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July 18, 2005

Art Fair Fallout

I stopped looking out for news on the art fair front after the big weekend hit back in May (though somewhere I still have a half-written post on NOVA I ought to spew out one of these days...). So I can't say how long this has been out there but, via a post to the Other Group, I see that—their seven-year contract at Navy Pier and "participants' enthusiasm" notwithstanding—Chicago Contemporary & Classic looks to be officially throwing in the towel.

Given barely even tepid support from local galleries, totally anemic attendence (by all accounts) and generally dismal reviews all around, this is entirely unsurprising. And, really, it just wasn't a great show.

They do leave the door open for a return in the event of finding new dates at a new location, but it doesn't appear that they expect any such news to be terribly imminent:

The directors wish to thank everyone who supported Chicago Contemporary & Classic from April 29–May 2, 2005. In spite of the show's success and the participants' enthusiasm, our supporters have advised us to suspend production of the second edition of CC&C. We had hoped to find ourselves in a scenario where two shows could co-exist and collaborate where necessary, but the galleries have made it clear that only one show should take place at a time. We sought a different time of year that would work for everyone involved, but, unfortunately, no other dates are currently available.
We are researching other venues in other locations, so please contact us if you wish to be apprised of any new developments.

To be fair to CC&C, this spring didn't exactly present ideal conditions for launching a new fair in Chicago. Though treading water themselves (Thomas Blackman has called this year's fair a mere "prototype" for its future), Art Chicago still had the clear leg up in terms of location and track record (such that it is).

And you may recall that late April/early May wasn't really Thomas Blackman Associates' top choice in dates either. They had originally hoped to hold their revamped fair mid-summer, but had to settle for the icy side of spring for lack of available dates. (Staging it in Grant Park at the height of festival season is bound to be the sort of thing that requires the 'support' of some civic sponsor, not to mention a bit of lead time.)

Both fairs, then, were held as the spring auction season was getting ready to launch out east and, although some expected the prospect of all-out war to garner Chicago a surfeit of art world attention, it looked to me like the weekend passed almost without notice.

CC&C also felt the squeeze on the antiques side of things (and their promised antiques component barely materialized in the end), facing competition from the Chicago Antiques Fair down the road at the Merchandise Mart, while a major concurrent antiques fair on the west coast was the stated reason for Leslie Hindman's parting ways with the production.

Ultimately, should Pfingsten Publishing try to mount a revival of CC&C at a new location, in 2007 or whenever, more power to them. But here's hoping that 2005 will at least prove to have been the final nail in the coffin of McPier's plans for an art fair in the tourist circus that Navy Pier has become.

"Art Fair Fallout"
Posted by Dan at 07:30 PM

Comments

I think that you miss the whole point here. Navy Pier is not a circus...it is a wonderful gathering place on the front porch of Chicago. Can it be a venue for an art fair? Of course!

Because a location is a magnet for people it cannot function as a venue for an art fair? You are getting caught up in past millenium elitism. It is not the LOCATION...it is the idiots that ran the fair.

The whole group at CCC where completely clueless. They were trained by Blackman and the whole fair became personal. Blackman was calling dealers demanding that they do his show(if you want to really do your homework instead of mindless chatter call some Chicago dealers and hear what they have to say) and threatening them with future exclusion if they didn't. support him. CCC on their part were totally inept and mean spirited in their attacks on people that questioned their model (call Leslie and try some true reporting).

The people that were marketing CCC were incompetent duds that no one in their right mind would affiliate with. And the result, we are left with the second city loser Blackman who still has not paid his bills.

Too bad for Chicago!

Posted by: Parallel History on July 18, 2005 at 09:49 PM

I'm having trouble keeping score here. CC&C is down. I heard Art Chicago was in trouble but you don't seem to think so. Both of these are Pfingsten, right? Does that mean Vardy runs both of them? Who does that leave?

Posted by: Franklin on July 18, 2005 at 10:20 PM

> I think that you miss the whole point here.

It certainly wouldn't be the first time.

> Navy Pier is not a circus...it is a wonderful gathering place on the front porch of Chicago. Can it be a venue for an art fair? Of course!... Because a location is a magnet for people it cannot function as a venue for an art fair? You are getting caught up in past millenium elitism.

Ahh. "Elitism"... a Godwin for the cultural set. If I'm getting caught up in anything, it's a personal dislike for the Pier (of course, I don't have kids). Fireworks? Great. Ferris Wheel? I hear the view is sweet. The 3D Time Escape ride may be total bullshit, but IMAX is worth the trip. Still, you can keep Navy Pier... and I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way.

That said, I could see your point (and it would frankly be a whole lot more ideal) if they could somehow hold the fair in the mix of it all rather than cut off from the hoi polloi in the Festival Hall like every other trade show or corporate conference, removed from most of the public attractions. Instead, it's the worst of both worlds: in the midst of the zoo, with $20 parking, without the benefit of foot traffic.

Though you may not believe in 'location,' and though I never suggested that location was any sort of cure-all, Butler Field strikes me as a far more accessible 'people magnet' than Festival Hall. And that was essentially my point.

> Blackman was calling dealers demanding that they do his show... and threatening them with future exclusion

That (among other things) could certainly explain why it was mostly big names bowing out.

> ...try some true reporting

I'm no reporter, so don't hold your breath. Do feel free, though, to post hearsay around here whenever you like.

> The people that were marketing CCC were incompetent duds that no one in their right mind would affiliate with.

Gee, is that a dig at NOVA/Bridge or what? From what I understand, NOVA partnered up with CC&C mostly because, between them and TBA, CC&C were the only ones to return Workman's calls.

> And the result, we are left with the second city loser Blackman who still has not paid his bills... Too bad for Chicago!

Too bad, indeed. But what else is there, short of the Swiss moving in? Is Mark Lyman going to make a go of it?

Posted by: Dan on July 19, 2005 at 12:22 PM

> Franklin: I'm having trouble keeping score here. CC&C is down. I heard Art Chicago was in trouble but you don't seem to think so. Both of these are Pfingsten, right? Does that mean Vardy runs both of them? Who does that leave?

Thomas Blackman Associates runs Art Chicago. Last June, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority kicked them off the Pier over $373,314 in unpaid rent, soliciting bids for a replacement. Pfingsten won out and put forward what became CC&C. TBA settled with the Pier, and Art Chicago resurfaced in a tent downtown, treading water at best.

Posted by: Dan on July 19, 2005 at 12:41 PM



Referenced in this post:

Art Chicago
Chicago Antiques Fair
Chicago Contemporary & Classic
Chicago Park District: Grant Park
Chicagoist: Navy Pier Rocks Chicago Tourism List
Iconoduel: A Discouraging Art Fair Digest
Iconoduel: Fair Thee Well
Iconoduel: Pfingsten Demands Satisfaction
Iconoduel: Working Up a Head of Steam—The Park vs the Pier: the Participants Revealed
Leslie Hindman
Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority
NOVA Young Art Fair
Navy Pier
Other Group: 2611
Pfingsten Publishing, LLC
Wikipedia: Chicago City Council
Wikipedia: Richard M. Daley