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The 2018 edition of EXPO CHICAGO opens this week, on view September 27-30 at Navy Pier. With 135 galleries from 27 countries, it’s the most international EXPO to date. A variety of programming complements the booth presentations, including IN/SITU’s site-specific commissioned installations, the OVERRIDE billboard program, a video series, and a robust talk schedule.
To learn more about EXPO’s seventh iteration, we caught up with fair director Tony Karman.
WHITEWALL: This is EXPO Chicago’s most global edition to date. To what do you attribute this growth?
TONY KARMAN: Going into our seventh edition, I think our consistently strong list of participating galleries, our critically acclaimed programming, our commitment to hosting a large number of global curators, the ongoing support of our institutions, civic and cultural leaders, artists and galleries and most importantly the backdrop of a vibrant cultural city, has culminated to fuel our growth.
Chicago was the first city in North and South America to host an international art fair, and that storied legacy is not lost on collectors and curators. Our city has a great deal to offer during the week of the fair and the art world is once again enthusiastically returning each September.
WW: Have you seen any changes in the demographic of visitors and collectors coming to EXPO?
TK: Chicago’s geographic location in the center of America is an important advantage. From the outset, we worked hard to ensure that we attract collectors from the Greater Midwest and the coasts, and are always focusing on other areas around the world. I am proud that we are seeing a larger number of collectors from Europe and Latin America, and anticipate that our global programming initiatives will add to our outreach to new areas in Southeast Asia, Asia and Africa.
WW: Who are some of the EXPO first timer this year visitors and collectors should keep an eye out for?
TK: We are very proud to welcome some international galleries that are exhibiting for the first time, including Gavin Brown’s Enterprise (New York), Mendes Wood (Sao Paulo), Stuart Shave /Modern Art (London), PKM Gallery (Seoul), Kalfayan Gallery (Athens), Gallery Hyundai (Seoul), Carbon12 (Dubai), and numerous galleries in our EXPOSURE section.
WW: Do you know of any themed or solo presentations galleries have planned for their booths we can expect?
TK: Yes—our PROFILE section will feature numerous solo and focused presentations of major historic works, as well as emerging artists. Specifically, Carbon12 will be presenting a group of works by Sara Rahbar, Anton Kern will have an additional booth to highlight a major installation by Richard Hughes, as well as Kavi Gupta who will be showing a selection of historic works and ephemera by the legendary AfriCOBRA collective.
Additionally, Galerie Barbara Thumm will be presenting an installation with works by Teresa Burga, who just received an honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Other galleries in the main sector will be showing thematic presentations with focuses on single artists to explore the Underground Railroad, such as Mendes Wood, who will be featuring Paolo Nazareth, and the unveiling of Chicago-based artist and MacArthur Fellow Dawoud Bey‘s Night Coming Tenderly, Black—a series of silver gelatin prints at a shared booth between Stephen Daiter and Rena Bransten Gallery. Many of these presentations will be further explored in our on-site programming, through /Dialogues and book signings.
WW: How was the theme of IN/SITU arrived at this year, curated by the Guggenheim’s Pablo León de la Barra?
TTK: Pablo has been extraordinary to work with and has shaped this program to explore relevant and timely issues regarding migration, feminism and otherness through a series of works that address and imagine other forms that we can coexist as a human society. His hope is that everyone who views the artists’ works within the program leaves EXPO CHICAGO transformed into an empowered citizen.
WW: IN/SITU Outside will also go beyond the convention center and into the city at large with public art installations throughout. What are some of the locations where we’ll find work by artists like Lawrence Weiner and Justin Brice Guariglia?
TK: Chicago is a city that loves to collaborate and our public art programs, IN/SITU Outside and OVERRIDE | A Billboard Project, perfectly illustrate that. Working with the Chicago Park District, the Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events and Navy Pier, everyone can experience Lawrence Weiner‘s OUT OF SIGHT installation at Maggie Daley Park, as well as Justin Brice Guariglia’s We Are the Asteroid I, and Iván Navarro’s largest public installation to date—a series of his large-scale water tower works, featuring mirrors and neon, entitled This Land is Your Land—at Navy Pier.
Additionally, you can see works by 12 artists showcased on the city’s digital billboard network at over 28 sites, as well as a site-specific commission by Theaster Gates at 515 W. Ida B. Wells Drive.
WW: Outside of the fair, are there any programs or exhibitions you’re personally looking forward to seeing?
TK: One of the major initiatives we are most excited about is our alignment with Art Design Chicago, supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art, which explores the legacy of art and design practice in Chicago through hundreds of exhibitions and events throughout 2018, many of which will be on view during EXPO ART WEEK.
As part of EXPO CHICAGO’s partnership, we are partnering with the Chicago Humanities Festival and Navy Pier to present the first Hans Ulrich Obrist Interview Marathon in the United States. Featuring interviews and performances, Obrist will be conducting the Marathon in the Aon Grand Ballroom, adjacent to the exposition hall on Saturday, September 29 from 1:00–6:00pm. Even the stage itself will be an artwork, designed by Barbara Kasten and inspired by Chicago’s Bauhaus legacy.