EXPO Chicago 2019 is Nick Cave’s show

Chicago Reader
Deanna Issacs

Let’s get right to the important stuff: the hot fashion tip from EXPO Chicago 2019, the big international modern and contemporary art fair underway this weekend at Navy Pier, is knee-highs.

They were spotted at Thursday’s preview on EXPO artistic director Stephanie Cristello, and on Nick Cave, who’s all over this fair (he designed the poster), and whose performance piece, The Let Go, we just learned, will have a free-to-the-public run at this very same venue April 3-12.

Another hot tip: shiny shoes, like the gold slippers worn by the Pier’s director of cool—as EXPO director Tony Karman calls her—Michelle Boone (aka chief program and civic engagement officer), when she made the announcement about bringing The Let Go to Cave’s hometown. The piece had a previous run in New York, where the Park Avenue Armory commissioned it. 

Or like these, in Souliers A La Poulaine, 2018, by Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison at the booth of Chicago’s Catherine Edelman Gallery

Acquiring the Souliers piece would set you back a cool $22,000. But ten bucks will get you another Edelman offering, a big, bright, tissue paper blossom pulled from Borderlines, a wall of blooms mounted by CASE Art Fund, a nonprofit founded by Edelman and Anette Skuggeda last year. CASE supports and promotes fine art photographers who focus on humanitarian issues, and the money raised by bringing this wall down is going to another nonprofit, El Paso Matters.

More than 100 established U.S. and international galleries are showing work at this edition of EXPO, along with 32 younger galleries and numerous museums, institutions, organizations, and publishers. There’s a full schedule of programming, including lectures, panels, and performances, plus IN/SITU—a display of a dozen large-scale, mostly sculptural works, curated this year by Jacob Fabricius, artistic director at the Kunsthal Aarhus in Denmark. 

IN/SITU includes a library with books, seats and floor made of more than a ton of recycled plastic waste by Chicago’s own Dan Peterman (it’s right across from the carefully guarded entrance to the VIP-only lounge); and a kiosk plastered with artist-made fliers from which SAIC prof Scott Reeder is selling wordless bumper stickers in an array of colors. The wholly arbitrary prices on the bumper art—mostly $5 to $10—are a comment on art world pricing, Reeder says.

Fairs like this one—with its roots in the greed-is-good 1980s, and its branches poking into climate change (No PLAN(ET): Ecology as the new politics panel on Saturday)—are hotbeds of capitalism at its looniest. If you want the big blurry photo of Marina City by Hiroshi Sugimoto that Marian Goodman Gallery is showing, for example, you’ll have to shell out $120,000. And Nick Cave’s watch-lined Hustle Coat, at the Jack Shainman Gallery booth, will set you back $110,000.

But you can pick up a Nick Cave yoga mat for $85, or a yard of Cave contact paper for $50 at the 21c Museum Hotel Facility booth. The money will benefit Cave’s charitable Facility Foundation.

21c is something new: a chain of hotels that include museum space collecting and showing only 21st century art. This next step on the lobby exhibit concept is coming to Chicago later this year at the former James Hotel at Ontario and Rush. No need to book a room: the museum will be open to the public, and admission will be free.