Art Letter

February 2009 Archives

2/20/09 A New Batch of Solid Exhibitions

It's so very nice when a public institution gets it right, which is what happened at the State of Illinois Museum, located on the 2nd Floor of the Thompson Center; you know, right behind the Dubuffet. Here, curator Robert Sill has done what too few curators do. He has allowed the art to speak for itself.  Too often curators start thinking that they are the artists and that they have to express some aesthetic diatribe.  In a show ambitiously titled Across the Divide; Reconsidering the Other, Chicago artist Bernard Williams looks strong along with new pieces by Kerry James Marshall whose work we don't see enough here at home, and a great pairing of Rashid Johnson and Fred Wilson.  And it is well installed.  It can be done. A winner. Opening tonight.

I had the pleasure of visiting these galleries with
SAIC graduate student Stephanie Burke who makes some very strong art and has her own consummate blog that aims to list all openings in the City of Chicago. Fun to share our aesthetic responses, but I couldn't convince her of the glory of monumental sculpture.  Nevertheless we both agreed on Lucy Slivinsky's work at Flatffile.  Her work is such a celebration of excessiveness and waste, or maybe repurposing.  My immediate thought is that this is the first artist I've seen whose work can't be overinstalled. Copious. I think she's fabulous.  In the back are some sensual drawings by Jennifer Mannebach that exist on more than one plane, both literally and figuratively.

I love how Jim & John at
Corbett vs Dempsey think. (To a large extent their gallery focuses on Chicago art from 1940 to 1970 - a very fertile period for growth and change.)  And they are intrigued by the parallels between Chicago and LA during that period.  They are many essential differences. LA was much more about Light & Space, Robert Irwin, Craig Kauffman. Chicago would be much more figurative and narrative like Ivan Albright through Seymour Rosofsky.  Sorry, we got diverted. So the new show at C vs D is of Robert Donley who is a Chicago artist who moved to L.A. and painted large, bright, colorfield, theoretical paintings.  And then he moved back to Chicago and made narrative, tight, almost literal, map-like renderings of Chicago.  A fascinating look not only at the differences that exist between L.A. and Chicago, but also the affect of place on one artist.

Check it out:
Paul Klein

Your Art, Antiques and Collectibles After the Financial Fall

The Problem

You may very well be reeling from the effects of the financial turmoil the world is experiencing. As a collector with "silent" assets of art, antiques and/or collectibles (such as wine, coins, gems, cars, etc.) now is a opportune moment to consider maximizing the present and future course of your heartfelt collection.

Quite likely you have not focused on your art assets with your legal and financial advisors for myriad reasons; the primary being that when you began a serious dialog with your advisory team the planning process overlooked your highly valuable collection. These assets were probably lumped in the category of "other," at a great loss to you. This non-planning, or mistake planning, eliminated the opportunity for you to maximize these assets of passion.

The "conventional wisdom" that your kids will sort it out leads to the art being sold at auction and the proceeds used to pay estate taxes. Clearly this is a bad option. Why be a taxpayer when you can be a philanthropist? Without properly planning for your art you are likely to lose 70% of the value or your collection, while relinquishing even more of its aesthetic legacy.

Now is the time to engage an Art Succession Planner to guide you through the appropriate and necessary conversations to insure proper preparation. For example, is there anyone in your family or on your advisory team who would know if your estate is better off selling English furniture at an auction house in London, or at a dealer in Los Angeles, or at all? Get the point?

The Solution

With a solid Collection Management System, developing a history of the collection, including cost basis, how each piece was acquired, title concerns, fakes and forgeries, provenance or lack thereof and other issues, you will have viable and beneficial planning opportunities and options. Not only will you be able to have the proper documents created to substantially reduce taxation in the event of a sale, but understanding the collection's history is a prerequisite to developing present and future planning. And you will eliminate surprise estate planning with its resulting losses. Instead you increase the collection's value correspondingly.

Once your collection's history is thoroughly documented, you are in a position, in conjunction with your Art Succession Planning Team, to determine and discuss your intentions for your collection in accord with your emotional and financial needs. After all, you spent decades building a collection that reflects a part of your soul. Don't let that vision go to waste or be dissipated.

You, your advisors and your heirs, working hand in hand with good Art Succession Planners can design numerous options to substantially increase sales proceeds, reduce taxation and create a personalized and highly feasible legacy plan. You will benefit from the advice of experts who will protect your legacy from being compromised or sold in the future. Your family need never be in a position to see the artwork you donated deaccessioned by a museum due to a lack of endowment funds as is presently anticipated at Brandeis University's Rose Art Museum.

With today's unprecedented reduction in the value of all assets, including your art and collectible holdings, now is a exceptional time to make personalized plans with your advisors to reposition your collection to take advantage of the present art market. This economic downturn allows you options to secure an art legacy in multiple generations of your family at tremendous valuation discounts. The art market will come back. If you plan now, you will save a lot of money later.

Your collection is a legacy unto itself. It is important that you understand the options available to benefit you, your collection, and your heirs.

Paul Klein


I saw some outstanding art in my travels to find art openings for you to attend.

Let's start with the best. Opening Sunday afternoon at the
Hyde Park Art Center is an outstanding survey of the every so slightly warped mind, gifted hands and compassionate persona of Mary Lou Zelazny.  To see the growth and range of her work, over more than 20 years, is fabulous Starting with the insanely intricate collages, she's got to compare favorably to Kurt Schwitters.  That's significant praise.  In my mind he was a genius with a scissors and Mary Lou is the heir.  Look at this art from a distance and see how the images are cohesive and slightly quirky.  Step up close, inches away, and look at the remarkable array of cut up papers she has compiled.  Utterly convincing. No doubt she is the best, insufficiently appreciated artist working in Chicago today.

Okay, from the best let's go to the top - the 10th floor of the
Spertus Museum, which is ostensibly about things Judaic, but more than that it is about being cross-cultural and tolerant. A Force for Change is a show curated by two of Chicago's very best curators; Daniel Schulman and Staci Boris. In a nutshell, if you ever learn of an exhibit curated by either of these two - go.  At Spertus they've selected 60 works by 22 artists who were benefitted by the generosity of Julius Rosenwald in the 1930's and 40's, who made a fortune as CEO of Sears. The fund gave substantial money to African-American artists, writers, teachers and scholars as well as southern whites with an interest in race relations. Some, who benefitted and are on view, are known to us; Gordon Parks, Charles White and Jacob Lawrence, but there are other outstanding artists in the show, which opened last night, but is on exhibit into August and the views from the 10th floor, indoors and out, are special. Yes.

Justin Cooper, whose show opens tonight at Monique Meloche is very talented and a little offbeat himself. As whimsical as his art is it is equally well made.  In fact, it is the combination that elevates his art to success, especially in a piece where 4 folding chairs are balanced atop some erect garden hoses. If Penn & Teller were artists . . .

Next door, at
N'Namdi is a rock solid (okay, maybe that's a stretch) show of new work by Gregory Coates.  Loaded with historical references, yet contemporary, every one these pieces succeed on their own merit. Made either from stretched and tied bicycle inner tubes, or feathers on panel, Coates is having a good time and we're right there with him.  Totally different than Zelazny, these are collages too, Not particularly deep, they just feel good.

Also opening tonight are the virtuous, eerie and sometimes scary paintings of
Leonard Koscianski at Carl Hammer.  I've been familiar with his ferocious dogs for sometime, but didn't realize that other natural scenes where within his bailiwick. Good thing. These paintings I could examine up close without worrying about rabies shots. Koscianski is a helluva painter. When you're this close you can smell the oil paint and observe how gifted he is at rendering his images.  There's a push-me pull-you thing going on here that captivates, sucking us in and repelling us simultaneously.  Either way, we can't dismiss this work.

More fun is on view at Mini Dutch - opening Saturday evening, run by the incomparable Lucia Fabio, who does it all; works, makes art, volunteers at NFP's and has her own gallery, where she encourages artists to make brave art, take chances and exhibit their fervor. This time around she invited Britton Bertran to curate a show titled Buttress - you know, where things are either propped up or decorated somewhat artificially.  This is a fun show, in a fun space on the first weekend of the new year where you can go look at art and not freeze your butt off.

As most of you know I was involved with the selection of the art for
McCormick West. Sabrina's Raaf's very big, very complex, very wonderful piece has finally been installed.  It took over three weeks for the installation and it took until now because we had to wait until there was sufficient time without conventioneers around - safety concerns. Raaf's piece is wonderful. The entrance at 23rd and Indiana is opened almost all the time, and you can go up the escalator, through the Central Concourse to the end and you'll see the Raaf to your left. The best time to go is at dusk, or later, when the lights on the art are most visible. This Raaf is based on Chicago's Windy City moniker. Making noise into the microphone causes the glass curtain wall image on the monitors to dance and the lights to flash.

Let's go!
Paul Klein