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June 14, 2004

Art Chicago Back Under the Big Top in '05

For the 2005 installment of Art Chicago, Thomas Blackman will move the annual fair from its previous home at Navy Pier (having been held inside in the Pier's Festival Hall since '95) to a 125,000-square-foot tent at a yet to be determined downtown location, where it plans to return for at least 5 years. It is also slated for mid-July, a couple months later than in the past.

As for the reasons why, according to the Sun-Times it's mostly a matter of timing and logistics:

The change of venue was necessary, Blackman said, because the show needed to move away from its traditional timing in early May, a period when many top collectors and dealers are involved in the recently expanded art-auction season at Sotheby's and Christie's in New York. The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, he said, has been unable to provide a different set of dates at the heavily booked Navy Pier and McCormick Place.
"We've been hamstrung by the success of those buildings," said Blackman, who operates Art Chicago through his company, Thomas Blackman Associates. "It just seemed to us that it would be better to try and seek another venue that would be more flexible so that the fair could continue to be strong."

Likewise, from the Trib:

"There were some timing issues we were trying to resolve with the fair for about four years," Blackman said. "Some were with the contemporary art auctions in New York. Major, catalytic changes were necessary, and the Pier was unable to help us. Now we will be able to take advantage of what Chicago has to offer in the summer, as well as conflict less with all the other shows in America and Europe."
Blackman said finances were not a reason for his departure from the Pier -- site of art expositions in Chicago since their beginning 25 years ago. "We owed about $250,000, which had to be paid before the fair this year. We'll know what the outstanding bills for this year are soon, and they'll be paid too. That's not the issue here," Blackman said.

But, judging from Crain's today, it sounds a little more like TBA got booted:

Navy Pier is seeking a new operator to run Art Chicago, a major annual art fair held there, leading the show's manager to move the event elsewhere.
"It's unfortunate that it had to come to this," says Thomas Blackman, who has booked Art Chicago in its current format since 1994.
A spokeswoman for the Chicago Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, known as McPier, says it is soliciting proposals from would-be operators of a new art fair on the pier. The bids are due June 22, and a decision is expected by summer's end. She wouldn't say why McPier no longer wants Mr. Blackman to run the event.
Mr. Blackman said McPier officials cited concerns about back rent and how slowly he repaid it.

The upshot is that Chicago may now be seeing two competing annual fairs where it's struggled to support one—not to mention the Stray Show. (This brings to mind this discussion at Artblog, considering apparently different circumstances in Miami.)

"Art Chicago Back Under the Big Top in '05"
Posted by Dan at 08:54 PM


Referenced in this post:

Art Chicago
Artblog.net: art miami—it's worth a shot
Chicago Sun-Times: Big changes due for art fair—Kevin Nance
Chicago Tribune: Art Chicago moving for 2005—Alan Artner
Crain's Chicago Business: Art Chicago, Navy Pier at odds