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September 1, 2004

A Discouraging Art Fair Digest

Hmmm... Can't say I like the sound of this from today's Trib:

The new producer of Navy Pier's May international art fair said Tuesday it will expand the show beyond modern and contemporary works to include furniture, decorative arts and antiques.
The show, to be called Chicago Contemporary & Classic and run May 6-9, will absorb the AntiquesChicago show that has run concurrently with the art fair for the last two years in a different part of the pier. Chicago auctioneer Leslie Hindman, a co-producer of the antiques show, will work with the fair's new director, Ilana Vardy of Pfingsten Publishing LLC.

Not encouraging, Pfingsten. But should we have expected any more from the International Art and Framing Group? I suppose not.

Vardy assures us that the gallerists aren't worried:

"The contemporary galleries are excited," she said. "They understand that people's collections are very broad, that some people who collect antiques also collect modern art."

Sure sounds like spin to me.

Mark Lyman, head of the partnership that lost out in their bid on the fair, is understandably pissed:

The authority chose Pfingsten to stage the show over a group led by Chicago-based Expressions of Culture Inc. Expressions President Mark Lyman said Tuesday he was "shocked" that Pfingsten's plans are so different from what the authority had proposed.
"We were told very clearly that the pier was looking for a modern and contemporary fair of the highest order," he said.

Thomas Blackman could not be reached for comment.

The take from the Sun-Times:

"It's completely different from anything that's being done in America right now," [Hindman] said. "We'll have antique and modern furniture, rugs, carpets, tribal art, 18th and 19th century paintings and prints, and modern and contemporary art—all under one roof. I've felt for a long time that something really exciting and new needs to happen, and this is it."
Another factor in the move was a decision by Pfingsten Publishing, the Ohio-based firm that will own and operate CC&C, not to attempt the Chicago equivalent of very high-end art fairs such as Art Basel, acknowledged as the world leader in the field.
"If somebody were to announce an Art Basel-like show for Chicago, it wouldn't work, because that's such a high sliver of the marketplace that couldn't be pulled off overnight," said Rob Spademan, Pfingsten's marketing director. "Chicago needs to go for the $5,000 to $50,000 price point for collectors."
Mark Lyman of Chicago-based Expressions of Culture Inc.—whose competing bid to produce an art fair in the same time slot at Navy Pier was rejected—disagrees, adding that he is still in discussions with partners for a Chicago show that would aspire to the very top echelon of art fairs.
"They were probably realizing that they were going to have difficulty filling up the hall with the top-level fine-art dealers, so they're taking a more generalist, lower-level approach to this," Lyman said. "I think this makes it very clear that there's a strong opportunity in Chicago for a top-level art fair that would span contemporary and later modern art."

More to come I'm sure. And we wait with bated breath.

"A Discouraging Art Fair Digest"
Posted by Dan at 09:33 AM


Referenced in this post:

Chicago Contemporary & Classic
Chicago Sun-Times: Navy Pier show to include decorative arts—Kevin Nance
Chicago Tribune: Navy Pier art fair to get makeover—Charles Storch
International Art and Framing Group