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The Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design Fair (SOFA) in Chicago opened yesterday at the Navy Pier and is on view through Sunday, November 8. Whitewall spoke with fair director, Donna Davies, about what’s exciting this year, and how works in 2D and works on paper will officially make an appearance this year.
WHITEWALL: How do you see SOFA fitting in within the national and international fair context?
DONNA DAVIES: We’re very fortunate in that this is our 22nd year of the fair and we occupy this space in the local regional art calendar and the national art calendar. In Chicago and in the community of object-oriented artists and galleries, we’ve served as an annual meeting place for collector groups, museum boards, and other arts organizations.
We have found over the years that we are part of the international calendar, too. Our international exhibitor participation has grown with each year of the fair, which is something we’ve been working toward.
WW: SOFA is focused on 3D objects, but this year you are introducing some 2D work. How did that come about?
DD: It’s been really interesting and something that we’ve addressed head-on this year. When the fair started in 1994 it occupied a very unique space. There were not that many art fairs so we had a niche market. Galleries showing applied arts were not necessarily being accepted into other art fairs. So SOFA really came about out of that conversation, to create a venue where those galleries could exhibit that work. It has grown over the years obviously, and the dialogue about the applied arts has morphed and evolved, as you would expect. We saw over the years galleries like Barry Friedman, wanting to show an artist like Michael Eastman in their booth. Little by little, and we were having more requests from galleries like that and reviewing it on a case-by-case basis. Then we found that when we sat back and looked at it, we saw that there are so many galleries who are changing their program to embrace both 2D and 3D. There was also interest from 2D galleries to be in the fair because they wanted to really stand out. And we are finding that people collect that way. So we find that evolution has happened both on the gallery side and the collecting side. People want that juxtaposition and we want that, as well.
WW: Ceramics also seems to be being re-embraced lately, both in the worlds of design and in art. Can we expect to see ceramic work at SOFA?
DD: Yes! Ceramics have always been a huge part of SOFA. It’s one of the seminal materials you’ll find at the fair. And it’s nice to see ceramics being embraced as an important material, having a renaissance in a way…as well as fiber! Fiber has seen a real surge in activity and visibility. This year you’ll see work from Browngrotta gallery from artists like Sheila Hicks and Magdalena Abakanowicz.
WW: There’s also been a surge in more affordable 3D editions with things like 3D printing. Can we expect to see some of that at SOFA?
DD: There is. I know there some galleries bringing 3D printed work. And there are some younger artists who are making work in ceramics and glass that are at a very affordable price point for collectors who are just starting.