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January 29, 2005

Who Wants In?

Art Chicago's stated deadline for exhibitor applications (December 1) passed by right in the midst of the Great Miami Maelstrom, and the drop-dead date for withdrawl without penalty is February 1. The competing Chicago Contemporary & Classic fair has no apparent application deadline, though the penalty for withdrawl already rose from 30% to 50% back on January 16 (full penalty on or after March 15).

So this seems as good of a time as any to see where some local galleries stand, what with lines being drawn in the sand and all.

A quick canvass of 18 River North and West Loop spaces yielded all of three who said they plan on participating in Art Chicago 2005 in Grant Park. Zero avowed plans to exhibit on the Pier with CC&C.

Of the 15 remaining, one said it will "probably" and two said they will "possibly" do Art Chicago, while nine don't plan to participate in either fair and three were unsure of their plans altogether (whether the assistants I spoke with simply didn't know or said the gallery wanted to "wait and see").

Ten of these galleries exhibited in Art Chicago 2004 and twelve were involved in 2003. (By my count, there were all told 28 Chicago-area galleries and dealers represented in 2004—not counting Wendy Cooper, who has since relocated here from Madison—out of around 150 exhibitors total.)

Though perhaps suggestive of a general tenor, this is an admittedly incomplete accounting. There were five or six other galleries that I wanted to ask (including a couple heavy hitters) but, for various reasons, was unable to. I did not inquire with Thomas McCormick, but have since noticed an image of theirs in rotation on CC&C's exhibitors page, suggesting that they, at least, have been lined up to show at the Pier. That makes one, anyways. (McCormick exhibited at Art Chicago in both 2003 and 2004.)

In spite of any trivial edge that could be granted to TBA and Art Chicago from all this, only one person I spoke with expressed any great enthusiasm about their participation in the fair. Otherwise the prevailing tone is, quite understandably, that of rampant uncertainty. These galleries are not necessarily art fair-averse—a number had recently returned from fairs in Florida (variously Art Basel Miami Beach, -scopeMiami, NADA, Frisbee and Palm Beach 3) and several are gearing up for others elsewhere (ArtLA, the Armory Show, -scopeNewYork, Art Basel, etc). There seemed to be more or less a general sense of agreement, though, that a number of things need to be "sorted out" before they're going to be willing to pony up $10,000+ for a booth on the home front.

Thomas Blackman was hurting out in San Francisco earlier this month, in part due to questions about the state of affairs in Chicago. And CC&C's sister fair, Art Miami, has had plenty of troubles of its own, living in the shadow of the Basel juggernaut. The hesitance in evidence among local galleries seems to suggest, anecdotally at least, similar issues around here.

CC&C says they anticipate featuring around 140 modern and contemporary galleries (in addition to their coverage of antiques and decorative arts), expecting this to account for half to two-thirds of Festival Hall's 170,000 square feet. For their part, TBA has their own 125,000-square foot tent to fill.

If they can't convince the locals, though, who can they convince?

"Who Wants In?"
Posted by Dan at 06:37 PM

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Referenced in this post:

Armory Show
Art Basel
Art Basel Miami Beach
Art Chicago
Art Chicago: Exhibitors for Chicago Art Exposition 2003
Art Chicago: Exhibitors for Chicago Art Exposition 2004
Art Miami
ArtLA
Chicago Contemporary & Classic
Chicago Contemporary & Classic: Exhibitors
Chicago Contemporary & Classic: Floorplan
Iconoduel: A Discouraging Art Fair Digest
Iconoduel: Art Chicago Back Under the Big Top in '05
Iconoduel: Maybe it's the unwieldy acronym
Iconoduel: Pfingsten Demands Satisfaction
New Art Dealers Alliance Fair
Palm Beach 3
ScopeMiami 2004
ScopeNewYork 2005
Thomas McCormick Gallery
WPS1: Art Basel Miami Beach
Wendy Cooper Gallery