Impressions of Artropolis Chicago

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It’s been nearly a week since Artropolis Chicago came to a close- that intimidating, overwhelming, thrilling, intriguing, and ultimately rewarding, art fair of 780 exhibitors and 16,000 artworks from close to 20 countries on three floors of the Merchandise Mart, but I’m still awestruck by the wonderful windows to creativity and artistic experimentation that the event provided to Chicagoans.   I spent three hours at Artropolis during the Preview Parties on Thursday, April 24, and another three hours on the Saturday afternoon immediately following, but I barely scratched the surface of what was on view.  Which was alright, since as Chicago Tribune art critic Alan Artner said in his preview to the festival, “(t)he impulse is to take in everything but that is immersion akin to a ducking stool.”  Since I didn’t want my experience of art to be similar to that of being strapped into a medieval torture device, I decided to wander, linger, rest, wander again, stop and reflect, and when I had had enough for the day, leave.  I thought that was a good way to take in the pleasures of Artropolis.  I did make a couple of choices beforehand:  I skipped two of the festival’s shows, the International Antiques Fair and the Intuit Show of Folk and Outside Art, since Biedermeier chairs and Art Brut weren’t really my thing, respectively; and I decided to limit my wanderings around The Artist Project, the independent artists’ show, to my friend Sarah Stec’s booth and a couple of aisles over (actually, many of the artists who exhibited here also show at the Old Town Art Fair and other fairs around the city, so there would always be an opportunity to catch them at some place sometime soon).  So I concentrated my time and attention on the works on display at Art Chicago, the main Artropolis show, and NEXT, which was the curated show of cutting-edge, next generation art.  I still didn’t get  to see many, many wonderful artists and pieces, but here’s some of the works that I thought were very memorable- either because they were provocative, challenging, infuriating, inspired, or personally affecting, or all of these, which for me, good art should always be: Read the rest of this entry »

Artropolis Chicago Is Coming!

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In a week and a half, Chicago will be buzzing with artists, art collectors, gallery owners, the international media, and ordinary art loving folks like me and my friends, as Artropolis Chicago takes place for the second straight year at the Merchandise Mart from April 25-28, 2008.  The Mart, under its President, Christopher Kennedy, took over the much maligned and drama-filled Art Chicago and paired it with a variety of other art fairs, including its own International Antiques Fair, under the umbrella of Artropolis, a weekend celebration of “art, antiques, and culture” in a bid to put Chicago back on the international art scene map again (Art Chicago was one of the top art fairs in the world in the 1980s).  Judging from the reviews, participating artists and galleries, and audience turnout last year, I think the city made a terrific strong impression which should make this year’s Artropolis even more of a must-go destination for the denizens of the global art world (although Art Basel Miami and the Armory Show in New York continue to be seen as the premier North American art fairs).  I was overwhelmed last year by the amount of art that was exhibited, and the variety of media that were on display, from painting, sculpture, and photography, to video installations and site-specific installations.  It was impossible to really take advantage of the Artropolis experience in a single weekend, given the fact that in addition to viewing the art, there were lectures, live performances, and parties to attend if you wished to.   My main quibble last year was the fact that the Bridge Art Fair, which was the showcase for emerging, cutting-edge, “younger” art, and The Artist Project, which was an exhibit of 30 independent/unrepresented artists, were housed in a tacky wing of the Chicago Apparel Center, right next to the Mart, whose temperature was similar to that of a Finnish sauna.  I was loving and soaking up the Art Chicago exhibits, housed together with the Antiques Fair and the Intuit Show of Folk and Outsider Art in the main Merchandise Mart building, and glowing with that high that one gets when in the midst of stunning, unique, interesting art work; but then I had to traipse over to the Apparel Center, through a long walkway that felt like a sterile hospital corridor, and then emerged onto the two fairs, which were so poorly-laid out and cramped I felt I was in a Marrakech bazaar, without the Moroccans!  Anyway, there will be no such problem this year since Art Chicago moves to the 12th floor of the Mart and the Next Art Fair (which has supplanted Bridge) moves into the 7th Floor, with the Artist Project, the Antiques Fair and the Intuit show all sharing the 8th floor.

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