Art Letter

April 2010 Archives

4/30/10 The Art Fairs Open

Today ArtChicago and NEXT open to the public. Last night was a festive, large-scaled 'private' reception.

To an extent an opening of an art fair is about art, but even more it is about people, schmoozing and commerce.

Having been on the dealer (purveyor) side of the equation dozens of times I know home much strategy and optimism go into planning one's booth. There's a tendency to bring out the heavy hitters and leave the lesser knowns at home - which reinforces the staid, art establishment, blue chip art.

Though ArtChicago is markedly better than last year it is not the blue chip show it once was.  To me, that's a good thing. Though there are often beautiful objects to covet in the mainstream fairs like Miami Basel, Frieze, or the Armory shows, there's a diamond encrusted, cookie cutter quality that makes my yawn.

In Chicago, there's a a positive mix of million dollar pieces and work under a grand, major names and up and comers, exquisite and mundane, innovative and boring, but most of all the shows have a pulse of their own, a healthy mix of energies and a lot of good art, regardless of its cost.

An awful lot of dealers and artists were wearing broad smiles. Sales were brisk and broad.  Good news across the board.

Here are some pictures from last night's reception:  (I'm working on a sub-theme here of dealers in their booths - too bad no one would buy the book.)

The beat goes on,
Paul Klein

4/29/10 Art Fair Preview, Part II

Like watching a flower bloom, observing ArtChicago and NEXT evolve reveals the layers of complexity and vision the exhibiting dealers have. 

It's informative and revealing to comprehend the attention all dealers give the installations in their booths.  Even if we don't think the work they're presenting merits our attention the galleries have spent hours and dollars on their presentation.

That said, look at this batch of images.  Compare them to yesterday.  In some instances you can see where a crate has been replaced by a gorgeous work of art. In others you can see whole and beautiful installations that have seemingly blossomed overnight.

There are two areas of the two shows that I found particularly worth basking in. On the 12th floor, Mark Borghi Gallery intimate work by Guston, de Kooning, Mitchell, Ruscha, Avery, Francis and more.  At the 'younger' and differently energized NEXT, on the 7th floor, the whole Southwest section, where the booths butt up against the windows, is more exciting and innovative than anything else in the building. 

Obviously taste is personal. And there's plenty to intrigue or seduce anyone. Have a look:

Let me repeat what I said yesterday; the shows look really good, are filled with a broad array of art, taste, media, aesthetics and quality.  Overall the show far surpasses justifiable expectations.  Kudos go particularly to Director Tony Karman (the man in the suit in the photos above) and the the dealers and artists who stepped up!

Thank you!
Paul Klein

4/28/10 Art Fair Preview, Part I

It's like the circus has come to town. Only better. ArtChicago and NEXT are this weekend at The Merchandise Mart and just like seeing the elephants parade down the street, watching the art galleries set up is incredible fun.

That's where I was yesterday and will be back again today. Somehow art & crates is more fun than art & people.  And this year ArtChicago looks impressively strong,
many more high end, foreign, American and local galleries, presenting a broad array of good-looking work. Much better than I would have expected.

Here are a slew of images of things I liked. As you can tell there are definitely a lot of good art to see!

Okay, that's too many already. More soon!

Paul Klein

What a beautiful day for looking at outdoor sculpture. Today, The Morton Arboretum is inaugurating an ambitious Sculpture Program on its verdant grounds with a robust show of at least a dozen major works by Steve Tobin.

It's a question of scale.

How big the dream? How big the vision?

I met an Olympic athlete who this year - after pursuing gold for 17 years - won it.  What kind of vision is that?

I speak to artists all the time about considering a larger purview than just the next piece. Look at the next 5 years.  Or even project to a career.  What are the good (copyable?) strategies?

And then there's Steve Tobin.  What possesses an artist to dream this big? And how does he pull it off?

I was sufficiently intrigued that I met him at one of his massive - I think the exhibition area was 30,000 square feet, not counting the several rail cars he had for his equally fascinating earlier work. Way out in the country.  This isn't about the artworld.  This is about art in the world. Physicality.  Making a difference.  Redefining space. Altering perceptions.

Here I am telling artists to think in terms of half decades and Tobin's thinking in terms of centuries. Why else mortgage your house to build the tallest sculpture this side of
Saarinen's Arch. Speaking of which, think about how looking up though sculpture defines the ski, the horizon, our relationship to it, perhaps our finiteness.

Tobin sees these elegant beacons of other familiarity as
Steelroots.  If you pay attention you can notice that most are topped by a stop. There are the essence of the underside of the glorious trees that grace(d) our landscape and Morton Arboretum.  Literally, they raise our horizon and ask us to consider our role in nature anew.

This work is meant to be walked inside of, to be felt experientially, to see space observed through. These are remarkable pieces.

I see them as big, graceful wooly mammoths, just hanging out.  There's a bestiality to them. They're laden with history, aged, wrinkled, pockmarked, used and alive. They're bigger than anything(sculpture) I've ever seen like this before. I've twice made exhibitions to France to see
Mark di Suvero's work, and these are special in that kind of way.  Maybe more so. There's an insane degree of difficultly in putting a 3 dimensional curve into a round piece of steel 50 feet long and 14 inches in diameter. 

I'm impressed. Impressed with Steve Tobin and his art, his ability to dream an execute on the scale he does, and these pieces. I think they sing. How they hug the sky in the way that
James Turrell does - and doesn't. And I'm impressed with the Morton Arboretum. Can you imagine the commitment it took to bring this steel herd across country on eight flat bed trucks and install it without leaving a footprint?

Are we lucky, or what?

Thank you!
Paul Klein