.